BEIRUT (Reuters) - The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group said on Sunday that Israel miscalculated by killing prominent militant Samir Qantar in Syria last week, saying that retaliation for his death was inevitable, whatever the consequences.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, speaking in a ceremony to mark a week since Qantar’s death in a strike in a residential quarter of Damascus, said Israelis should brace themselves for a response either inside or outside Israel.
“The Israelis should be justifiably worried... They should be worried along the border, inside (Israel) and outside,” he said.
“The response is coming no matter what ... We cannot forgive the shedding of our mujahideen blood by the Zionists ... anywhere in the world,” he said. Israel has welcomed Qantar’s death, but has not confirmed it carried out the air strike that killed him.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Saturday Israel took seriously a possible retaliation for Qantar’s killing and accused Iran, Hezbollah’s backer, of trying to open “a terrorist front on the Golan Heights”.
Yaalon said Hezbollah should be mindful of the 2006 Lebanon war, when Israel responded to a spate of cross-border attacks by the militant group with a large-scale ground, air and sea offensive.
Qantar was jailed in Israel for his part in a 1979 raid in Israel that killed four people when he was a member of a Palestinian militant group. Qantar was repatriated to Lebanon in 2008 in a prisoner swap with Hezbollah, which he then joined.
Nasrallah who described Qantar as a “leader” in Hezbollah for the first time acknowledged that Qantar had played a key role in creating a “popular resistance” in Syria against what he said were Israeli designs on the Syrian Golan Heights.
Hezbollah is fighting on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war. Syrian state media said Qantar was involved in a major offensive earlier this year in Quneitra, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Qantar’s growing military role in the strategic area had unnerved Israel, Nasrallah said.
Israel seized part of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed it later.
Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Ros Russell