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Hezbollah vows revenge for militant killed by Israeli strike in Syria

Hezbollah's leader promised to avenge the death of a top operative killed during an airstrike in Syria. Iran, Hezbollah's chief backer, also condemned the killing, putting parliamentary support behind retaliatory action.

In a televised speech, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed that his group would retaliate for the killing of Lebanese militant Samir Kantar during an Israeli strike in Syria, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

"Samir is one of us and a commander of our resistance, and it is our right to retaliate for his assassination in the place, time and way we see appropriate. We in Hezbollah will exercise that right," he said.

"For us, Israel is fully responsible for assassinating the martyr Samir Kantar. We have no doubt about this."

Nasrallah spoke hours after the group buried the top operative in a cemetery in the southern Beirut suburb of Ghobeiri, a bastion of Hezbollah support. Kantar's funeral was conducted in an elaborate style, which usually is reserved for the Shiite group's leaders. The coffin was carried to a mausoleum reserved for the movements self-styled "martyrs."

Israeli assassination?

Israel meanwhile welcomed news of Kantar's death in Damascus without directly claiming responsibility for the air strike that killed him; Israel does not confirm any military action in Syria. Apparent Israeli airstrikes have previously hit Hezbollah targets fighting against rebels and jihadists near the Golan Heights.

Senior Hezbollah official Hisham Safiedine warned that Israel was "committing a huge mistake" with its alleged assassinations.

Iran Parliament

Iran condemned the assassination, putting more than two-third of parliamentary support behind the notion of retaliating Qantar's killing

"If the Israelis think by killing Samir Kantar they have closed an account then they are very mistaken because they know, and will come to know, that they have instead opened several more," Safiedine said.

During his 30 years of captivity in an Israeli prison for the 1979 murder of four Israelis, Kantar became known as the longest-serving Arab prisoner. He was released in 2008 as part of a prisoner swap between Hezbollah and Israel.

Shortly after Kantar's release from prison a top Israeli security official had warned that he was a "target".

Iran expresses 'condolence'

Hezbollah's biggest supporter and alleged financier Iran also reacted to the news of Kantar's death.

Iran's English-language state news channel Press TV reported that more than 210 members of Iran's 290-member parliament had expressed their condolences over Kantar's death, calling for the top Hezbollah member's blood to be avenged.

Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu has previously accused Iran of wanting to open a new front in Syria's civil war in the Golan Heights.

ss/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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