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December 20, 2015 3:42 pm

Russia Could Not Have Prevented Kuntar Assassination in Syria, Says Israeli National Security Analyst (INTERVIEW)

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Russian airstrikes in Syria.  INSS expert says Russia could not have prevented the assassination of Hezbollah bigwig Samir Kuntar. Photo: Wikipedia.

Russian airstrikes in Syria. INSS expert says Russia could not have prevented the assassination of Hezbollah bigwig Samir Kuntar. Photo: Wikipedia.

The assassination of arch-terrorist and Hezbollah official Samir Kuntar early Sunday morning in Syria was not the settling of an old score, but rather a preventive measure against current activity, as well as a message to Russia, Mideast and Russia expert Zvi Magen told The Algemeiner on Sunday evening.

Magen, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, was referring to a Hezbollah announcement early Sunday that “Zionist enemy planes” had struck a building in the Jaramana district of Damascus, killing Kuntar and several civilians.

Because no official governmental or military source in Israel has confirmed or denied the attack, the Hebrew press is basing its coverage and commentary on “foreign media” reports. Magen, too, in his interview with The Algemeiner, prefaced each of his replies with “according to foreign reports.”

One of these involved the technical aspects of the operation, which Israeli news website nrg suggested may not have been carried out by the Israel Air Force (IAF), but rather by advanced, long-range ground-to-ground missiles at Israel’s disposal on the Golan Heights, eliminating the risk of downed planes or pilots.

Another related to social media posts in Arabic — reported on by Israeli news outlets — mocking Russia for its inability to prevent the alleged Israeli strike on Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy organization that supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad — who is also backed by Russia — against rebel forces in the current civil war.

Magen, who has served as Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine and Russia, responded to the above claims and complaints with a mixture of gravity and bemusement.

“I don’t know which method was used,” he said. “But there are four basic options: an IAF strike, which is not even that risky, considering the proximity; a drone strike; ground-to-ground missiles; or a special forces unit on the ground [inside Syria].”

He continued:

Sometimes armies purposely show off their technological advancements and intelligence-gathering skills for deterrence purposes – which makes certain operations more strategic than technical – and to show determination in the face of the enemy.

In the case of Syria, there are elements at work trying to establish themselves in the power arena – the Syrian government, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia. And Iran is angry with Russia for this very reason.

Israel is engaging in tactical cooperation with Russia, to coordinate certain kinds of actions, as a way of preventing unintentional military mishaps. But Israel most certainly would not inform Russia of targets it intends to hit. And Israel certainly would make clear to Russia that it has its own interests that it will not relinquish. Its message to Russia is, ‘If we want to hit a target, nobody can or will prevent us from doing it.’

As for comments on Arabic social media taking issue with Russia’s inability to intercept or curb the alleged Israeli strike in Syria, Magen asserted that Israel has proven military and technological capabilities that even Russia couldn’t match.

Magen’s comments came on the heels of a Hezbollah missile barrage on northern Israel, apparently in retaliation for Saturday night’s assassination. Three missiles hit an open area in Nahariya in the Western Galilee, which incurred no casualties.

Kuntar, a Druze from Lebanon, became radicalized at a young age and joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was later recruited by Hezbollah and moved up in its ranks.

He became infamous in Israel when, at the age of 16, he infiltrated Nahariya on a raft from Lebanon with three other terrorists in 1979, shot a policeman and then broke into the apartment of the Haran family. Kuntar took the father, Danny, and his four-year-old daughter to the beach, where he shot and killed the father, then smashed the little girl’s head in with the butt of his rifle. Meanwhile, Smadar Haran — who had been hiding in a closet in the family home — accidentally smothered her two-year-old daughter, while trying to keep her safe.

For this crime, which sent the Jewish state into national mourning, Kuntar served nearly 30 years in jail. He and four other Hezbollah terrorists were released in 2008, as part of the prisoner swap Israel made with Hezbollah, in exchange for the bodies of IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who were captured and killed in the 2006 Second War in Lebanon.

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