Arab Affairs Editor
With pomp and circumstance Lebanon welcomed Samir Kuntar home... The man considered a symbol of evil in Israel, convicted of killing an Israeli father and bludgeoning to death the man's four-year-old daughter. The year was 1979; Kuntar was 16. He was sentenced to 542 years in prison.
In Lebanon today, he is hailed as a hero.
Speaking to a huge crowd on Wednesday, Kuntar said, “...I came from Palestine, only to return to Palestine.” Promising that he will be back along with his “brothers, the mujahideen of the Islamic Resistance.”
A reference to the Hezbollah militia who negotiated his release along with 4 others and the remains of nearly 200 of Arab and Lebanese militants.
The day was portrayed as a great victory in promotional videos leading up to the release and extensive minute-by-minute coverage that lasted throughout the day on Hezbollah's TV station Al-Manar - culminating in coverage of a massive celebration near the capital, Beirut.
Other local and regional TV stations treated the story with similar dedication. One station ran a dramatic video clip glorifying the first woman suicide bomber, Dalal al-Mughrabi, who perished in 1978 and whose remains were returned this day, causing more celebration.
Others highlighted street banners in English that read "Pain in Israel and Joy in Lebanon" and "Freedom guaranteed by Nassrallah... Humiliation guaranteed by Olmert." Comments aimed at twisting the knife in Israel's wound, making the point that the pain and defeat belong in Israel while joy and freedom reside in Lebanon..
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