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The Hezbollah flag

Hezbollah (Arabic ‮حزب الله‬, meaning Party of God, for other designations or alternative spellings, see 'name' part of this article) is a political and military party in Lebanon founded in 1982 to fight Israel in southern Lebanon. It is regarded by many in the Arab and Muslim world as a legitimate militant Shia political party in Lebanon and by many in the Western world, by various non-Arab governments, and by the Israeli government as an Islamist terrorist or Islamic fundamentalist organization. In addition to its military wing, Hezbollah maintains a civilian arm, which runs hospitals, various news services, and eductional facilities.


The word ‮حزب الله‬ is transliterated in a number of ways. A scientific transliteration would be hizbu' llah. Hezbollah' is used by CNN and the BBC. It is also written as Hizbullah, Hizballah, Hizbollah, Hezbullah, and Hizb Allah, which is used by Al-Jazeera. "Hizb" is correct for general Arabic pronunciation, "Hezb" is closer to Persian. The 'h' is sibilant in Arabic, but a normal 'h' sound in Persian.

Hezbollah has a military branch known as Al-Muqawwama al-Islamiyya (in English: the Islamic resistance), and is the possible sponsor of a number of lesser-known militant organizations, some of which may be little more than fronts for Hezbollah itself. These organizations include the Organization of the Oppressed, the Revolutionary Justice Organization, the Organization of Right Against Wrong, and Followers of the Prophet Muhammed. [source: Canada's United Nations Suppression of Terrorism Regulations (SCHEDULE 1), SOR/2001-360, Registration: 2 October, 2001][1]


Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States [2] the United Kingdom [3], Canada [4][5] and Australia [6]; the U.S. Department of State notes that Hezbollah has killed more than 300 American citizens (over 200 of whom were U.S Marines in Lebanon.) Russia has only recently begun to draw up a list of organizations it classifies as terrorist, which may reflect that of the EU [7]. The European Union has designated Hezbollah's External Security Organization or international wing as "terrorist".

On March 10 2005 the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly (473 in favor 33 against) on a resolution branding Hezbollah in whole as a terrorist organization. The resolution stated that the "Parliament considers that clear evidence exists of terrorist activities by Hezbollah. The (EU) Council should take all necessary steps to curtail them"[8]. The EU has also decided to block Hezbollah's Al-Manar television from European satellites in order to enforce European regulations against "incitement to racial and/or religious hatred". [9] The United Nations has not included Hezbollah on its list of terrorist groups (which is just being drawn up). However it has called for the disbanding of Hezbollah's military wing in UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

Hezbollah has denounced some acts of terror, like the September 11 attacks[10] and the murder of Nick Berg[11]. As a stated aim of Hezbollah is the destruction of the state of Israel, it expresses support and sympathy for the [12] for the activities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Islamist terrorist groups responsible for violence and suicide attacks in Israel.



Hezbollah was formed from numerous other Lebanese Shia groups shortly after Israel's 1982 invasion, largely fought in mainly Shia southern Lebanon. The group was conceived by Iran, or at least was aided in its inception by the arrival in Lebanon of 1,500 Islamic revolutionary guards from Iran, three years after that country's own Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran, as an Islamic republic — a Shia one — remains a close ally, financial backer, arms supplier and model for Hezbollah. Syria backs Hezbollah morally and has also supplied it with money and arms, such as Katyusha rockets. In return, Hezbollah protects Syria's interests in Lebanon and aligns with Syria in its confrontation with Israel over the occupation of the Golan Heights. [13]

One of the main objective of Hezbollah at the time was to spread the Iranian Revolution. Since then, the party has publicly declared that it will suspend its attempts to create an islamic state in Lebanon "because the conditions are not met". It remained underground for a number of years and did not make a public announcement of its existence till 1985, until which time its earliest members operated under the auspices of the "Lebanese National Resistance", an amalgam of forces united in their opposition to the Israeli invasion.

