Samir Kuntar (Arabic: سمير القنطار, also transcribed Sameer, Kantar, Quntar, Qantar) (born July 20, 1962 in Abey, Lebanon) is a Lebanese Druze former member of the Palestine Liberation Front. On April 22, 1979, at the age of 16, he participated in the attempted kidnapping of an Israeli family in Nahariya that resulted in the deaths of four Israelis and two of his fellow kidnappers. Kuntar and his team broke into an apartment building and kidnapped a young father, 31-year-old Danny Haran, and his 4-year-old daughter, Einat, taking them to a nearby beach. Kuntar was found guilty of murdering Haran in front of Einat, then turning to the child and crushing her skull against a rock with the butt of his rifle. He was also convicted of indirectly causing the death of two-year-old Yael Haran by suffocation, as her mother, Smadar, tried to quiet her crying while hiding from Kuntar. In 1980 Kuntar was sentenced to four life sentences.
Immediately after his arrest, Kuntar admitted to the killings, but at his sentence and thereafter he denied killing the father and daughter, saying that they had been killed by security forces in the ensuing gun battle. He did admit to taking them hostage and killing Eliyahu Shahar, however. An eyewitness testified to having seen Kuntar shoot Danny Haran, and forensic evidence presented at his trial showed that Einat's brain tissue was found on his rifle. He spent nearly three decades in prison before being released on July 16, 2008 as part of an Israel-Hezbollah prisoner swap.
In Israel, Kuntar is considered the perpetrator of one of the most brutal terrorist attacks in the country's history, while in Lebanon, where Israel's version of the events is disputed by many and it is denied that he killed the father and his daughter, he is widely regarded as a "national hero." Newsweek states that the details of Kuntar's attack are "so sickening they give pause even to some of Israel's enemies." The Jerusalem Post states that "exactly how popular Kuntar is in Lebanon is up for some debate."
In November 2008, Syrian president Bashar Assad presented Kuntar with a Syrian medal and in early 2009 he was honored by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is on a list of individuals banned from entering the United Kingdom.
Kuntar was born to a Druze family in Lebanon. His parents divorced soon after his birth and his mother died when he was a boy. The father remarried and moved to Saudi Arabia, leaving Samir in the care of his second wife, Siham, in Abey, a village southeast of Beirut. Kuntar dropped out of school at 14 and underwent training in the camps of various Palestinian militant groups and became a member of the Palestine Liberation Front. His goal was to take part in an attack on Israel.
On March 2009 he married Zeineb Barjawi, the daughter of a prominent Lebanese family. 
On January 31, 1978 Samir Kuntar and three additional militants from his organization attempted to hijack an Israeli bus running the line between Beit She'an and Tiberias in order to demand the release of militants imprisoned in Israel. They traveled to Jordan and attempted to cross the Jordan river into Israel by swimming. However, before crossing, they were arrested by the Jordanian intelligence. Kuntar spent 11 months in the Jordanian prison and was released on December 1978. He was banned from entering Jordan for three years.
Raid from Southern Lebanon
On April 22, 1979, at the age of 16, Samir Kuntar led a group of four PLF militants who entered Israel from Lebanon by boat. The group members included Abdel Majeed Asslan (born in 1955), Mhanna Salim Al-Muayed (born in 1960) and Ahmed AlAbras (born in 1949). They all belonged to the PLF under the leadership of Abu Abbas. The group departed from the seashore of Tyre in Southern Lebanon using a 55 horse-powered motorized rubber boat with an 88 km/h speed. The goal of the operation was to attack Nahariya, 10 kilometers away from the Lebanese border. They named it "Operation Nasser".
