Hezbollah says Lebanon's longest-held prisoner in Israel killed in Israeli airstrike

BEIRUT -- Samir Kantar, a Lebanese who was convicted of carrying out one of the most notorious attacks in Israeli history and spent nearly three decades in an Israeli prison, has been killed by an Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital, the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group said Sunday.

See Full Article

Hezbollah said Kantar, known in Lebanon as "The Dean of Lebanese Prisoners" for being the longest-held prisoner in Israel, was killed along with eight others in the strike in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana Saturday night.

Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV said two Israeli warplanes that violated Syrian airspace fired four long-range missiles at the residential building in Jaramana. It aired footage of what it said was the building, which appeared to be destroyed. Kantar's brother, Bassam, confirmed his "martyrdom" in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Syrian state news agency SANA said Kantar was killed in a "terrorist and hostile missile attack on a residential building." SANA did not mention Israel in its report on the strike, which it said killed several people.

Israeli Cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz said he was not sorry about Kantar's death but could not comment on the accusations that Israel was behind the killing.

"If something happened to him I think that no civilized person can be sorry. But again I learned it from the reports in the international media and I can make no concrete reference to it," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not comment about the strike in his weekly Cabinet meeting.

The Israeli news website Ynet ran a headline Sunday saying: "The account is now closed."

Although Al-Manar said Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace, the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV station, which is close to Hezbollah and the Syrian government, said two Israeli warplanes fired the four missiles while flying over northern Israel.

Al-Mayadeen said that Farhan al-Shaalan, a senior commander with the anti-Israeli "resistance" movement in the Golan Heights, was also killed in the air raid together with an aide to Kantar.

Israel possesses long-range air to surface missiles that conceivably could have been fired from Israeli-controlled airspace. The Golan Heights are only about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Damascus.

Israeli warplanes have struck targets inside Syria several times during the country's nearly five-year conflict although it has rarely confirmed its involvement.

Kantar's killing, however, would mark the first Israeli assassination of a senior figure inside Syria since Russia launched its military operations in Syria on Sept. 30 in support of President Bashar Assad.

Israel's defence minister has said that Russia and Israel have worked out an open communication system "to prevent misunderstandings." That raises the question of whether the Russians would have been informed by Israel about the operation to assassinate Kantar.

The Russian Defence Ministry declined comment on the airstrike.

The Lebanon-Israel border was quiet but tense on Sunday afternoon. Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said Israeli forces were on high alert near the border with Lebanon and moved patrols far from the border fence. NNA added that U.N. peacekeepers have intensified their patrols in the border areas.

Hezbollah legislator Ali Ammar vowed that Kantar's death will not go unpunished adding that military commanders will decide how to avenge the killing.

Al-Manar TV said Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah will make a televised statement Monday evening.

Kantar and four Hezbollah guerrillas were freed in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in 2006, whose capture sparked a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah. His release was highly controversial in Israel, where he is believed to be the perpetrator of one of the most grisly attacks in Israeli history.

As a teenager, Kantar joined a Palestinian militant group known as the "Palestine Liberation Front" at the height of Palestinian-Israeli violence in the Middle East and at a time when most Palestinian groups were based in Lebanon.

Kantar was imprisoned in 1979 in Israel and sentenced to three life terms after he and three other Lebanese infiltrated the Jewish State in 1979 and staged an attack in the northern coastal town of Nahariya, killing a policeman and then kidnapping a man, Danny Haran, and his 4-year-old daughter and killing them outside their home.

Israel says Kantar, who was 16 at the time, beat the girl to death by bashing her head with a rifle butt. He denies this, saying the girl was killed in the crossfire. As the attack unfolded, the girl's mother, Smadar Haran, hid inside a crawl space inside their home and accidentally smothered their crying 2-year-old daughter, fearing Kantar would find them.

The widow, Smadar Haran, told Israel's Army Radio Sunday that Kantar's killing was a "historic justice."

Israel held on to Kantar for decades, hoping to use him as a bargaining chip to win new information about an Israeli airman whose plane crashed in Lebanon in 1986. It ultimately traded him in 2008 along with four other Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two of its soldiers.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah insisted at the time that Kantar be included in any swap.

