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Hezbollah commander killed in Damascus airstrike

December 20, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Samir Kuntar, a Hezbollah military commander, was killed on Sunday by an airstrike – for which the group has blamed Israel – in the Al-Homsi district outside Syrian capital Damascus.

The airstrike reportedly targeted an apartment building in which Kuntar had been staying along with a number of other Hezbollah fighters.

In a Sunday statement, the Lebanese armed group declared that Kuntar had been “martyred” in a “Zionist airstrike”.

Although the Israeli authorities have not claimed responsibility for the strike, a number of Israeli leaders have praised the operation.

Isaac Herzog, head of Israel’s opposition Labor Party, described Kuntar’s assassination as a “historical justice”, which, he said, would serve to enhance regional security.

Israel had accused Kuntar of organizing armed groups in Syria near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel’s official Channel Two television station on Sunday asserted that Kuntar had been leading Hezbollah military operations against Israel from inside Syrian territory.

In comments carried by Israeli newspaper Maariv, Avigdor Lieberman, a former foreign minister and leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party, said Kuntar had represented a longstanding threat to Israeli security.

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Lieberman went on to say he had “no information” as to who carried out the airstrike that led to Kuntar’s death.

News of the assassination has been heavily covered by the local media in Israel, where Kuntar spent nearly 30 years behind bars for participating in a Palestinian resistance operation in 1979 in which at least three Israelis were killed.

On Sunday, Kuntar’s brother, Bassam, declared via Facebook that it was “an honor to join the long list of martyrs’ families”.

He did not, however, provide any additional information regarding his brother’s death.

According to several websites close to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a total of five missiles struck a residential building in the Al-Homsi district outside Damascus, killing two people and injuring 12 and causing the entire building to collapse.

Kuntar had earlier spent almost 30 years in an Israeli jail for leading a deadly resistance operation from southern Lebanon into northern Israel in 1979.

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He was finally released in 2008 through a prisoner-swap deal between Israel and Hezbollah conducted under German auspices.