Around midnight they arrived at the coastal town of Nahariya. The four killed a policeman, Eliyahu Shahar, who came across them. The group then entered a building on Jabotinsky Street where they formed two groups. One group broke into the apartment of the Haran family before police reinforcements had arrived. They took 31 year-old Danny Haran hostage along with his four year-old daughter, Einat. According to Samir Kuntar, Danny Haran would not let go of his daughter and come with them alone. The mother, Smadar Haran, was able to hide in a crawl space above the bedroom with her two year-old daughter Yael, and a neighbor.
Shootout and killings
Israeli witnesses said that Kuntar's group took Danny and Einat down to the beach, where a shootout with Israeli policemen and soldiers erupted. According to the witnesses, when Kuntar's group found that the rubber boat they'd arrived in was disabled by gunfire, Kuntar shot Danny at close range in the back, in front of his daughter, and drowned him in the sea to ensure he was dead. Next, eyewitnesses said he smashed the head of 4 year-old Einat on beach rocks and crushed her skull with the butt of his rifle. Smadar Haran accidentally suffocated Yael to death while attempting to quiet her whimpering, which would have revealed their hiding place, from where she saw Danny and Einat being led away at gunpoint by Kuntar. During the shootout a policeman and two of Kuntar's comrades were killed; Kuntar and the fourth member of the group, Ahmed Assad Abras, were captured. Abras was freed by Israel in the Jibril Agreement of May 1985.
Kuntar was tried and convicted of murdering five people by an Israeli court in 1980, and sentenced to five life sentences (one for each murder), and an additional 47 years for injuries inflicted. On July 13, 2008, after being classified for nearly thirty years, File No. 578/79, containing the evidence and testimony from Kuntar's 1980 trial, was first published.
Court transcripts cite testimony by a witness who said he had seen Haran get up and shout, "Don't shoot, my daughter is here." The witness testified that he then saw Kuntar shoot Haran. A doctor testified that Haran's daughter had died from "a blow from a blunt instrument, like a club or rifle butt." The judges ruled that Kuntar had hit Einat Haran twice on the head with the butt of his gun and that an associate, Ahmad al Abrass, had hit her on the head, the blows killing her.
Evidence presented by the pathologist at the trial showed that Einat Haran was killed by the force of a blunt instrument — most likely a rifle butt. The pathologist's report also showed that Einat's brain tissue was found on Kuntar's rifle.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kuntar had initially admitted to bludgeoning Einat to death after being captured, but at his trial, and consistently thereafter, he denied killing the 4-year-old. In his testimony, Kuntar asserted that Israeli gunfire had killed Danny Haran as soldiers burst in to free him, and that he did not see what happened to Einat after passing out from blood lost from five bullet wounds. He explained that the group's goal had been to take hostages back to Lebanon, and that he had taken the 4-year-old to prevent Israeli police from shooting at them. According to his former cellmate, Yasser Hanjar, Kuntar "never expressed remorse, but maintains a different version [of the events] than the Israeli one", that he only wanted to take the Israeli family hostage, and that he "firmly rejected allegations he had smashed the head of 4-year-old Einat Haran."
After his release, Kuntar accused the Israeli government of fabricating the story of how he killed the child.
Treatment in prison
During his imprisonment, Kuntar married Kifah Kayyal (born in 1963), an Israeli Arab woman who is an activist on behalf of militant prisoners. They later divorced. While they were married, she received a monthly stipend from the Israeli government, an entitlement due to her status as a wife of a prisoner. Kayyal is an Israeli citizen of Palestinian origin from Acre, now residing in Ramallah, who was then serving a life sentence for her activities in the Palestine Liberation Front. They had no children. In addition, while in prison Kuntar participated in a program under which Palestinian security prisoners took online courses from the Open University of Israel, and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Social and Political Science.
Negotiations for release
Several years later, the Palestinian Liberation Front seized the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship, demanding that Israel release Kuntar, along with 50 Palestinian prisoners, though Kuntar was the only prisoner specifically named. The hijackers killed a wheelchair-using Jewish American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, during this raid and had his body and wheelchair thrown overboard.
