A minister with Israel’s cabinet lauded Sunday the killing of top Lebanese militant leader Samir Kantar in an overnight airstrike in Syria, Reuters reported citing Israel Radio. Kantar, the longest-held Lebanese prisoner in Israel, died after the airstrike -- attributed to Israel -- that targeted a residential building in Syrian capital Damascus, the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group said Sunday.
"It is good that people like Samir [Kantar] will not be part of our world," Yoav Gallant, Israel's Construction and Housing Minister, told Israel Radio, according to Reuters. However, Gallant did not confirm or deny that the airstrike was carried out by Israel.
Kantar, 53, was killed along with eight people in the airstrike in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana late Saturday, the Associated Press (AP) reported, citing Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV. According to Al-Manar TV’s footage, the residential building appeared to be completely damaged by the strike.
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist organization -- on its Twitter account -- condemned the killing of Kantar.
We condemn the Israeli assassination of Samir Kantar. This is a heinous crime.
— Hamas Movement (@HamasInfoEn) December 20, 2015
Israel had jailed Kantar in 1979 after convicting him of murder in an attack that killed an Israeli policeman, a father and his two children. He, along with four Hezbollah members, was released in 2008 -- almost three decades later -- in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in 2006. The capture of the soldiers had led to a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Kantar and the released prisoners received a celebratory welcome in Lebanon in 2008. Syrian President Bashar Assad had awarded him the country's highest medal during a trip Kantar made to Damascus in November 2008. Kantar later became a leader of militia based in Syria-controlled Golan Heights town of Hader and a loyalist to the Syrian government.
Soon afterward, Kantar, who followed the monotheistic Druze faith, joined Hezbollah. He is the most high profile Hezbollah fighter to be killed since last year.