The Palestinian Hamas group on Sunday issued a condemnation of an alleged Israeli airstrike that killed Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, who had been previously jailed in Israel for his part in the 1979 murders of a family.
“We condemn the Israeli assassination of Samir Kuntar,” the Gaza Strip-based terror group posted on its Twitter account. “This is a heinous crime.”
At least eight others were said killed in the reported targeted assassination, including a senior National Defense Forces commander who Israeli media said was involved in planning attacks against Israel.
Israel Radio reported that Hamas also called on the international community to “take responsibility for Israeli bullying.”
Arab media reported that several Israeli Air Force missiles struck the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, killing Kuntar and eight other operatives, late Saturday night.
A Twitter account associated with the Palestinian Fatah group condemned the assassination of Kuntar and called him a “martyr.”
Hezbollah on Sunday morning confirmed that Kuntar was killed in an Israeli airstrike, and alleged that Israel may have coordinated the hit with Syrian rebel “terrorists” operating in the area. The Assad regime also blamed “terrorist groups” for the strike.
Reports said that Kuntar was assassinated not as revenge for his past actions, but rather because he was planning fresh attacks against Israel.
There was no official Israeli confirmation of the attack, although officials expressed satisfaction over his death. Kuntar was with a group of commanders from various terrorist groups that were planning attacks on Israel, reports said.
Former Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidror said on Sunday that Kantar had been “very active in the north part of the Golan Heights in the Syrian side, responsible for preparing the area for attacks against Israel.”
“And if he is neutralized by someone, it’s good news for the state of Israel,” said Amidror, but added that he did not know whether Israel was responsible for his death. Asked why Israel does not claim credit for such incidents, he said it makes it less likely for the other side to retaliate.
Syrian media said that among the dead was Farhan Shaalan, a commander in the National Defense Forces, a Syrian anti-Israel resistance group founded by Kuntar and others. Those reports said that senior Hezbollah members were also present in the building at the time of the attack.
The building in which Kuntar was believed to have been residing was “completely destroyed” in the attack, according to initial reports.
A Lebanese Druze, Kuntar became infamous for a brutal 1979 raid from Lebanon in which he helped kidnap an Israeli family from Nahariya, then smashed the head of a four-year-old Israeli girl, Einat Haran, with his rifle butt, killing her. Three other Israelis, including her father, Danny Haran, were killed in the attack. He was 16 at the time, a member of the Palestine Liberation Front.
He spent 29 years in an Israeli prison before being traded to Hezbollah in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. After that, he took on a senior role in the group, was honored by then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and by Syrian President Bashar Assad, and helped to organize Syrian Druze on the Golan Heights and elsewhere into terror cells charged with carrying out attacks against Israel.
AFP contributed to this report.