Samir Kuntar in PLF Camp prior to the 1979 military operation in Naharia
Two years after Israeli army reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev
were captured by Hezbollah guerillas in a cross-border raid, their bodies were
brought back to Israel
as part of a prisoner exchange.
Along with four Hezbollah guerillas seized during Israel’s 2006 war against Lebanon, Israel
will also return Samir Kuntar, who has been imprisoned by Israel since
1979. Kuntar became a symbol of evil for Israeli public opinion, which blames
him for the death of four Israelis, including Danny Haran and his four-year-old
daughter Einat, during a military operation.
In the Israeli imagination, Samir Kuntar assassinated Einat
Haran by smashing her head. However, Kuntar’s file, which was declassified only
three days ago, makes different claims.
For almost 30 years, the contents of the Samir Kuntar file (File No. 578/79) were not authorized for publication.
However, on July 13, Israeli court acceded to the request of the
Hebrew-language daily Yediot
allowed Kuntar's testimony, copies of the copious evidence and other
testimonies in the file, the indictment and the judges' verdict, to be perused.
22, 1979, 16.5 years old Samir Kuntar led a group of four Popular Liberation Front (PLF) militants who
entered Israel from Lebanon by
boat. The group members included Abdel Majeed Asslan, Mhanna Salim Al-Muayed
and Ahmed AlAbras. The group departed from the seashore of Tyre
in southern Lebanon
using a motorized rubber boat. The goal of the operation was to attack
Nahariya, 10 kilometers away from the Lebanese border. They dubbed their
operation the “Nasser Operation.”
belonged to the PLF, a splinter from Ahmad Jibril’s Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine – General Command, under the leadership of Muhammad
Zaydan (Abu Abbas).
to the Kuntar’s declassified file, he reached Nahariya beach at 2:30 in the
morning. "We tied our boat to a rock,” he testified on January 6, 1980.
“We had instructions to avoid opening fire, to take hostages and bring them to Lebanon. I was
commander of the cell. I planned to knock on the door at one of the houses.
Majeed and I walked towards the building. I told him to ring the bell but not
to speak, because I planned to speak English with the people living there. When
we went in, Majeed buzzed one of the apartments, and Majeed spoke to the woman
in Arabic and she answered him in Hebrew. He made a mistake and she didn't open
“I then heard the sound of a car driving up and stopping... I opened fire, and
then we went up to one of the apartments, where we pulled out a man and a girl
so we could take them with us. I decided we should take the girl with us to
ensure we would stay alive, and then return her from Lebanon
via the Red Cross.
were with them, shots were fired at us... I shot some rounds at those people
with my Kalashnikov rifle and hit one of them; he went down. When I saw the
boat had been hit... we tried to retreat by land and escape the gunfire coming
our way... The army began an assault on us... I wanted to find a way to tell
them to stop shooting at us, because our whole objective was to take hostages
But I didn't have a megaphone... I was hit by five bullets. Then [Danny] Haran got to his feet and
signaled to the army forces with his hand to stop them from firing. He was hit
by the bullets being shot at him by the soldiers. The five bullets that hit me
struck sensitive places, so I lost a lot of blood and passed out. I didn't know
what else was happening with me until I woke up in the morning and found myself
in the military's hands. I didn't hurt the girl at all and I didn't see how she
met her death.”
prosecution witnesses testified that Kuntar killed Danny and Einat Haran.
Kuntar and Ahmed Al Abras, a second guerrilla that survived the operation, were
sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. However, Alabras
was freed by Israel in the
Ahmed Jibril prisoner exchange deal in May 1985 but Israel refused to release Kuntar,
later stating that he may be released only in exchange for the missing Israeli
Weapon System Officer, Ron Arad. Israel’s continuous refusal to
release Kuntar during the many prisoner exchanges that have since occurred made
him a symbol for the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance, and his release
became an objective for Hezbollah.
Regev and Goldwasser were captured during the Hezbollah’s cross border
operation of July 12, 2006 nearby Zar’it in northern Israel. The operation was similar
to a former operation carried out by Hezbollah in the area of the Shebaa Farms
in the border of Israel with Syria and Lebanon in the Occupied Golan on October
7, 2000, and was aimed at the release of Kuntar through an anticipated prisoner
exchange. However, the Israeli civil and military leadership decided to
transform this border skirmish into a full-fledged war against Lebanon, with the objective to retrieve the captured
soldiers and restore Israel’s
power of deterrence in the region. Israel’s decision was due in part
to the fact that a month earlier, Hamas and other Palestinian factions abducted
a soldier (Gilad Shalit) on the border of the Gaza Strip.
Friends and family of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser demonstrate in Jerusalem for their release
Israel’s war on Lebanon failed in both objectives:
it could not return the abducted soldiers and the country’s power of deterrence
was further eroded. Moreover, Hezbollah’s political presence in Lebanon was strengthened and Israel forced
to negotiate a prisoner exchange with the organization without knowing if the captured
soldiers were alive or dead.
after the capture of Regev and Goldwasser, the prisoner
exchange of 16 July 2008 seals Israel’s
military and political defeat. However, it does not signal the end of tension
on the border. In addition to its successful release of all Lebanese citizens
abducted by Israel,
the Hezbollah aims to end the Israeli occupation of the Shebaa Farms,
considered as part of the Lebanese territory by the organization. The military
operation of July 2006 proved that Israel is ready to negotiate only
under military pressure and that when military pressure is exerted, it collapses
and is ready to give in to all demands. This also means that Israel’s power
of deterrence, on which the Israeli army has traditionally based its military
doctrine, is totally eroded.
Israel’s strategic need to restore its power of deterrence,
coupled with Hezbollah’s understanding that Israel will give in to political
demands under military pressures, promises future wars and military instability
in the region.