In 2003, Israel agreed to release around 400 prisoners in exchange for businessman Elchanan Tenenbaum and the bodies of three soldiers held by Hezbollah since 2000. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah refused to accept the deal unless it included Samir Kuntar. "Hezbollah's conditions have become clear and defined, and we are sticking to them in all circumstances", Nasrallah declared in his statement.
Inspired by the prisoner swap, Hamas vowed, a few days later, that they would also abduct Israeli soldiers to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners. Hassan Nasrallah simultaneously told his supporters that Hezbollah would continue to kidnap Israelis until "not a single prisoner" remained inside Israeli jails.
In 2006, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and UN envoy Terje Rød-Larsen proposed a deal in which Kuntar and all other Lebanese prisoners would be released on condition that Syria declared Shebaa farms as Lebanese territory, the Lebanese deployed troops on the country's southern border with Israel, Israel withdrew from Shebaa farms and the Israeli air force stopped flying over Lebanon, Israeli occupation ended, Though Hezbollah was not disarmed and Hezbollah was not removed from the border areas.
Prisoner exchange deal
On May 26, 2008, Israeli sources announced that Samir Kuntar was among those who would be exchanged for the bodies of two reservists, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, captured by Hezbollah in the Zar'it-Shtula incident that sparked the 2006 Lebanon War. On June 29, 2008 the Israeli ministers cabinet approved the prisoner exchange between Hezbollah and Israel which would involve the release of Kuntar despite intelligence stating that the two soldiers are almost certainly dead. Kuntar and four other prisoners being released as part of the deal are the last of the Lebanese prisoners in Israeli custody. Also part of the deal would be the release of the remains of other Lebanese from all other previous wars and, after a suitable interval, dozens of Palestinian prisoners.
On July 16, 2008, Hezbollah transferred coffins containing the remains of captured Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, in exchange for Kuntar and four Hezbollah members taken prisoner during the 2006 Lebanon War.
Reception in Lebanon
Upon the arrival of Samir Kuntar, along with four other freed Lebanese prisoners, to Beirut airport, Kuntar was officially received by the Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, Speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon Nabih Berri, some members of the Parliament of Lebanon, and Muslim and Christian clerics.
On July 17, 2008, Kuntar paid tribute at the tomb of Imad Mughniyeh. Later that day, a homecoming function was organized in Kuntar's native village of Aabey, southeast of Beirut. The ceremony was addressed by Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and the Labour Minister and Hezbollah official Mohammad Fneish.
On July 19, 2008, Al Jazeera TV broadcast a program from Lebanon that covered the "welcome-home" festivities for Samir Kuntar. In the program, the head of Al Jazeera's Beirut office, Ghassan bin Jiddo, lavished praise on Kuntar by calling him a "pan-Arab hero" and organized a birthday party for him. In response, Israel's Government Press Office (GPO) threatened to boycott the satellite channel unless it apologized. A few days later an official letter was issued by Al Jazeera's director general, Khanfar Wadah, in which he admitted that the program violated the station's Code of Ethics and that he had ordered the channel's programming director to take steps to ensure that such an incident does not recur.
Reception in Syria
On November 24, 2008, Kuntar visited Syria, where he met with president Bashar Assad. Assad awarded him the Syrian Order of Merit. Kuntar also visited Druze communities in the Syrian controlled Golan Heights. At the ceasefire line with Israel, he used the opportunity to express solidarity with the Druze community in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights: “President Bashar Assad has promised me that he will help you,” Kuntar said. “I say to you, soon president Assad will fly the Syrian flag over the Golan.”
Statements following his release
Since his release, Kuntar has made a number of statements on certain elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Prisoner exchange deal
In an interview to Al-Manar, Hezbollah's satellite television network, Kuntar said: "I'm jealous of the Zionists, who don't spare any effort in bringing back captured soldiers or soldiers' bodies. Seriously, we are jealous of our enemy and its care for a [body] and how it goes to the end of the world in order to return it, and of its concerns for captives and how it will go to the very edge to bring them back."
