A New-Old Bill: Implications of Kuntar Assassination

Samir Kuntar who was killed, according to reports in the Arab media, by Israeli warplanes in the western suburb of Damascus, was an arch-terrorist...

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Samir Kuntar who was killed, according to reports in the Arab media, by Israeli warplanes in the western suburb of Damascus, was an arch-terrorist. He brutally murdered two policemen, four-year-old girl and her father in the attack in the northern city of Nahariya in 1979. He was captured and jailed in Israeli prison, until his release due to prisoner exchange deal in 2008. Kuntar very quickly went back to terrorism. He set up a terrorist cell of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime among the Druze (he was a Druze) in the Syrian Golan Heights and planned to attack Israel. This is the real reason for the assassination last night.

The response was not long in coming: Three rockets were fired at the western Galilee this evening, only 15 minutes away from my home. Just in case, I told my children to come play near the shelter. With quick calculation, we have between 4-9 seconds to run for shelter when we hear the alarm. Palestinian organization claimed responsibility for the attack. For those who speak the Middle East language, it is clear that they were only proxy. A Palestinian tribute to Kuntar, who massacred in 1979 on behalf of the Palestinian issue. This evening attack was probably approved by Hezbollah. Was it the opening salvo or whether Hezbollah would be satisfied with that?

Media coverage, both Israel and Hezbollah can imply something about the sequel:

1. The first reports from Hezbollah mentioned that Zionist enemy aircraft carried out the attack, didn’t cross the ceasefire line with Syria and that IAF used long-range missiles (the attack took place 40 miles from the border). Why did Hezbollah make it clear that there was no violation of Syrian sovereignty? In my opinion, it might indicate that if Hezbollah will respond to the assassination, it will happen of the Lebanese border, and not on the border with Syria.

2. On the other hand, the Israeli media, published articles based on “Western sources” that explained in detail that Hezbollah was not comfortable with Kuntar and to some extent, he became a freelance terrorist. According to these sources, Hezbollah was concerned that an attack against Israel might deteriorate war on a very inconvenient timing. Israel’s message is clear, it is a proposal to renounce Kuntar relations with Hezbollah and minimize the response.

3. Next, there is an implied threat, and we shouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow morning it will become visible and public, in the form of statements made by Israeli officials: Hezbollah revenge might lead to escalation, escalation that Hezbollah is not interested in. Israel will also strive to make it clear once again that it will continue to defend its red lines when it comes to the war in Syria: first, strategic weapons will not be transferred from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and second, Israel wouldn’t accept establishment of terrorist cells against it on the Syrian border. Meanwhile, Israel will continue to be ambiguities about its involvement with the assassination of Kuntar.

Like in previous incidents, both sides, Israel and Hizballah, do not want war, but they may well deteriorate. Hezbollah’s media already tied between the assassination of Kuntar and the assassination of Hezbollah commander on the Syrian Golan Heights, Mughniyeh junior, on last January. Back then, Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles on the Lebanese border (the Shebaa Farms, an area which is considered occupied Lebanese territory, and therefore a legitimate place for terror attacks), killing an IDF officer and a soldier. It should be noted that Mughniyeh the father, who was number two in Hezbollah, died in Damascus in 2008.

Bottom line, I believe that Hezbollah will try to respond in a way that by its evaluation won’t deteriorate into a war with Israel. None the less, Hizballah will continue the policy of terrorist attacks it pursued two years ago – Israeli action will not remain without a response, and that would be on the borderline. In this context, it should be noted that in the past month, Hezbollah has not yet reacted on number of actions attributed to Israel, including the attack on organization’s strategic weapons (Scuds) on Syrian territory, and the bombing of a listening devices in southern Lebanon.

One last word – except for Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Palestinians who are involved in this area, there is a new factor in the neighborhood: the Russians. Kuntar assassination, if issued by Israel, may demonstrate the successful coordination Israel and Russia managed to produce, apparently during a series of meetings of political and military officials from both sides.Yet, I wonder whether the Russian bear has any influence on the scope of the response to the assassination by the Shiite axis.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Sarit Zehavi

Sarit Zehavi

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