Who killed Hezbollah’s Samir Qantar? Ask Syria

Up until the time of writing, there has been no absolute statement from the Syrian government confirming that Lebanese militant leader Samir Qantar was killed in an Israeli aerial raid, as announced by Hezbollah. The Syrian government´s public explanation of the incident was expressed in remarks carried by the state-owned SANA news agency that lacked a clear-cut pointing-finger to Israel as being behind Qantar´s death.

But let it be very clear from the very beginning that what is written here is not a conspiracy theory piece accusing the Syrian regime of killing Qantar, although there has always a big question mark hanging over the deaths of many militant leaders and allies in Syria.

I was taken aback by the Syrian official statement on the killing of Qantar, a Druze, who was released by Israel in 2008 as part of a prisoner swap with the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. Perhaps by pointing the finger at Israel, Hezbollah said what the Syrians were unable to say. In January this year, the two longtime allies´ statements on Israel´s killing of six Hezbollah members, including commander and son of the group´s leader Imad Mughniyah in Quneitra were identical, accusing the same enemy and pledging coordinated revenge. But this time it was different.

Remarkably enough, the Syrian account of the incident resembled to a greater degree that of Israel - no confirmation and no refuting

Raed Omari

Hezbollah´s al-Manar TV aired an official statement by the Shiite militia affirming that Qantar was killed in an Israeli airstrike on a residential district of Damascus. Meanwhile, according to the Syria, as SANA announced, the Lebanese militant leader was killed in a ´´terrorist rocket attack.” From a purely discourse analysis point of view, the Syrian official statements appeared to want to contain the incident.

SANA quoted Syria´s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi as describing Qantar´s killing as a ´´terrorist operation plotted beforehand´´ without accusing Israel or any party. In a statement, also carried by SANA, the Syrian People´s Assembly accused a combination of “Takfiri Zionist” forces ´´led by several countries topped by Israel´´ of killing Qantar – again, not directly accusing Israel.

Daring, but still not clear

Syria´s Prime Minister Wael al-Halaqi’s statement was somehow a bit more daring, carrying some accusations against Israel but against other parties as well reading, as cited by SANA: ´´This attack will not prevent the Axis of Resistance from continuing its struggle against the Israeli enemy and confronting the terrorist war waged on Syria and the Arab nation.´´

The three Syrian official statements issued so far were all loose, coy and full of diplomatic euphemisms, so to speak. None of the statements have made it clear that Qantar was killed in an Israeli airstrike on a Damascus suburb, as announced by Hezbollah. Syria’s conventional sentence “Syria reserves the right to retaliate by all means at its disposal” was entirely absent in all the three official statements on Qantar’s death.

Remarkably enough, the Syrian account of the incident resembled to a greater degree that of Israel - no confirmation and no refuting.

‏But the Syrian statements on Qantar´s killing were worded with a heavy Russian military presence in the background and they were inseparable from new political developments on Syria and the new international coalitions in the making.

It can´t be that the Israelis launched an airstrike on Syria now without coordination with their Russian allies who now control Syria´s airspace. And if the Syrians confirmed that Israeli jets killed Qantar, then they would appear as either having prior knowledge of the plan or have no sovereignty over their country.

Who actually killed the 54-year-old Qantar? In my opinion, Israel is a likely perpetrator but the question is how its jets flew over Syria now without being spotted by the Russian satellites and space power. The Russian silence on the incident is also worth-noting. In fact, the killing of Qantar is proof that Syria is no longer a safe place even for the Syrian regime’s allies and loyalists. All is relative amid the overlapping interests from the many parties embroiled in the Syrian war.

Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

Last Update: 11:05 KSA 14:05 - GMT 11:05
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