Five Hizbullah terrorists were killed in an attack attributed to an Israeli helicopter gunship in Syria near Quneitra and the border with Israel on Sunday, according to Lebanese sources.
Missiles fired from the helicopter were aimed at terrorists who were planning attacks on Israel, AFP quoted an Israeli security source as saying.
The IDF would not comment, and Syrian state media did not mention the attack.
Sources close to Hizbullah said that Jihad Mughniyeh, 25, the son of former Hizbullah terrorist leader Imad Mughniyeh and the head of a large terrorist network, was killed in the strike. The cell had reportedly been responsible for attacks launched on the Golan Heights in the past.
He was described as a key operative, “who stood at the head of a wide-scale terrorist infrastructure with direct sponsorship from Iran and direct connection to Hizbullah, which has already been acting against Israel in the Golan Heights,” according to Western intelligence sources quoted in the Israeli media.
Mughniyeh’s father was killed in 2008 in a car-bombing also attributed to Israel in the foreign media. Until his demise, he was ranked by some experts as the second most-wanted man in the world, after Osama bin-Laden. He masterminded various terror attacks against Israel, as well as the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut, the Beirut barracks bombing the same year that killed more than 300, and the hijacking of TWA Flight 847. The U.S. had put a $25 million price on his head.
On Sunday evening, Hizbullah’s al-Manar news channel warned that the attack, which it blamed on Israel, “could lead to a costly adventure that will put the Middle East at stake.”
Hizbullah reportedly called the death of Jihad Mughniyeh “an unbearable blow.” He was said to be close to Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon pointed out that the Hizbullah reaction contradicted its previous claims that it does not operate in the Golan.
“If Hizbullah say their people were hurt in the targeted killing, let them explain what they were doing in Syria,” Yaalon said. He would not confirm or deny that Israel was behind the attack.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group monitoring the civil war, said the missiles targeted armed vehicles, citing local sources.
As of Sunday night, U.N. peacekeepers reportedly stepped up their patrols on the border between Lebanon and Israel.