During the night of December 20, 2015, a large explosion disrupted the quiet night in Jaramana. A missile buzzed through the night sky and reached its destination successfully, delivering a precision strike with devastating results. The target? The safe house of Samir Quntar, the infamous Hezbollah terrorist, an active and known figure in the Syrian conflict. Insiders sometimes called him the “triangle,” as he coordinated and passed communications between Hezbollah, Syrian, and Iranian elements, helping maintain their collective interests on the Israeli-Syrian border.

1979 Nahariya attack

Samir Quntar was born to a Druze family in Beirut. Around the age of 13-14, he joined several militant training camps and was engaged with terrorism-related acts and training. The one he was largely known for was the brutal act of terror known as the 1979 Nahariya attack. At 16 years old, Samir led a group of PLF militants under the leadership of Abbu Abbas. The group left the shore of Tyre in southern Lebanon in a motorized rubber boat and headed toward Nahariya, which is only 10 kilometers away from the Lebanese border. They landed on the beach, killed a policeman, split into two groups, and raided a residential house.

They broke into a family’s apartment and kidnapped the father and his daughter. The wife and the other little kid managed to hide—sadly, the mother suffocated her child in an attempt to prevent her from whimpering. Eventually, both groups rendezvoused on the beach and got into a firefight with Israeli security forces. Samir executed the father in front of his daughter and than smashed the little girl’s head against a rock. Samir got shot in the firefight and, eventually rendered unconscious, was taken into Israeli custody. Samir was released on July 16, 2008.

Who he became

Samir Quntar returned to the free world as a hero. He was perceived as a special figure in Hezbollah and in the eyes of several known Middle Eastern leaders. He received recognition and respect for his infamous capabilities and loyalty. In November 2008, Syrian President Bashar Assad presented Kuntar with a medal, and in early 2009, he was honored by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his actions. Quntar was elevated by many to the position of a resurrected martyr—a holy, invincible figure. In 2008, he gave a clearer view into his mind and his perception of the Israeli entity in of his famous answers for an Al Jazeera interview:

“To be honest, our operation (OP Nasser) had both civilian and military targets. Today, tomorrow, and the next day, there are no ‘civilian targets’. The Zionists themselves define the Israeli as a soldier who is on leave for 11 months every year.”

Quntar’s role in the Syrian conflict

It is no secret that Hezbollah is in well over their necks in the Syrian mud, especially given recent reports of Hezbollah casualties exceeding one third of their active-duty members. (The organization is attempting to mitigate these losses by offering high wages and free education for new recruits.) Still, Samir Quntar, working on their behalf, was a powerful force within their ranks.

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In the last two or three years, Quntar served as the link between Hezbollah, Iran, and the Syrian regime. He coordinated operations against the Israelis in the Golan Heights, and was responsible for establishing an Iranian presence on the Israel-Syria border. He was the guy who set up and coordinated small-unit operations that consisted mainly of intelligence gathering and HUMINT. He worked directly with Syrian intelligence organizations and Iranian officers.

Over the years, his many successful exploits improved his influence over his counterparts and contacts. It is said that he worked out an agreement with the Druze in Syria and convinced them not to join the rebels in the fight against Assad. He then managed to recruit and train an effective Druze force that fought for Assad in southeast Syria. This act can be viewed as one of his biggest achievements in the Syrian conflict. Quntar also managed to attain rockets and transport them to the Israel/Syria border, and was largely responsible for slowly expanding the Iranian footprint in Syria.

His strategy

Quntar was required to create small but effective units that were able to carry out direct-action operations against IDF elements should the order be given. In short, he was creating “long-arm” capability for the Iranians. His actions consisted of creating small, well-structured terror cells in over 30 villages topographically overlooking IDF elements, positioning them in key terrain points so they’d be able to identify when IDF assets tried to cross into Syria. Quntar acted under the direct command of Mustafa Badr Al Din, head of  Hezbollah forces in Syria; and the al-Quds Brigades chief, Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, after he was appointed commander of Iranian forces in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Recently, he was tasked with the responsibility of creating a combined terrorist network of Syrians, Hezbollah commandos, and Palestinians for mounting incursions deep into Israel for major terrorist attacks. The fact that he was moved to Jaramana, a city considered quite safe and quiet, located just 10 kilometers outside of the Syrian capital of Damascus, attested to his importance. It is important to note that Quntar’s influence surpassed borders or nationalities. He established a strong and lasting relationship with the Druze in Majdal Shams on the Israeli side, and used them often to gather information or to attack Israeli medevacs of Syrian refugees, one instance of which ended in a lynching.

Previous assassination attempt

Last July, the son of the infamous Imad Fayez Mughniyeh and Iranian General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi were killed in an attack attributed to Israel in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights. According to reports, Mughniyeh, the Iranian general, and a number of other activists were on a “commander tour” in advance of carrying out additional attacks in the region. Some believe that Quntar was on that tour, as it was the AO under his direct responsibility. Regardless, he survived.

What’s next

Hezbollah is unlikely to forget this act, but given the current situation, they might not have the momentum to come up with an immediate response. However, in the long run we will witness a response, just as Hezbollah responded after the July assassination of the young Mughniyeh. The loss of Quntar indicates a few things:

  • Israel hasn’t lost the initiative. Reaching out in such a manner imparts a ‘no one is safe’ mentality upon its enemies.
  • Despite Russian activity in Syria, and the fact that Russian warplanes even fly through IAF airspace, the Israelis are still able to perform precision airstrikes.
  • The Israeli intelligence apparatus is dynamic and flexible.
  • The Russians probably knew about this strike in (short) advance.

As always, Israeli embassies and Jewish centers have received a high threat level, and their security will probably be reviewed by the Tzafririm, the unique Mossad department for protecting Jews abroad.

(Featured image courtesy of okdiario.com)