Germany designated the Lebanese militant and political group Hezbollah a “Shiite terror organization.” This will ban all of Hezbollah’s activities in Germany where about 1,000 Hezbollah members and supporters are located. The ban will also impact the terror group’s transnational ability to raise and launder money for its operations.
“As the authority responsible for issuing the ban, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building, and Community is of the opinion that Hezbollah openly calls for the violent elimination of the State of Israel and questions the right of the State of Israel to exist,” the German government released in a statement.
“The organization is therefore fundamentally against the concept of international understanding, regardless of whether it presents itself as a political, social or military structure,” it added.
Horst Seehofer, the German Interior Minister, said the decision was made after assessing that the Shia group was behind “a multitude of attacks resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries worldwide.”
Back in December, the German Parliament had passed a motion urging Chancellor Angela Merkel to act.
As a result of the government’s decision, German police raided several properties in Berlin, Bremen, and North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday. They conducted operations at four mosques and cultural associations, and at the homes of their board members and treasurers.
The Germans may have been tipped off by Israeli intelligence. According to reports from Israel, the Israeli Mossad intelligence agency spent months gathering information on Hezbollah’s activities in Germany.
Mossad operatives turned over information to German authorities about warehouses in southern Germany where Hezbollah had stashed hundreds of kilos of ammonium nitrate, which is used to make explosives. (Ammonium nitrate was the catalyst in the Oklahoma City bombing back in 1995.)
Israeli intelligence operatives also gathered large dossiers, which were given to German authorities, that included details of key individuals in Hezbollah’s operations in Germany. They also included details on money laundering networks used to transfer millions of euros into the terror group’s bank accounts and fund its activities in Germany.
“The associations under investigation are suspected of forming part of Hezbollah due to their financial support and propaganda for the terrorist organization,” the Interior Ministry said. The searches of Hezbollah’s sites were conducted to “ensure that evidence of potential sub-organizations in Germany could not be destroyed when this ban was announced.”
Germany’s designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization is significant because it breaks from the EU norm. The EU members differentiate between Hezbollah’s military wing and its political one. Only Germany among the bloc members stands against the Iranian-led group based out of Lebanon. In 2019, the U.K., which no longer forms part of the EU, had also banned Hezbollah.
The United States and Israel, which had long campaigned for the German decision, welcomed the move. Richard Grenell, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, said, “We applaud the German government’s actions today against suspected Hezbollah supporters. The government’s decision to act reflects the resolve of the West to confront the global threat posed by Hezbollah.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement, “I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the German government for this step and I am sure that many governments in the Middle East, as well as the thousands of victims of Hezbollah’s terror, join in thanking them for this decision.”
The Iranians, however, not surprisingly, condemned the move. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi released a statement saying, “It appears that certain countries in Europe are adopting their stances without considering the realities in the West Asia region and by paying regard only to the objectives of the propaganda machine of the Zionist regime and the confused U.S. regime.”
France’s President Macron has said that he will still continue to meet with Hezbollah’s political wing.
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