Samir Kuntar was a Lebanese Druze member of the Palestine Liberation Front who was convicted of murder. After his release from prison as part of the 2008 Israel–Hezbollah prisoner exchange, he received the Syrian Order of Merit medal,honored by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US government. In Israel Kuntar is considered the perpetrator of one of the most brutal terrorist attacks in the country’s history.On April 22, 1979, at the age of 16, Kuntar participated in the killing of an Israeli policeman and 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 father, 31-year-old Danny Haran, and his 4-year-old daughter, Einat, taking them to a nearby beach. According to eye witnesses and forensic reports, Kuntar shot Danny to death at close range, and then killed the girl Einat by smashing her skull against the rocks with the butt of his rifle. During the attack, Smadar Haran accidentally suffocated her two-year-old daughter Yael to death while attempting to quiet her whimpering, which would have revealed their hiding place. Newsweek states that the details of Kuntar’s attack are “so sickening they give pause even to some of Israel’s enemies.”
The following excerpt from my book The Negotioator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas regarding Samir Qintar:
On July 16, a surprising announcement was made: Hezbollah and Israel had agreed to an immediate prisoner exchange. Conflicting reports had been circulating in Israel for months as to whether Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev – the Israeli soldiers abducted shortly after Gilad Schalit – were still alive in Lebanon.
As the deal was implemented, we all sat by our radios and televisions, hoping for good news – a rare redemptive ending. Our faces fell as the coffins containing the two soldiers were carried across the Lebanon-Israel border. The remains of Goldwasser and Regev, we soon learned, were being exchanged for a Lebanese prisoner, Samir Al-Quntar. Quntar was serving four life sentences for a grisly attack in Nahariya in 1979, staged by the Palestinian Liberation Front. He had murdered of Eliyahu Shahar, an Israeli policeman, Danny Haran, thirty-one, and Haran’s four-year-old daughter, Einat, whom he had bludgeoned to death with a rock. In addition, Quntar had been convicted of indirectly causing the death of two-year-old Yael Haran by suffocation, as her mother, Smadar, tried to muffle her crying while hiding from him.
As part of the prisoner exchange, which Israelis had hoped would bring home at least one live soldier, Israel also released four Hezbollah fighters captured in the 2006 Lebanon War and the bodies of 199 Palestinians, buried by Israel in the past three decades.
It was a lopsided exchange, and not the first one, in which Israel paid dearly for it ethos of leaving no soldier behind. Two years after the kidnapping in a Hezbollah raid near the Lebanese border, the Goldwasser and Regev families could have closure and lay their sons to rest – unlike the family of Ron Arad. But as we witnessed the transfer, I think the entire nation was asking itself if this would also be the fate of Gilad Schalit.
Samir Kuntar speaking with Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah after he was released from jail by Israel
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.