Israeli airstrike on Damascus kills longest-serving Arab prisoner

Israeli airstrike on Damascus kills longest-serving Arab prisoner
'The dean of Lebanese prisoners' Samir Kuntar, who was released in a prisoner swap in 2008, was killed in an Israeli airstrike on a building in the Syrian capital Damascus.
2 min read
20 December, 2015
Samir Kuntar was killed in an apparent Israeli airstrike near Damascus, 20 December, 2015 [AFP]
Samir Kuntar, who spent three decades in an Israeli prison, was killed along with several others in an Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital Damascus on Saturday night.

Kuntar, a high-profile member of Hizballah, was killed "when the Zionist enemy planes bombed the building where he lived in Jaramana," southeast of Damascus, the Lebanese Shia movement said in a statement.

The Israeli raid targeted a multi-story residential building, which completely collapsed, killing Qintar and eight others.

Two Katyusha-type rockets were fired from south Lebanon into Israel on Sunday following the deat of Kuntar. A statement from Israel's military suggested that three rockets were fired.

It is not clear what Kuntar's role was within Hizballah, who are fighting in Syria on the side of the regime. The party does not usually give details about the security and military tasks that its fighters carry out inside Syrian territory even after their deaths.

It is however believed that Kuntar, who is from the Druze sect, had been in charge of recruiting fighters for Hizballah from Druze villages in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights.

Israel freed Kuntar in 2008 as part of a prisoner swap with Hizballah. He was 16 in 1979 when he was sentenced to five life terms plus 47 years for the murder of an Israeli man, his daughter, and a policeman. He has always denied the killing of the girl and her father and said that the girl was killed in the shootout between his group - the Palestine Liberation Front - and Israeli policemen and soldiers.

Kuntar's brother, Bassam, mourned his death on Twitter.

"With pride, we mourn the martyrdom of the commander Samir Kuntar. We have the honour of becoming among the families of martyrs after being among the families of pirsoners for 30 years," Bassam Kuntar tweeted.

Kuntar was targeted months after the Israeli Air Force targeted and killed a commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and a group of Hizballah fighters and leading figures, including the son of former party commander Imad Mughniyeh in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights in January, 2015. Hizballah responded by targeting an Israeli army patrol on the southern Lebanese border in the same month.

Israel has recently admitted to carrying out air strikes on Syrian land. Such strikes are illegal under international law.