New attacks against Israel
In an interview with Al-Jadid TV, which aired July 18, 2008 (as translated by the MEMRI), Kuntar stated that: "There is a disease in this region called "the state of Israel," which we refer to as "the plundering entity." If we do not put an end to this disease, it will follow us, even if we flee to the end of the world. So it's better to get rid of it." In a subsequent interview, Kuntar stated that "and God willing, I will get the chance to kill more Israelis."
In an interview with the French Press Agency in October 2008, Kuntar stated that "The resistance will end only when the Zionist entity disappears." He also claimed that Israel is preparing to attack Lebanon again and that "Israel is going to suffer great losses. The idea that Israel is an invincible, secure state has become a myth."
Attacks on Israeli civilians
In an interview with Al-Jazeera TV and Al-Jadid/New TV, which aired July 26, 2008 (as translated by the MEMRI), Kuntar stated that: "To be honest, our operation had both civilian and military targets. Today, tomorrow, and the next day – our targets are always... There are no civilian targets – it’s “civilian” in quotation marks. The Zionists themselves define the Israeli as a soldier who is on leave for 11 months every year."
Assassination of Anwar Sadat
In an interview with Al-Jazeera TV and Al-Jadid/New TV, which aired July 26, 2008 (as translated by the MEMRI), Kuntar was asked how he viewed the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Kuntar stated that: "[The assassination of Sadat was] a most wonderful operation – to the point that all the prisoners cheered together when Sadat was assassinated. This man symbolized treason and apostasy. Ever since Camp David... Look at the history – Camp David, the 1982 invasion, and then the strike against Iraq... All the catastrophes that befell the Arab world began with Camp David. It was a wonderful historical moment, which I hope will recur in similar cases."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Samir kuntar|
- "Samir Kuntar". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2006-07-13.
- Dina Kraft (July 16, 2008). "Prisoner Deal Reopens an Israeli Wound".
- "Days before swap deal, Kuntar starts bidding cellmates good-bye". Haaretz. 2008-07-14.
- Gontarz, Nir, "The Kuntar File, Exposed" Yediot Aharonot, July 14, 2008. Translated by the website of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved July 17, 2008.
- "Former cellmate says Samir Kuntar never meant to kill anyone". Haaretz. 2008-07-01.
- "Released Lebanese Terrorist Samir Al-Quntar Vows to Fight under Hizbullah: Allah Willing, I Will Kill More Israelis". MEMRI. 2008-07-16.
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- Ahmadinejad to honor child killer Kuntar The Jerusalem Post 30 January 2009
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- Kotes-Bar, Chen (2008-07-19). "'The girl screamed. I don't remember anything else'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-07-24.
- Beyer, Lisa, "A Mother's Anguish Renewed", Time Magazine, July 25, 2006. Retrieved on July 7, 2008.
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- Heller, Aron, "For Israel, prisoner swap evokes raw memories", Associated Press, July 16, 2008. Retrieved on July 16, 2008.[dead link]
- Kraft, Dina "Prisoner Deal Reopens an Israeli Wound", New York Times, July 16, 2008.
- Khoury, Jack (2008-07-01). "Former cellmate says Samir Kuntar never meant to kill anyone". Haaretz. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
- "Kuntar accuses Israel of fabricating story of Child Killing", Monsters and Critics, July 17, 2008.
- "Samir Kuntar". Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Israel). Retrieved 2008-07-13.
- "A searing contrast", Jerusalem Post, July 16, 2008.
- "Israel prisoner deal 'not enough'", BBC News, November 10, 2003.
- McGreal, Chris, "Israel backs deal with Hizbullah to swap prisoners", The Guardian, November 10, 2003.
- O'Sullivan, Arieh, "Arad could alter release criteria". The Jerusalem Post. January 27, 2004.