Hezbollah during the Lebanese war (1982-1990)

Combat Operations

After emerging during the civil war of the early 1980s as an Iranian-sponsored second militia (besides Amal) for Lebanon's Shia community, Hezbollah focused on expelling Israeli and Western forces from Lebanon. It is the principal suspect in several notable attacks on the American, French and Italian Multinational peacekeeping force, whose claimed purpose was the stabilization of Lebanon: the suicide bombings of the U.S. Embassy, which killed 63 including 17 Americans, of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut (see 1983 Beirut barracks bombing), which killed 241 American servicemen, and of the French multinational force headquarters which killed 58 French troops. Seven months after the U.S. withdrew its forces from Lebanon a second attack upon the United States embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984 killed 20 people including two Americans.[14].

Elements of the group have been linked to involvement in kidnapping, detention and torture of American and other Western hostages in Lebanon by groups such as Islamic Jihad who claimed the hostage-takings were in retaliation to the detentions, hostage-taking and torture by the Israeli ally South Lebanon Army (SLA).

There may also have been (attempted) terrorist attacks against Hezbollah. According to Bob Woodward's book Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, the CIA asked Elie Hobeika to kill Hezbollah's spiritual leader Fadlallah, but asked for minimal bloodshed. The assassination attempt failed to kill Fadlallah but more than 80 civilans died. The fiasco lead the CIA to terminate its relationship with Elie Hobeika.

Alleged Terrorism

Using names like the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth and the Revolutionary Justice Organization, Hezbollah is also believed by the United States to have kidnapped and tortured to death U.S. Army colonel William R. Higgins and the CIA Station Chief in Beirut, William Buckley, and to have kidnapped around 30 other Westerners between 1982 and 1992, including the American journalist Terry Anderson, British journalist John McCarthy, the Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy Terry Waite and Irish citizen Brian Keenan. Hezbollah was accused by the US government to be behind the suicide truck bombings that killed 241 U.S. Marines in their barracks in Beirut in 1983; to be responsible of the 1984 truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut that killed 24; the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome. Hezbollah denies involvement in these attacks.

The South Lebanon period (1990-2000)

The continued existence of Hezbollah's military wing after 1990 violates the Taif Agreement that ended the Lebanese civil war, which requires the "disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias" and requires the government to "deploy the Lebanese army in the border area adjacent to Israel." The Lebanese government did not try to disarm the Hezbollah during the 1990-2000 period, justifying its position by the fact that Hezbollah was fighting for the liberation of the south, then occupied by Israel.

Conflict in South Lebanon

South Lebanon was occupied by Israel between 1982 and 2000. Hezbollah fought a guerilla war against Israel and the South Lebanon Army. The fighting culminated during Operation Grapes of Wrath in April 1996 when Israel launched an assault and air-campaign against Hezbollah. The campaign failed and resulted in the Israelis killing more than 100 civilians in one incident alone (see Qana).

In January 2000, Hezbollah assassinated the commander of the Israeli proxy South Lebanon Army Western Brigade, Colonel Aql Hashem, at his home in the security zone. Hashem had been responsible for day to day operations of the SLA.[15]

In May 2000, Israel withdrew its army from south Lebanon. This was widely considered a victory for Hezbollah and boosted its popularity in Lebanon. The move did not end the conflict because Hezbollah is still contesting Israel's control of the Shebaa farms region.

Hezbollah's role in the Israeli withdrawal from southern gained the organization respect in Lebanon, particularly among the country's Shia community, which comprises 40% of Lebanon's three million citizens. The President of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, said: "For us Lebanese, and I can tell you a majority of Lebanese, Hezbollah is a national resistance movement. If it wasn't for them, we couldn't have liberated our land. And because of that, we have big esteem for the Hezbollah movement." [16].

