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A Return to Palestine…

Palestine – It almost feels like it was yesterday that thousands of ecstatic Lebanese gathered in Beirut’s southern suburbs to welcome home the longest serving Arab prisoner in an “Israeli” jail.

Hours earlier on that hot summer day in 2008, the lenses of the global media were focused on the tarmac of Beirut’s international airport.

That’s where Samir Quntar was flown in by helicopter after twenty-eight years in an Israeli prison cell. It may be unthinkable these days, but back in 2008, the entire Lebanese cabinet had gathered to welcome Quntar.

The Lebanese Prime Minister at the time, Fouad Sinora, and former President Michel Sleiman were all eager to stand shoulder to shoulder with the man who was only sixteen years old when he was captured by the Israelis during a daring cross-border raid inside occupied Palestine.

Quntar and four other prisoners were swapped for the bodies of two “Israeli” soldiers.

Hours later, he stood on a podium in the Hizbullah stronghold of Dahiye. Addressing the crowd, he said he had “returned from Palestine, only to return back to Palestine”.

For those of us who were fortunate enough to be there that evening, the atmosphere – generated by the jubilant, million-strong crowd – was overwhelming.

It was the aftermath of the 2006 war, and victory by the Lebanese resistance was complete with Samir Quntar’s return, forever shattering the invincible image of the Israeli war machine.

But following his release, Quntar did not hang up his uniform – a right afforded to anyone who had sacrificed as much as he did.

Instead, over the next few years he rose through the ranks of Hizbullah, becoming a highly decorated commander. And when the time came to confront the newest Zionist/Western sponsored armies, assembled to destroy the resistance axis, he picked up his rifle and journeyed to Syria.

A true soldier in every sense of the word, Quntar personified Hizbullah’s message of resistance and resilience. And that is perhaps the main reason why the “Israelis” were equally determined to kill him.

The news of several rockets slamming into a building in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, where Quntar was staying, should have come as no surprise to anyone. By most accounts, last week’s attack was not the first attempt on the life of the Hizbullah commander.

Unfortunately, however, it would be the last. More than seven years after Quntar praised the resistance for becoming the “culture of the next generation” in Beirut’s southern suburbs, he was taken back to the same location one last time.

His coffin, draped in a Hizbullah flag, was carried to its final resting place. For the thousands who had gathered to mourn his passing, this was a day of grief and sorrow, but many had one other thing on their minds – revenge.

“It is our right to respond to his assassination at the time, place and means we deem appropriate. We in Hizbullah will practice this right,” said Hizbullah Secretary General His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in a televised address following Quntar’s funeral.

For retired Lebanese Army General Elias Farhat, it is not a matter of if, but rather when and where Hizbullah will retaliate.

“Hizbullah has three courses of action available: retaliate in Lebanon’s “Israeli”-occupied Sheba’a Farms, retaliate in the Golan Heights where Samir Quntar was building a resistance force against the “Israelis”, or retaliate inside “Israel”,” said General Farhat.

Samir Quntar was one of the architects of a blueprint for the liberation of the “Israeli”-occupied Golan Heights, assembling a Syrian resistance movement focused specifically on this task.

The forces that were under Quntar’s command are essentially made up of local Syrians, mostly Druze, from areas close to Syria’s southern border.

A Druze by birth, Quntar was also a key channel of communication between Hizbullah and the local Syrian Druze community both in the Golan and Syria’s southern province of Sweida.

According to General Farhat, “in order to build up the resistance in the Golan, you need logistical support from Hizbullah and Iran, as well as the coordination between Samir Quntar and the local Druze community”.

Earlier this year, the “Israelis” stepped up their efforts to drive a wedge between the Damascus government and the Druze, in the hope of further destabilizing southern Syria and expanding their role in the Syrian conflict.

The assassination of Samir Quntar would certainly have been part of Tel Aviv’s push to advance that agenda. It is, however, highly unlikely to seriously undermine the efforts of Hizbullah and its allies in building up their infrastructure against “Israeli” occupation forces in southern Syria.

The immediate concern will of course be on whether Quntar’s killing will lead to a wider confrontation between Hizbullah and “Israel”. That is also highly unlikely. General Farhat thinks that Hizbullah’s response will be coordinated with Iran and Russia.

“Because of Moscow’s recently expanded military role in the fight against terrorism in Syria, retaliation needs to be discussed in the context of the impact it would have on the entire situation,” he added.

And with Hizbullah refusing to be dragged into a war on “Israel’s” terms, a full-scale confrontation is improbable.

Source: al-Ahed News

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