Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant welcomed on Sunday the killing of Lebanese terrorist leader Samir Kuntar in an overnight strike in Syria but stopped short of confirming allegations that Israel was responsible.
Jailed in Israel for his part in a 1979 raid that killed four people, Kuntar went free in 2008 under a prisoner swap with the Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist group Hizbullah. It is believed he then joined Hizbullah, which is active in Syria.
Kuntar was killed when a number of rockets hit a building in the Damascus district of Jaramana in the early hours on Sunday, Syrian government loyalists said on social media. Government loyalists and Hizbullah said the blasts were an Israeli strike.
“It is good that people like Samir Kuntar will not be part of our world,” Galant told Israel Radio. Galant is a former commander of the Southern Command.
Asked if Israel carried out the strike, Galant said, “I am not confirming or denying anything to do with this matter.” Other Israeli officials, including military spokesmen, declined to comment.
While formally staying out of Syria’s civil war, Israel has occasionally bombed targets there in what security sources say is an effort to prevent Hizbullah from obtaining advanced arms from Damascus or attacking Israelis from within Syrian territory.
Jacky Hugi, Arab affairs editor for Israel’s Army Radio, said in a commentary that if Israel did deliberately kill Kuntar, it would have been to foil a suspected threat that he posed rather than as “payback” for the 1979 cross-border raid.