However, others in Lebanon, particularly the Christian community, criticize the movement as extremist and divisive. Michel Aoun, a prominent Christian parliamentarian, has repeatedly called for Hizbullah's disarmament. Saad Hariri and his Sunni bloc also favor disarmament, though with more equivocation than Aoun. Walid Jumblatt, the paramount Druze leader, supports Hizbullah retaining its arms, though at times he has suggested that Hizbullah could be folded into the Lebanese military. Overall, many prominent Lebanese politicians resist international pressure to disarm Hizbullah, saying that Hizbullah is an internal Lebanese issue. The common fear among Lebanese is that the army might disintegrate if the attempt were made to disarm Hizbullah without its consent.

Alleged Terrorism

Note: Hezbollah has been suspected or accused of complicity in the following attacks although they deny involvement.

Hezbollah after the Israeli withdrawal

In May 22, 2000, Israel withdrew from Lebanon to the UN-agreed Israeli border, and their pullout was certified by the UN as complete[17]. However, Hezbollah claims the Shebaa Farms, a 28 sq. km. area, which is still occupied by Israel, to be Lebanese territory, and on that basis has continued to attack Israeli forces in that area. The UN recognizes the Shebaa farms as part of the Golan Heights, and thus occupied Syrian (and not Lebanese) territory.

Israel continues to overfly Lebanese territory, eliciting condemnation from the UN Secretary-General's representative in Lebanon. Hezbollah's anti-aircraft fire has on some occasions landed within the northern border region of Israel, inciting condemnation from the UN Secretary-General [18]. On November 7, 2004, Hezbollah responded to what it described as repeated Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace by flying an unmanned drone aircraft over northern Israel.[19]

Hezbollah abducted three IDF soldiers during an October 2000 attack in Shebaa Farms, and sought to obtain the release of 14 Lebanese prisoners, some of whom had been held since 1978. On January 25, 2004, Hezbollah and Israel agreed on an exchange of prisoners. The prisoner swap was carried out on January 29: 30 Lebanese and Arab prisoners, the remains of 60 Lebanese militants and civilians, 420 Palestinian prisoners, and maps showing Israeli mines in South Lebanon were exchanged for an Israeli businessman and army reserve colonel kidnapped in 2001 and the remains of the three IDF soldiers mentioned above, who may have been killed during the Hezbollah operation.

On July 19, 2004, a senior Hezbollah official, Ghaleb Awwali, was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut. Hezbollah blamed Israel; credit was claimed, and then retracted, by a previously unheard of Sunni group called Jund Ash Sham, while Israel denied involvement[20]. According to Al-Arabiya, unidentified Lebanese police also identified the group as a cover for Israel[21]. Israel alleges that Hezbollah had been increasingly involved in training and arming Hamas (see section in this article: Hezbollah activities in the al-Aqsa Intifada.) This claim has been strengthened by Nasrallah's own words. In 2001 Jordan arrested three Hezbollah members attempting to smuggle Katyusha rockets into the West Bank. Nasrallah responded that "it is a duty to send arms to Palestinians from any possible place."[22][23] After Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin Hezbollah attacked the IDF along the Blue Line[24]. Most recently, during Awwali's funeral, Nasrallah proclaimed that Aawali was "among the team that dedicated their lives in the last few years to help their brothers in occupied Palestine"[25], which some take to refer to aiding Hamas. On February 9, 2005 Palestinian Authority officials blamed Hezbollah of attempting to derail the recent truce between Israel and Palestine by offering increased funding and bonuses to the militant cells it operates in Israel and Palestine for any terrorist attack they carry out[26] [27].

UN resolution 1559

On September 2, 2004 the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1559, authored by France and the U.S. in an uncommon show of cooperation. Echoing the Taif Agreement, the resolution "calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon" and "for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias." Lebanon is currently in violation of Resolution 1559 over its refusal to disband the military wing of Hezbollah. Syria was also in violation of the resolution until recently because of their military presence in Lebanon.

