Samir Kuntar
Samir KuntarIsrael News Photo: (file photo)

Terrorist Samir Kuntar visited the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Monday. Several hundred residents of Druze villages in Israel gathered to cheer for Kuntar, who is also Druze. Kuntar served almost 30 years in an Israeli prison for murdering three Israelis, one of them a four-year-old girl, and causing the death of a toddler.

Kuntar turned to the residents of Majdal Shams, Masada, Bukata and Ein Kaniya who had come to hear him and promised them they would not remain Israeli for long. “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.”

Among those who attended the gathering were MK Said Nafa (Balad) and Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Israeli Islamic Movement. When questioned by an Israeli reporter Nafa expressed defiance, saying, “We're not afraid of jail, we'll keep protecting the interests of all Arab peoples.”

One resident of Majdal Shams who attended the event spoke with the Israeli paper Yediot Acharonot and described his hopes for the future: “We hope that we'll celebrate the next Syrian Independence Day here, with the entire Golan returned to Syria as part of a peace deal between the government of Israel and President Assad.” He praised Kuntar, saying, “Samir Kuntar is an example of how a firm stance achieves results.”

Assad gives Kuntar Top Award

Kuntar came to the Golan from Damascus, where he met with Assad. Assad awarded Kuntar Syria's highest medal, the Syrian Order of Merit.

"Kuntar was not only the senior prisoner during his time in jail, he is chief among free and honorable men,” Assad said. “His firm stance and commitment to Arab rights, despite everything he went through, have made him a symbol of the struggle for freedom in the Arab world and the entire world.”

Kuntar praised Assad in turn, saying, “The great thing about Syria is that when I was arrested 30 years ago, Syria stood firmly and fought against Israel, and when I visit today she still holds the exact same position.” Kuntar praised Syria and Assad in the name of Hizbullah.

State: Talks with Syria Must Continue

Meanwhile, in Israel, the state told the High Court that peace talks with Syria must continue. In response to a petition from MK Limor Livnat (Likud) calling to put the talks on hold, the government argued that suspending the talks would damage Israel's relationship with Turkey and Israel's image abroad.

Livnat argued that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should not be allowed to hold talks with a lasting impact on Israel's future, as he is only a caretaker prime minister and is no longer even the head of the Knesset's largest faction, Kadima. Olmert has been holding talks with Assad with help from Turkish mediators. The state asked the High Court to dismiss Livnat's petition.