- "ROUNDUP: Hamas, Hezbollah vow to abduct more Israeli soldiers". Deutsche Presse-Agentur. January 30, 2004.
- "Diplomatic maneuvers". Mideast Mirror. June 1, 2006.
- Stern, Yoav and Yossi Melman, "Israel says Hezbollah exchange deal is close", Ha'aretz, May 27, 2008. Retrieved on July 7, 2008.
- Keinon, Herb. "Soldiers set to be returned to Israel in 10 days", Jerusalem Post, June 29, 2008. Retrieved on July 7, 2008.
- "Another bad deal", Jerusalem Post, June 2, 2008. Retrieved on July 7, 2008.
- "UN identifying bodies presumed to be of Goldwasser, Regev". The Jerusalem Post. 2008-07-16.
- "Coffins said to hold bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev taken to Israel-Lebanon border". Haaretz. 2008-07-16.
- "Kuntar receives a hero's welcome", Jerusalem Post, Jul 17, 2008. Retrieved on July 20, 2008.
- The Daily Star - Politics - Nation unites for heroes' homecomings
- "Al-Jazeera admits to 'unethical' behavior over Kuntar party". Haaretz. 2008-07-08.
- "Al-Jazeera TV Throws a Birthday Party for Released Lebanese Terrorist Samir Al-Quntar". MEMRI. 2008-07-19.
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- Kuntar Visits Golan, Gets Syria's Highest Medal Israel National News http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/128535
- Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad Decorates Released Terrorist Samir Al-Kuntar, MEMRITV.org, Clip No. 1926 - Transcript, November 24, 2008.
- Freed terrorist says he’s jealous of Israel, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), July 18, 2008.
- Released Lebanese Terrorist Samir Al-Quntar Vows to Fight under Hizbullah: God Willing, I Will Kill More Israelis MEMRI, Clip No.1819, July 16–22, 2008
- Kuntar: Israel must disappear, Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA), October 23, 2008.
- Released Lebanese Terrorist Samir Al-Quntar: The Assassination of Sadat Was Wonderful; I Hope for More Assassinations in Similar Cases MEMRI, Clip No.1822, July 26, 2008
- "Home Office name hate promoters excluded from the UK". Press Release. UK Home Office. 5.5.9. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
- Samir Kuntar is a convicted murderer and not a hero - Ya Libnan
- Samir Quntar and the Narcissism of Hezbollah (The Islamic Counterterrorism Center)
- http://web.archive.org/web/20070817040847/http://www.samirkuntar.org/ Snapshot of Samir Kuntar family website archive on August 17, 2007
- Plot to free terrorist may have led to fight (Washington Times 8/8/2006)
- Israel's Deadly Prisoner Deal (Front Page magazine)
- The murder, described by Smadar Haran - the only member of the Haran family who survived (Washington Post article: "The World Should Know What He Did to My Family")
- "Hizballah Wants Israel to Free Child-Killer" (Cybercast News Service, July 18, 2006)
- Video: Why We Fight - Israel, Hizbollah and Samir Kuntar (on youtube.com)
- Prisoner Exchange reports
- Video: Palestinian and Lebanese Prisoners in Israeli Jails (on youtube.com)
- Israeli site about the Lebanese terrorist, Samir Kuntar.
- Nasrallah says no deal without Samir (BBC article "Nasrallah demands militant freed", September 12, 2006)
- Israel okays deal despite assessments troops are dead (Jerusalem Post "The cabinet debated the deal for nearly six hours before the vote, which was approved 22-3...", June 29, 2008)
- Video: '"Samir Kuntar - A new Hero!! " (A video posted by the Israeli government on youtube.com, can also be found on )
- Video: excerpt from "MABAT", Israeli TV channel 1 news (the funeral of Danny, Einat, and Yael Haran, including speech of Prime-Minister Menachem Begin - on youtube.com in Hebrew)