On October 7, 2004 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council regarding the lack of compliance with Resolution 1559. Mr. Annan concluded his report by saying: "It is time, 14 years after the end of hostilities and four years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestiges of the past. The withdrawal of foreign forces and the disbandment and disarmament of militias would, with finality, end that sad chapter of Lebanese history." [28]

The January 20, 2005 UN Secretary-General's report on Lebanon states: "The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue Line is not valid in the Shab'a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions. The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978). The Government of Lebanon should heed the Council’s repeated calls for the parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety." [29]

On January 28, 2005 UN Security Council Resolution 1583 called upon the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of sufficient numbers of Lebanese armed and security forces, to ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it. [30]

Hezbollah activities in the al-Aqsa Intifada

Main article: al-Aqsa Intifada

In December 2001 three Hezbollah operatives were caught in Jordan while attempting to smuggle BM-13 Katyusha rockets into the West Bank. Nasrallah responded that "It is a duty to send arms to Palestinians from any possible place."[31]

During 2002, 2003 and 2004, the Israeli Security Forces thwarted numerous suicide bombing attacks, some of which Israel claims were planned and funded by Hezbollah and were to have been carried out by Tanzim activists. Israeli officials accused Hezbollah of aiding Palestinian terrorism and participating in weapon smuggling (see also: Santorini, Karin A).

On June 16, 2004, two Palestinian girls — aged 14 and 15 — were arrested by the IDF for plotting a suicide bombing. [32] According to IDF statement, the two minors were recruited by Tanzim (Fatah's armed wing) activists, and guided by Hezbollah. [33] On June 23, 2004, another allegedly Hezbollah-funded suicide bombing attack was foiled by the Israeli security forces. [34].

In February 2005 the Palestinian Authority accused Hezbollah of attempting to derail the truce signed with Israel. Palestinian officials and former militants described how Hezbollah promised an increase in funding for any cell able to carry out a terrorist attack [35]. Since the May 2000 Israeli withdrawal, Hezbollah has continued fighting the Israel Defense Forces around the disputed 10 km²-Shebaa Farms area on the Lebanese-Syrian border. Although the UN regards Shebaa Farms — 14 farms on the western slope of Mount Hermon, near the village of Shebaa — as Syrian territory, Hezbollah considers the area a part of Lebanon. The Shebaa farms were taken by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war. Syria was asked to notify the UN that it considered the Shebaa farms to be part of Lebanon, but no official statement was ever sent. This has led some specialists to believe that Hezbollah’s attempt to recapture the area was a Syrian-backed pretext to keep Israel under military pressure. Some argue that Hezbollah is being used by Syria and Iran as a proxy against Israel. [36]

Hezbollah and the cedar revolution

After the assassination of Rafik Hariri in February 2005 Hezbollah strongly supported Syria's presence through demonstrations. It opposed the cedar revolution which resulted in Syria's withdrawal. However Hezbollah won a number of representatives during the parliamentary elections of May 2005 and managed to join the government in July 2005 in the name of national unity. Hezbollah still holds a large quantity of weapons and the subject remains extremely controversial in Lebanon.

Post-Lebanese election

After the 2005 elections, Hezbollah held 23 seats (up from eight previously) in the 128-member Lebanese Parliament. It also participated for the first time in the Lebanese government that was formed in July 2005. Hezbolla has two ministers in the government, and a third is Hezbollah-endorsed. It is primarily active in the Bekaa Valley, the southern suburbs of Beirut, and southern Lebanon. The group is headed by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and is financed largely by Iran and Syria, though it also raises funds itself through charities and commercial activities.

Political activities

Hezbollah is an active participant in the political life and processes of Lebanon, and its scope of operation is far beyond its initial militant one. In 1992, it participated in elections for the first time, winning 12 out of 128 seats in parliament. It won 10 seats in 1996, and 8 in 2000. In the general election of 2005, it won 23 seats nationwide, and an Amal-Hezbollah alliance won all 23 seats in Southern Lebanon. Since the end of the Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon on May 22 2000, Hezbollah has been involved in activities like building schools, clinics, and hospitals.

