An MK indicated for the first time Saturday that Israel was responsible for the assassination of Hezbollah-allied terrorist Samir Kuntar in Syria last December. Asked in an interview whether the December 2015 assassination of the terror chief was great achievement for Israel, Omer Bar-Lev said: Absolutely
Israel has refused to officially confirm its role in the Damascus blast that killed Kuntar, an arch-terrorist who was involved in the murders of an Israeli family in a 1979 terror attack, and who had spent decades in an Israeli prison before he was handed over to Hezbollah in a 2008 prisoner swap.
Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist group backed by Iran with a strong grip on Lebanese politics, is a sworn enemy of Israel and fought a month-long war with the Jewish state in 2006. It is a supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and has sent fighters to help prop up his regime in a five-year war against opposition forces and Islamist extremists such as Islamic State.
Asked Saturday about Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s recent public appearances and the issue of deterrence on Israel’s northern border, Bar-Lev, a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said: “I would not advise Nasrallah to leave his bunker. Why? Because he is the enemy, a target. He should be a target, and so on a personal level I would advise him to keep looking after himself.”
Pushed on whether Nasrallah should be targeted “at the first opportunity, just like Samir Kuntar,” Bar-Lev was initially evasive.
“I will obviously not comment on one [military] operation or another,” he said, but seconds later, when it was put to him that the killing of Kuntar was a great “achievement” by Israel, he said: “Yes, absolutely.”
Bar-Lev, a former commander in the IDF’s elite of Sayeret Matkal unit, then said: “Israel definitely has a long memory. I was still a young officer when I was catapulted into the terrorist attack in Nahariya, when Kuntar and others killed the Haran family, so I too have a long memory, and I will leave it at that.”
He concluded by saying that Kuntar’s killing “was certainly a message to Nasrallah.”
Shortly after the event, Bar-Lev attempted to play down his confirmation of Israeli involvement in Kuntar’s killing, writing in Hebrew on Twitter: “Every elimination and every terrorist who meets his death should be welcomed, and it does not matter whether we had a hand in it or not.”
Nasrallah threatened a week after Kuntar’s death that retaliation for the assassination was “inevitable,” warning Israelis to be afraid inside their own country, along its northern border and abroad.
In a lengthy televised address, Nasrallah vowed his terror group would respond to the killing regardless of the “repercussions.”
Israel warned Hezbollah not to respond to Kuntar’s death. Foreign officials also warned the Lebanon-based terror group that seeking retaliation for the killing could prompt a crushing Israeli response.
Hezbollah said Kuntar was killed along with eight others in an overnight airstrike on a residential building in Jaramana, on the outskirts of Damascus on December 19, 2015.