Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed Monday that his group will retaliate to the assassination of its top operative Samir al-Kuntar “at the appropriate time and place and in the appropriate method.”
“The martyr Samir al-Kuntar is one of us and the Israelis killed him deliberately. It is our right to retaliate to his assassination at the appropriate time and place and in the appropriate method, and we will practice this right,” Nasrallah pledged.
Dismissing a claim of responsibility by a Free Syrian Army faction, Hezbollah’s chief said his group “has no doubt that the Israeli enemy was behind the assassination in a blatant military operation.”
“Israeli warplanes fired guided missiles at the building,” he noted.
Whether Israeli jets violated Syrian airspace to carry out the operation or fired missiles from the occupied Golan was “a technicality,” Nasrallah noted.
The 54-year-old was killed on Saturday night “when the Zionist enemy planes bombed the building where he lived in Jaramana,” southeast of Damascus, Hezbollah had said in a statement that followed the operation.
“The brother Samir had always been a target for Israel. The threats preceded the issue of the military resistance in the Golan,” Nasrallah noted.
Slamming what he described as “desperate attempts by some media outlets which have claimed that Syrian armed groups were behind the assassination,” Nasrallah said Hezbollah “clearly and openly accuses the Zionist enemy of assassinating Samir al-Kuntar.”
Earlier in the day, an alleged FSA faction calling itself the Houran Knights Brigade claimed responsibility for Kuntar’s assassination in a YouTube video.
Israel has welcomed news of Kuntar’s death without claiming responsibility for the air strike that killed him. Shortly after Kuntar’s release from an Israeli prison in 2008, however, a top Israeli security official had warned he was a “target.”
Hezbollah played a key role in Kuntar’s release after he had spent 30 years in Israeli jails, becoming known as the longest-serving Arab prisoner.
Kuntar was still a teenager when he and three other members of the Palestine Liberation Front infiltrated the Israeli village of Nahariya by sea from Lebanon in 1979. According to Israel’s judiciary, the militants killed three Israelis, including a four-year-old girl. Kuntar had however denied responsibility for the girl’s death, saying she was killed in the crossfire.
Shortly after his release, Kuntar joined Hezbollah. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said he became “head of the Syrian resistance for the liberation of the Golan,” a group launched two years ago by Hezbollah in the region, most of which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war.
Separately, Nasrallah noted that the latest U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah are based on “unjust and false accusations,” pointing out that the party is “not concerned with offering a proof of its innocence.”
He described the measures as a “political accusation aimed at tarnishing the image of Hezbollah in the minds of the peoples of the world and the region.”
“We do not have funds in any bank in the world … or in Lebanese banks and the central bank and the directors of banks must not panic,” Nasrallah said.
Calling on the Lebanese state and government to “shoulder the responsibility of protecting Lebanese citizens and businessmen,” Hezbollah’s chief said “any accusation must be referred to the Lebanese judiciary.”
“Some banking measures have started in the country and I warn against bowing to the American will,” he added.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to impose tough new sanctions on banks that knowingly do business with Hezbollah.
The U.S. bill requires the Obama administration to present to Congress a series of reports highlighting “the group’s narcotics trafficking, transnational crime, and operations of international groups linked to Hezbollah, especially in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.”