Foreign relations

File:BND Hezbollah.jpg
Good Foreign Relations: President of the German intelligence service BND in front of a flag of Lebanon and a Hezbollah flag, January 30, 2004

Hezbollah claims that it forbids its fighters entry into Iraq for any reason, and that no Hezbollah units or individual fighters have entered Iraq to support any Iraqi faction fighting America. However, on April 2, 2004, Muqtada al-Sadr announced his intention to form chapters of Hezbollah and Hamas in Iraq [37]. He is not known to have consulted Hezbollah or Hamas before making this statement.

Hezbollah has no known links to Al-Qaida. Though Hezbollah has a Shi'ite ideology, this does not exclude it from co-operation with Sunni groups. However, Al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are respectively a Wahhabi and a Deobandi group, have long histories of conflict with Shia groups and with Iran in particular, Hezbollah's strongest backer. Hezbollah is closely allied with Iran and has a complex relationship with Syria. Hezbollah is strongly anti-Zionist, anti-West, and anti-Israeli.

In 2004 the Dutch internal security agency AIVD, concluded:

"Investigations have shown that Hezbollah’s terrorist wing, the Hezbollah External Security Organisation, has been directly and indirectly involved in terrorist acts. It can also be concluded that Hezbollah’s political and terrorist wings are controlled by one co-ordinating council. This means that there is indeed a link between these parts of the organisation. The Netherlands has changed its policy and no longer makes a distinction between the political and terrorist Hezbollah branches. The Netherlands informed the relevant EU bodies of its findings." [38]

It is widely believed that Hafez al-Assad and Hezbollah were closely linked; this did not significantly affect his relations with the rest of the world. Bashar al-Assad, his son and successor, has been subjected to sanctions by the U.S. due to (among other things, such as occupying Lebanon) his continued support for Hezbollah, which it views as a terrorist organization. However, on March 3, 2005, the Bush administration stated that it would consider Hezbollah legitimate if it disarmed, but also said that this did not represent a change in their view of the organization, which is unlikely to do so.

Those who consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization consider its sponsors (in particular Iran, Syria, and Lebanon) to stand in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1566. Further, UN Security Council Resolution 1559 calls for the dismantling of Hezbollah and all other militias. Israel has lodged continuous complaints[39] about Hezbollah's actions. Israel has bombed several Syrian targets in retaliation for terrorist and guerrilla attacks by Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah that Israel claims were sponsored by Syria. An Israeli official said that those attacks are a "message to Syria to stop sponsoring terrorism".


The organization views an Islamic republic, on the Iranian model, as the ideal and eventual form of state. However, as their conception of an Islamic republic requires the consent of the people, and Lebanon remains a religiously and ideologically heterogeneous society, their political platform revolves around more mundane issues. According to their published political platform in 2003, Hezbollah claims to favor the introduction of an Islamic government in Lebanon by peaceful democratic means. According to the United States Department of State and reports submitted to Defense Technical Information Center (among other United States agencies) as late as 2001, the organization is seeking to create an fundamentalist Iranian-style Islamic republic and removal of all non-Islamic influences.

Hezbollah supports the destruction of the state of Israel[40] and co-operates with other militant Islamic organizations such as Hamas in order to promote this goal.

Media operations

Hezbollah operates a satellite television station from Lebanon, Al-Manar TV ("the Lighthouse") as well as a radio station, al-Nour ("the light"). Qubth Ut Alla ("The Fist of God") is the monthly magazine of Hezbollah's paramilitary wing. They are watched widely by West Bank and Gazan Palestinians as well as some Lebanese.

The broadcasting of Al Manar in France (even via satellite, not by any station based on French territory) is controversial. It has been accused of promoting religious and racial hatred (against the Jews), which is a criminal offense in France. On December 13, 2004, the French Conseil d'État, acting on the request of the French TV authorities, issued an injunction to Eutelsat to cease the broadcasting of Al Manar in France. (full text of the decision, press release, in French; BBC report).

See also

External links, resources, and references

Official site

UN Resolutions regarding Lebanon

See also: History of Lebanon

United States Department of State

see also: United States Department of State



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