Hizbullah is threatening to avenge the killing of a top terrorist whose claim to notoriety was a 1979 attack in which he shot dead an Israeli father in front of his four year-old daughter and then battered the girl to death with a rifle butt.
Israelis welcomed news of the death of Samir Kuntar – killed in a blast on Saturday in a building near Damascus – saying he had been planning future attacks against Israel from Syrian territory.
Israel did not confirm responsibility for the blast, but Hizbullah made it clear it viewed Israel as liable for his death.
“Zionist warplanes struck a residential building in Jaramana in [the] Damascus countryside,” Hizbullah’s media relations office said in the statement, adding that the “mujahid [holy warrior] Samir Kuntar was martyred along with several Syrian citizens in the strike.”
Syrian state media showed pictures of a partially collapsed residential building.
Lebanese media said Hizbullah fighters are threatening to avenge his death and the UN mission responsible for security along the Lebanon-Israel border said it stepped up its patrols after three rockets were fired into northern Israel on Sunday evening. Israel responded to the rockets by firing artillery at terrorist targets in southern Lebanon.
Hizbullah, an Iranian-sponsored Shi’ite group, is deeply involved in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Assad regime. Israel is not directly involved in Syria – it regards both the Iran-Hizbullah-Assad axis and jihadists on the other side as enemies – but it has made clear it will strike inside Syria when it deems it to be in its national security interests, especially to prevent sophisticated weaponry from reached Hizbullah.
Lebanese media reports said Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze, has been involved in battles in support of the Assad regime. Over recent months his name has also come up frequently in connection with Iranian-backed plots to attack Israel on the Golan Heights from Syrian territory.
Kuntar spent decades in an Israeli jail for his role in the brutal murders of a family in a 1979 attack carried out on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Front, an affiliate of Yasir Arafat’s PLO.
He and three other men crossed into Israel by sea, and in the coastal town of Nahariya shot dead a policeman before forcing their way into an apartment building where they seized Danny Haran and his daughter, Einat, 4, and took them to the beach.
“There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see,” Danny Haran’s wife, Smadar, wrote later.
“Then he smashed my little girl’s skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.”
There was more tragedy for the family that night: When the terrorists fired weapons inside the apartment, Smadar hid in a crawlspace together with their other daughter, two-year-old Yael, and a neighbor.
Trying to prevent Yael from crying out and alerting the terrorists to their hiding place, Smadar held her hand over the child’s mouth, and accidentally smothered her to death.
Kuntar was captured and sentenced to several life terms, but in 2008 Israel released him in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who had been abducted by Hizbullah in a cross-border raid two years earlier and subsequently killed.
Kuntar was hailed in Lebanon as a hero, and joined Hizbullah.
In its report Sunday on Kuntar’s death, the Assad regime’s SANA agency said he had been imprisoned in Israel “for his involvement in a heroic operation against the Zionists.”
In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority granted Kuntar honorary “Palestinian” citizenship.