Israeli Expert Says Hezbollah Retaliation for Kuntar Assassination Likely to Come in Asia, Thailand
Hezbollah’s retribution against Israel for allegedly assassinating arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar in Syria will likely be against a target outside the Jewish state, said Professor Uzi Rabi, the director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, according to Maariv on Monday.
Predicting a “measured and calculated response” by Hezbollah, Rabi said it could happen in “Thailand, Asia or somewhere abroad.” Because of the volatility in the Middle East, as well as Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, the group probably would not stage an attack against targets in Israel, said Rabi.
“We should remember that Hezbollah is bogged down in the Syrian quagmire,” he told an Israeli radio station, according to Maariv, “which has taken the lives of thousands of its people. I believe one third of their forces met their ends there.”
In 2012, a series of explosions in Thailand turned out to be a botched attempt at assassinating Israeli diplomats. Thailand and neighboring Asian countries are also popular tourist destinations for Israelis.
On Monday, a UN-brokered truce between Syrian anti-government groups and Hezbollah saw buses evacuating hundreds from border towns for a Sunni-Shia population exchange, underscoring Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. The group has been fighting Syrian rebels fiercely for several months on the Lebanese border. A recent Israeli report said up to 1,500 of its fighters may have been killed.
Some reports have said that at the time of his death, Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze, was operating on behalf of Iran rather than Hezbollah in Syria, organizing in Druze villages in the Syrian Golan. Rabi supported those claims, and said Iran was putting pressure on Hezbollah to respond, “at least on the rhetorical level.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned on Sunday meanwhile that his group would certainly retaliate for Kuntar’s death “at the appropriate time and place and in the appropriate method,” which some analysts have taken to imply that the attack will neither be against a target in Israel nor immediate.
Rabi mentioned the January assassination of six Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian general in the Golan Heights, also reportedly by Israel, which the group retaliated for rapidly in an attack against an Israeli military patrol that killed two soldiers.
Nasrallah also took a moment to encourage the current wave of stabbings committed by Palestinians against Israelis, calling the apparently random terrorist acts a part of the “real resistance.”
“The steadfastness of the Palestinians today is the real resistance, the more so is revealed in their continued sit-in, high awareness, solid will, armed resistance, and stabbing operations that are frightening the Israeli soldiers and settlers,” he said.
“Those who are staging stabbing operations in Palestine know that they would either be martyred or jailed, but they remain in their resistance to regain their occupied territories,” he said.