DAMASCUS – An air strike in Syria led to the death of one of Hezbollah’s leaders, Samir Qantar. The death occurred in an Israeli air strike, and while Israel has not claimed responsibility for the death, it has welcomed the fact.

His death came in an aerial raid in the district of Jermana in the capital of Syria. Qantar, who was released from Israel in a prisoner exchange in 2008, is said to have joined Hezbollah since then.

According to Israeli government, Qantar was in Syrian soil to plan attacks against Israel. Even though Israel has kept out of the conflict in Syria, it is public knowledge that they have targeted several Hezbollah’s targets in the country.

Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, issued a TV statement saying: “Tonight I say to the enemy and to the friend, the martyr Samir Qantar is one of us, a leader in our resistance, and with all certainty he was killed by the Israelis. It is our right to respond to his assassination at the time and place and fashion we deem appropriate.”

During his funeral, thousands of Hezbollah’s supporters chanted “Death to Israel” and he received a hero’s funeral with his coffin being wrapped in Hezbollah’s yellow flag.

Qantar’s brother stated that since his release, Samir had been working against the Israeli’s occupation in the Syrian Golan Heights, and that since then Israel had attempted to kill him at least six times. He also stated that his brother was one of the first fighters to sign up to help the resistance in Syria.

According to US sources, Qantar had become one of Hezbollah’s most known figures and “played an operational role, with the assistance of Iran and Syria, in building up Hezbollah’s terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights”.

His death is likely to stir up even more the tension in the area, and already several statements have been issued by Hezbollah and his followers, all of them vowing to avenge him. It was even said that his death will lead several to join the resistance and take his place in the fight against Israel.

Julia Baldanza, Correspondent (Asia: Middle East & Central)