Israel settles an old score with Hizbollah child-killer


Israel has had a score to settle with Samir Kuntar since 1979.

In April of that year, the Lebanese-Druze member of the Palestinian Liberation Front, then only 16, led a terror attack on the northern town of Nahariya.

The assault, one of the most notorious in Israeli history, resulted in the deaths of three men and two children, including a little girl whose head he smashed in with his rifle butt.

But if indeed it was Israeli fighter-jets that launched the missiles that killed Kuntar and eight other men on Saturday night in a Damascus suburb, it is more likely he was being targeted for future operations he was planning than his murderous past.

Sentenced to life imprisonment, Kuntar was released in 2008 as part of a controversial exchange for the bodies of Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.

Back in Lebanon, he joined Hizbollah, which had orchestrated his release. Together with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the Shia movement tasked him with heading a group dedicated to recruiting Syrian Druze residents of the Golan Heights to carry out terror attacks in Israel. Kuntar did not have much operational success in this role, although he was believed to have been behind the rioting that broke out in the Israeli Golan in June this year and resulted in the lynching of one Syrian who was being taken for treatment in an Israeli hospital.

At the time of his death, Kuntar was reported to have been supplanted in his role as Hizbollah's representative in the Golan by other operatives, but was supposed to be continuing in his operations there under Iranian auspices.

Although Israel has refused to accept, or deny, any responsibility for the attack, it is widely assumed that the IDF carried it out. It is also thought that the main reason for the strike was fresh intelligence that Kuntar - and at least some of the men who were killed with him in his Damascus command centre - had been planning fresh attacks on Israeli targets across the Golan border.

"I am very happy," said Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. "He was an arch-terrorist who bashed a four-year-old girl in the skull and expressed no regret."

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