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Hezbollah: Israeli Airstrike Killed Militant in Syria

  • Robert Berger

Released Lebanese prisoner Samir Kantar, who was controversially freed by Israel in a prisoner swap last year.

Released Lebanese prisoner Samir Kantar, who was controversially freed by Israel in a prisoner swap last year.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said one of its top operatives, who had spent three decades in prison for murder in Israel, was killed in an Israeli airstrike Sunday near Syria's capital.

Samir Kantar, known as "The Dean of Lebanese Prisoners" for being the longest-held Arab prisoner in Israel, was one of hundreds of Hezbollah members who had gone to Syria to fight alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces since the civil war began there in March 2011.

Israel welcomed Kantar's death, but did not claim responsibility for it.

Saturday night's airstrike hit a building where Kantar lived in Jaramana, a suburb south of Damascus. On Sunday, three rockets fired from southern Lebanon landed in northern Israel, injuring no one, but the Israeli military said it responded with "targeted artillery fire."

Israel has struck multiple targets in Syria in the past few years, most of them convoys of what Israel said were weapons and other supplies being sent through Syria to Lebanon.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV said two Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace in carrying out the attack that killed Kantar. But the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen television station, which has close links to Hezbollah and the Syrian government, said four missiles were fired from the two jets as they flew over northern Israel.

Kuntar was killed along with eight other people in the attack.

No claim of responsibility

There was no immediate comment from Israel, which has struck multiple targets in Syria in the past few years, most of them convoys of what Israel said were weapons and other supplies being sent through Syria to Lebanon.

But Cabinet Minister Yuval Shteinitz welcomed it, saying he did not know who carried out the attack, but no one should be sorry for the death of Kuntar, whom he described as a “big criminal.”

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the attack is not the first time Israel has been involved in what he described as “terrorist activity” inside Syria.

Zoubi accused Israel of collaborating with Saudi Arabia and Qatar in trying to topple the Syrian regime.

1979 attack

Kantar was convicted for a 1979 attack that included killing an Israeli police officer, as well as a father and his young girl. Another child from the man's family died after being accidentally smothered by his wife as they hid.

In 2008, Israel freed Kantar as part of a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah and was given a hero's welcome in Lebanon.

Israeli security forces have raised their alert level on the northern border, bracing for possible Hezbollah retaliation.

Air raid sirens went off in northern Israel on Sunday, signaling possible rocket fire coming from Lebanon, although it was not clear that any had been launched.

Some information for this report provided by AP, Reuters, AFP.

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