Israel Penetrates Iranian, Hizballah networks in Syria

Israel’s intelligence and air force again displayed their best skills for pinpointing and reaching very small targets in the operation conducted on Dec. 20 to blow away the Hizballah arch terrorist Samir Quntar.
Quntar, head of Iranian and Hizballah terror networks in southern Syria up to the Israeli border, and his deputy, Farhan Issam Sha’alon, chief of the National Syrian Opposition group on the Golan, lived and worked in two secret apartments on the first floor of a residential building in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, 10 km southeast of the capital. One apartment served as living quarters, and the other as operations center for running their terrorist networks.
The four missiles that Israeli warplanes launched Sunday from a point over the northern Israeli Sea of Galilee destroyed the entire first floor of that building. Nothing could have survived the blast.
The technology used by Israeli Air force bombers and drones for threading rockets through a small window or hatch for precisely targeted assassinations was last demonstrated during the IDF’s Gaza campaign in the summer of 2014.
Information had been received that Muhammad Deif, head of the Hamas military wing, the Ezz-e-Din al-Qassam Brigades, had arranged to visit his wives and children at the home of a trusted associate in the Sheikh Radwan district of Gaza.
On Aug. 19, after he entered the building, a series of at least four one-ton bombs were released. The building collapsed, but the master terrorist survived, thanks to a mechanical malfunction and Deif’s own ruthless egotism.
A joint Israeli air force-military intelligence probe subsequently established that, after the first bomb failed to detonate, the quick-witted Deif decided to get out fast and sacrifice his family. And indeed, when the second bomb exploded, it destroyed his family, but he had escaped to safety.
That episode demonstrated that even the most superior technology and intelligence cannot be guaranteed to work one hundred percent, and all such operations are touch and go.
For the Quntar hit, Israel military intelligence made elaborate preparations:
1. To locate his secret residence known to be in or near Damascus.
2. To determine whether he worked from home or another location to prepare Hizballah’s terror networks in southern Syria for attacks deep inside Israel.
3. Since Quntar’s movements could not be tracked electronically from the air, the Israeli planners needed clandestine eyes on the ground to signal his entries and departures from his apartment, to shadow his movements outside and identify the signs showing he was at home.
He was therefore under constant surveillance for a considerable period leading up to the assassination.
4. Dozens of undercover agents and local informants were employed in Damascus for this task. One used a laser beam to guide Israeli warplanes to the Quntar abode.
That Israel was able to run an undercover operation on this scale, without discovery by Syrian, Iranian or Hizballah intelligence, attests to the depth of Israeli clandestine penetration of the Syrian capital and its environs.
5. The blow for Iranian intelligence was painful: Iran relied on Quntar for its terror and intelligence operations even more than Hizballah. They kept dark the deaths of his two Iranian controllers in the same rocket attack. Our intelligence sources name them as Mohammed Reza Fahmi and Mir Ahmad Ahmadi.
6. This in-depth penetration of Damascus is not new. Undercover cells have been there for at least eight years.
One such deep-cover Israeli spy network engineered the targeted assassination on Feb.12, 2008 of Imad Fayez Mughniyeh, Hizballah’s military chief, who was the top Iranian intelligence and terror operative in the Middle East. He was knocked off outside his home in the exclusive Damascus suburb of Kafr Sousa.
Mughniyeh was a trusted favorite of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his status in Tehran at the time comparable to that of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Al Qods Brigades, whose current whereabouts are meanwhile unknown. (See last week’s DEBKA Weekly issue: ”Who Made the Iranian Al Qods Chief Disappear?” )
To kill Mughniyeh, Israel’s agents snuck into the garage of his home and planted explosives in the driver’s headrest of his car. When he started the engine, the headrest blew up and decapitated him.
The modus operandi for the Quntar hit was different. When spies had confirmed he was asleep in bed, the deadly rockets were released. They flew through the windows to kill him, his deputy and their Iranian controllers.

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