Kantar, 53, received a hero's welcome upon his return to Lebanon. Assad awarded him the country's highest medal during a trip he made to Damascus that year.

Soon afterward, Kantar, a Druze, joined Hezbollah, his role growing quietly within the group's ranks particularly following the group's involvement in the civil war in Syria in support of Assad's forces.

In September, the U.S. State Department added Kantar to its Specially Designated Global Terrorist over his work with Hezbollah.

Kantar is the most high profile Hezbollah fighter to be killed since last year.

In January, the Lebanese group accused Israel of carrying out an airstrike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, which killed several Hezbollah members and a prominent Iranian general. Among the Hezbollah members was Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Imad Mughniyeh, a top Hezbollah operative assassinated in 2008 in Damascus.

Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV said Kantar had been living in the targeted building for a year. The station, which is close to the Syrian government and Hezbollah, said Kantar and one of his aides were killed.

------

Associated Press writers Aron Heller in Jerusalem, Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria and Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

------

This story has been corrected to show that the Lebanese militant group accused Israel of killing Hezbollah commanders in Golan Heights in January 2015, not January 2014.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 5 dead, including children, NYC house fire

    World News CBC News
    Investigators are scouring for clues about what sparked a deadly, fast-moving house fire that killed five people, including three children, on a sunny spring afternoon. The fire broke out Sunday afternoon, on a street full of single-family homes in the middle-class neighbourhood of Queens Village, a neighbourhood near Belmont Park. Source
  • New York City house fire kills 5, including 3 kids

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK - Investigators are scouring for clues about what sparked a deadly, fast-moving house fire that killed five people, including three children, on a sunny spring afternoon. The fire broke out Sunday afternoon, on a street full of single-family homes in the middle class neighbourhood of Queens Village. Source
  • Arkansas preps for first double execution in U.S. since 2000

    World News CTV News
    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Two condemned Arkansas killers who admit they're guilty but fear their poor health could lead to extreme pain during lethal injections set for Monday might become the first inmates put to death in a double execution in the U.S. Source
  • Pence cites 'challenging times' in speech to troops in American Samoa

    World News CTV News
    U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, right, speaks during talks with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Admiralty House in Sydney, Saturday, April 22, 2017. (Jason Reed/Pool Photo via AP) Source
  • Trump's talk on immigration leads to farmers push back on immigration

    World News CTV News
    JUNCTION CITY, Ore. - The head of Bethel Heights Vineyard looked out over the 100 acres of vines her crew of 20 Mexicans had just finished pruning, worried about what will happen if the Trump administration presses ahead with its crackdown on immigrants. Source
  • Death of Edmonton toddler a 'devastating tragedy' [Photos] [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Family members of a toddler found dead Friday identified him as Anthony Joseph Raine on social media Sunday while a snow-ringed memorial in north Edmonton continued to grow. The boy's aunts posted photos of the toddler on a Facebook memorial as members of the public struggle to come to terms with the "devastating tragedy. Source
  • Father arrested as police search for missing boy in California

    World News CTV News
    SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. -- Police in Southern California on Sunday finished their search of a park where the passed-out father of a missing 5-year-old boy was found over the weekend and are asking for anyone with information to come forward. Source
  • 3 children among victims in New York City house fire

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — A fast-moving fire killed five people, including three children, as flames surged through a New York City home on a sunny spring afternoon, leaving authorities to scour for clues about what sparked the deadly blaze. Source
  • Capitals end Leafs' playoff run in Game 6

    Canada News CBC News
    A historic Toronto Maple Leafs season has come to an end. Marcus Johansson stuffed his second goal of the game past Frederik Andersen six and a half minutes into overtime as the Washington Capitals edged the Leafs 2-1 in Game 6 on Sunday night — winning the series 4-2 with five of the six games decided in extra time. Source
  • Mudslinging continues as B.C. election nears halfway mark

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - Leaders of British Columbia's main political parties are continuing to take shots at each other's election promises and past performances as the campaign nears the halfway mark. NDP Leader John Horgan hosted a campaign rally in Vancouver on Sunday, where he told the crowd that Liberal Leader Christy Clark is working for her donors, not for the average British Columbian. Source