Nasrallah Vows Retaliation Against Israel for Kuntar Assassination

Speech from Hezbollah chief follows funeral of top organization member who was killed Saturday in an airstrike attributed to Israel.

Jack Khoury
Reuters
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An image grab taken from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV shows Nasrallah giving a televised address from an undisclosed location in Lebanon, December 21, 2015.
An image grab taken from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV shows Nasrallah giving a televised address from an undisclosed location in Lebanon, December 21, 2015.Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury
Reuters

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday evening blamed Israel for the assassination of Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese militant that was killed in Damascus. He vowed that the Lebanese militia would retaliate.

"I have no doubt that Israel is responsible for the assassination of Kuntar," Nasrallah said. "Israeli planes fired precision-guided missiles on a multi-story apartment building.

"Samir is one of us and a commander of our resistance and it is our right to retaliate for his assassination in the place, time and a way we see appropriate. We will exercise this right God willing." he said.

The speech came after Kuntar was laid to rest in Beirut.

The Hezbollah chief said it was irrelevant if Israeli jets entered Syrian airspace or if the missiles were fired from Israeli territory. said Nasrallah. "It's an inconsequential technical matter. What's important is that Israel is behind the assassination."

Nasrallah also rejected several media reports suggesting that Syrian opposition fighters were responsible for the attack that led to Kuntar's death.

"Kuntar was in love with Palestine and tied his destiny with that of Palestine," Nasrallah recalled. "The first time I met him, on the day of his release from prison I told him he could choose between working in administrative, diplomatic or military dimensions. He immediately declared he wants to be a part of the military wing and act in the ranks of the resistance."

Nasrallah continued: "We know, and so did Samir, that we are always under a threat of assassination by Israel."

Kuntar's death, according to Nasrallah, is bound to inspire younger generations of Palestinians to continue in active opposition to Israel.

"If Israel thinks that she will eliminate the oppostion by assassinating Kuntar, she is very mistaken," said Nasrallah.

Hezbollah's leader maintained a calm tone throughout his speech, unlike in previous public addresses after the deaths of senior officials.

Hezbollah issued a statement during Kuntar's funeral saying that "the Israeli enemy will pay for the assassination."

Hashem Safeieddine, a senior Hezbollah member, said at the funeral that "If the Israelis think by killing Samir Kuntar they have closed an account then they are very mistaken because they know and will come to know that they have instead opened several more," Reuters reported.

Kuntar has been a high-profile Hezbollah operative since his release from Israeli jail in a 2008 prisoner swap. Before that, he served 26 years for committing a brutal terror attack, which killed three out of four members of a young Israeli family in Nahariya, that still lives on the Israeli consciousness.

Kuntar's will was read out on the Al-Manar Lebanese satellite television station affiliated with Hezbollah after Nasrallah's speach, with the handwritten document shown in the background. It was dated March 29, 2015.

"I knew in advance that the road I chose on behalf of Palestine will end in victory or my falling on the battlefield," wrote Kuntar in the document. "I hope that in my falling I did my part for Palestine and that my death is an inspiration for the rest of the fighters in order to continue on the path of struggle."

Nasrallah's reaction to the killing of Kuntar differs from his reaction to the targeted killing of another Hezbollah operative by Israel earlier this year, Jihad Mughniyeh, when Hezbollah launched a retaliation attack against IDF vehicles within days. Lebanese sources explained that Nasrallah needs to take a different course of action due to the sensitivity of Kuntar being killed in Syria, a site of instability and international focus.

Upon his release from prison after nearly three decades, Kuntar received a hero's welcome in Lebanon and Syria, being personally received by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and by Nasrallah, and receiving Syria's highest medal from President Bashar Assad.

Soon thereafter, Kuntar joined and started climbing the ranks in Hezbollah, and repeatedly pledged to 'confront' Israel. For years, he was quoted as calling Israel a "disease" that needs to be taken care of, and has been a loyal Hezbollah operative.

Kuntar, Arab media reports, has quietly been responsible for building infrastructure near the Golan Heights in order to launch attacks against Israel, and has been fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in the current Syrian civil war.

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