Beirut, Dec 22: Amid shouts of "death to Israel," thousands of Hezbollah supporters on today thronged the coffin of a high-profile Lebanese militant who the group says was killed by an Israeli airstrike near the Syrian capital.
The group's leader pledged to strike back at the Jewish state, but refrained from making any fiery threats during a speech addressing the assassination.
Hezbollah said Samir Kantar, who spent 30 years in an Israeli prison after being convicted of the 1979 murders of an Israeli policeman along with a father and his 4-year-old daughter, was killed Saturday along with eight others in the airstrike on a residential building in Jaramana.
Hezbollah officials had pledged to avenge his killing, sparking fears of escalation in a volatile region. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in a televised speech today evening, said the group will exact revenge but did not make any specific threats.
"It is our right to retaliate for (Kantar's) assassination in the place, time and manner we deem appropriate. It is our right, and I will add tonight, that we in Hezbollah will practice this right with the help of God," he said.
Earlier today, crowds at Kantar's funeral swarmed his coffin, which was draped with a yellow Hezbollah flag. "Death to Israel," the men shouted, waving their fists in the air, as women threw rice and petals at the coffin.
"If the Israelis imagine that by targeting Samir Kantar they have closed an account, they are very wrong because they know and will know that they have opened accounts that are not closed with a treacherous missile," senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine said at the funeral. Israeli has neither confirmed nor denied that it was behind Kantar's assassination.