Longest-Serving Lebanese Prisoner in Israel Killed in Syria Airstike

BEIRUT (AP) — 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.

Hezbollah said Kantar, known in Lebanon as “The Dean of Lebanese Prisoners” for being the longest-held Lebanese 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 Saturday night. 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 posting Sunday.

 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.

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 kilometers (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 defense 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 Defense Ministry declined comment on the airstrike.

Read more on this story at the Associated Press


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