According to Israeli media reports, the Israel Air Force today struck a vehicle traveling near the village of Hader in the Syrian Golan Heights, killing all five passengers on board. One of the passengers was a man named Samir Kuntar. It is vulgar, if not worse, to rejoice in the demise of another human being; for Kuntar, however, one might make an exception.
Born to a family of wealthy Lebanese Druze restaurateurs, Kuntar rejected his comfortable bourgeois upbringing for the thrills and thrusts of terrorism, which, in Lebanon of the late 1970s, were plentiful. He joined the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, trained as a guerrilla, and set out to take the lives of Israelis. His first attempt—a plot to hijack an Israeli bus—was foiled, and Kuntar spent 11 months in a Jordanian prison, released late in 1978. A few months later, on April 22, 1979, Kuntar, commanding a small unit of four armed men, piloted a small dinghy from Lebanon to the northern Israeli town of Naharia. Undetected by the Israeli Navy, the terrorists struck at midnight and wasted little time: spotting a police car, they opened fire and killed one officer, Eliyahu Shahar. Then, they proceeded into the town, forcing their way into the nearby home of the Haran family.
Danny Haran, 31, and his daughter Einat, 4, were taken hostage. Smadar, Danny’s wife, managed to grab her infant daughter Yael, 2, and hide in the apartment’s narrow attic. Terrified, and anxious to keep the child from crying, Smadar accidentally choked her baby to death. Kuntar and his men, meanwhile, took Danny and Einat to the beach, where they were met by Israeli soldiers and police officers. A short firefight ensued, but Kuntar had other targets in mind. He shot Danny in the back at close range, murdering him in front of his small daughter. Then, he took Einat and smashed her skull against a rock with the butt of his rifle.
Samir Kuntar was captured later that evening, and sentenced to life in an Israeli prison. There, he married an Israeli citizen, completed a bachelor’s degree and part of a master’s degree through the Tel Aviv-based Open University, and contemplated a run to the Lebanese parliament, cashing on his popularity in his native country. On July 16, 2008, Kuntar was released as part of a deal between Israel and the Hezbollah, and wasted no time espousing his favorite cause and calling for the kidnapping and murder of more Israelis. If he was indeed killed this morning in Lebanon, it’s nothing less than justice finally served.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.