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Israel wants the civil war in Syria to continue

This weekend Israeli occupation forces bombed out an entire apartment building in Syria, in order to target a leader of the Lebanese resistance forces: Samir Quntar, who died in the attack.

It showed once again Israel doing what it does best: killing Arab civilians. There is a long history of Israeli “assassinations” indiscriminately targeting whole civilian areas, ostensibly in order to kill a political, military or activist enemy. The other aim of such Israeli terror attacks is to send a direct message to Palestinian and other Arab civilians: give in, accept Israeli occupation and stop supporting resistance (in any form, whether armed or unarmed).

In 1972 Israeli agents used a car bomb to murder Ghassan Kanafani in Beirut. He was an important Palestinian writer and an activist with the Marxist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. At same car bomb killed his young niece Lamis during the attack.

When they can catch them, Israeli strikes against resistance leaders in Gaza systematically blow up the homes and cars of those leaders, targeting their families at the same time. During the last Israeli war against the civilian population of Gaza in 2014 (during which Israel murdered 551 Palestinian children), Israel was unable to get to Muhammad Deif, the military mastermind behind Hamas’ armed wing, so instead they blew up his home, murdering his family.

Read the story of Mohamed Al-Deif and his late wife Widad Asfoura

In March 2004, Israel used three missiles from a helicopter gunship to kill Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, in his wheelchair, while he was part of crowd coming out of a mosque in Gaza. Seven others were murdered in the explosions, with 17 injured – four of whom were children.

In 2002, Israel bombed another apartment block flat, killing 15 people, including eight children. This one was in Gaza City and was ostensibly agimed at Salah Shahada, a Hamas fighter. Although Israeli war criminal (later president), Shimon Peres lied through his teeth at the time claiming it was a “mistake” and “regrettable,” a white-washing Israeli inquiry in 2011 claimed the murders were “justified.”

And so once again this weekend in Damascus, targeting Quntar and the civilians in the building they bombed.

Samir Quntar spent nearly 30 years in Israeli jails and was released as part of a prisoner exchange deal which Hezbollah imposed on Israel in 2008. As a 16-year-old, Quntar infiltrated the north of current-day Israel as part of a small cell of fighters with the Palestine Liberation Front, one of the smaller PLO armed factions operating from Lebanon at the time.

He was captured during his attempt to take hold of Israeli prisoners to exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails. He always denied the Israeli charge against him (accepted as uncontested fact by almost all the Western media, which always takes Arabs to be liars and Israelis to be trustworthy, “like us”) that he killed an Israeli child and father during a botched resistance operation. According to Quntar, it was Israeli occupation forces themselves who killed the two during the course of their bungled rescue.

After being released in the prisoner exchange, he then joined the military wing of Hezbollah, the Lebanese resistance organization. Although Hezbollah is an essentially Shia Islamic organization, Quntar came from a Druze background, and was reportedly involved in organizing resistance against Israel amongst the mostly Druze population of the Golan Heights – most of which has been illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.

According to Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, in a speech on Monday, Quntar was involved only in resistance to Israeli occupation.

Hezbollah entered the Syrian civil war on the side of the government of Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian regime has long supported Hezbollah with military aid and by allowing supply lines of Iranian weapons to pass through its territory.

Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria has certainly been controversial in the Arab world, with many former supporters of its resistance to Israel criticising the group for supporting Assad. In Syria the group has mostly been involved in fighting against al-Qaeda on the border area with Lebanon. Earlier on in the Syrian civil war, before Hezbollah got involved, there was a level of popular disquiet among its Shia base of support in Lebanon that it wasn’t fighting the takfiris and what many termed “terrorists” across the border. After all, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda, and other “rebel” factions in Syria, have often launched attacks into Lebanon, often targeting Shia civilian areas.

One of these rebel groups, Liwa Fursan Houran, even said this week that it had been behind the strike on Samir Quntar – a claim that is not at all credible. Nonetheless, the fact that such “rebel” groups are no longer afraid to openly associate with Israeli attacks on Syrian territory is quite telling about the level of their hatred against Assad-allied Hezbollah (“The Party of God”) – or “Hizb al Shaytan” as they call it (“The Party of Satan”).

In my assessment, it still remains Israel’s strategic goal to pour petrol on the fires in Syria, by supporting Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights (even including al-Qaeda). They do not do this because they love al-Qaeda, but in order to prolong a civil war, so that the guns will mostly be turned away from Israel. The chaos of the war also provides a cover which helps Israel to kill its enemies in Syria, as we see once again with this attack. It is only the latest such Israeli attack on Syrian territory under cover of the war.

Nasrallah in his speech said the movement reserves the right the respond to this killing at a time and place of its choosing.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London and an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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