Thousands Attend Funeral of Samir al-Quntar in Dahiehإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Thousands of people gathered Monday in the southern Beirut suburb of Ghobeiri for the funeral of high-profile Hizbullah militant Samir al-Quntar, who the group says was killed by an Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital.
Hizbullah said Quntar, who spent 30 years in an Israeli prison after a deadly operation in northern Israel, was killed Saturday along with eight others in the airstrike on a residential building in Jaramana, close to Damascus.
Hizbullah has pledged to avenge his killing, sparking fears of escalation in a volatile region.
Supporters of the group walked behind his coffin, which was draped in a yellow Hizbullah flag, at the funeral Monday.
"The Israelis still haven't learned that with all these assassination attempts on leaders they are committing a huge mistake," senior Hizbullah official Hashem Safieddine said at the funeral.
A thick crowd chanted "Death to Israel! Death to America!" and waved the Palestinian, Lebanese and Hizbullah flags, as the coffin was carried to a mausoleum reserved for "martyrs."
Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is due to speak later Monday about Quntar's killing.
Israel has welcomed news of Quntar's death without claiming responsibility for the raid that killed him on Saturday.
Shortly after Quntar's release from an Israeli prison in 2008, however, a top Israeli security official had warned he was a "target."
In Dahieh's Ghobeiri neighborhood, a bastion of Hizbullah support, uniformed militants manned checkpoints flying the movement's yellow-and-green flag ahead of the funeral.
Hizbullah helped negotiate Quntar's release in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers after he had spent 30 years in Israeli jails.
Quntar 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.
Israeli authorities accused the militants of shooting dead Danny Haran, 28, and battering his four-year-old daughter Einat's skull with rifle butts. Quntar has denied murdering the girl, saying she was killed in the crossfire.
Quntar was sentenced to five life terms plus 47 years on charges of murdering the father and daughter and an Israeli policeman.
Shortly after his release, he joined Hizbullah.
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 Hizbullah in the region, most of which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war.
"In his seven years of freedom, Samir was involved in the resistance (against Israel) in Lebanon and when the first signs of resistance appeared on the occupied Golan front, he was one of the first to join up and Israel tried six times to kill him in Lebanon and Syria," his brother Bassam said in an article published in Lebanese daily al-Akhbar.
"When Nasrallah announced we would soon see a Syrian resistance just as efficient as the Shiite resistance in southern Lebanon, Quntar was part of the equation," said Hizbullah expert and professor of sociology Waddah Sharara.
Originally from the Druze mountains southeast of Beirut, Quntar was among Lebanese youths who fought alongside Palestinian militants in the country's civil war in the 1970s.
Druze leader Walid Jumblat, whose father Kamal was a figurehead for Lebanese leftist movements before his assassination in 1977, paid tribute to Quntar.
"Despite the differences in our political positions and on the Syria crisis, we condemn the death of the militant Samir... who dedicated his life to the struggle against Israeli occupation," he said.