Victoria Kluk is Research Manager for Conservative Friends of Israel.
Who are Hizbullah?
Hizbullah, a radical Islamist Shiite organisation meaning ‘Party of God’, was established by Iran in 1982 as a terrorist proxy for attacking Israel. Hizbullah spearheads the Iranian global export of terrorism and insidious breed of fundamentalist Islam. Active in over 40 countries worldwide, Hizbullah has emerged as one of the most radical and violent international terrorist groups. The extremist organisation aims for the destruction of Israel and the formation of an Islamist Republic of Lebanon.
Hizbullah operates out of a safe haven in Lebanon and facilitates Palestinian attacks against Israel by training and funding terrorists.
Hizbullah’s global satellite mouthpiece, Al-Manar television, broadcasts overtly anti-Semitic, anti-Western and anti-Christian content and, through incitement, complements the organisation’s global terrorist activities.
Hizbullah is a threat to British lives. There is strong evidence to suggest the terrorist organisation provides Shi’a militias with weapons and training in terrorist tactics to kill British soldiers in Iraq.
Is Hizbullah banned anywhere in the world?
The United States, Australia, Canada, Israel and Holland, have defined Hizbullah as a terrorist organization. In Britain and the European Union, only the so-called military arm or External Security Organizations are proscribed on the terrorist list.
It is ironic Britain and the EU artificially differentiate between the political and military wings of Hizbullah – when the organisation itself does not. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is the leader of both ‘wings’ and in a recent statement (reported in the Jerusalem Post, 13 July) reiterated his commitment to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers and attacks against Israeli civilians. He said “we’ve been preparing for this since Israel left Lebanon.”
Why the Israeli reaction?
On 12th of July, eight Israeli soldiers operating inside Israeli sovereign territory were killed and two soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah from Lebanon. This unprovoked ‘act of war’ was the most severe since Israel’s total withdrawal from Southern Lebanon in May 2000.
Hizbullah is part of the Lebanese Government, with two Cabinet Ministers, therefore Lebanon is held responsible for unprovoked Hizbullah actions.
Israel is not fighting Lebanon but the Hizbullah terrorist element there, led by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and his cohorts. They have made Lebanon a hostage and created Syrian and Iranian-sponsored terrorist enclaves.
The Israeli response is targeted against Hizbullah strongholds, positions and infrastructure in Lebanon. Hizbullah brutally and cynically use Lebanese civilians as human shields and have a complete disregard for human life. Israeli forces are not intentionally targeting Lebanese civilians. Before Israeli air force attacks, flyers were dropped to warn residents not to remain in the proximity of Hizbullah bases. Infrastructure, like the roads, bridges and airport have been regrettably hit in Israeli air strikes to prevent the movement of the kidnapped soldiers out of Lebanon and to prevent the reinforcement of arms, rockets and missiles to Hizbullah by their state sponsors; Iran and Syria.
Since the 12th of July, there have been approximately 1,400 rockets fired against Israeli civilians in Northern Israeli towns and kibbutzim – as far south as Haifa (Israel’s third largest city) and Afula (45 km southeast of Haifa). A total of 26 Israelis have been killed including IDF (Israeli Defence Force) troops. 400 people have been wounded.
Many Hizbullah rockets are launched from private homes with families residing inside, where a special room is designated as a launching pad, with the family playing host to the missile.
Who supports Hizbullah?
Like their Hamas counterparts, Hizbullah terrorists are not suspended in mid-air, nor do they operate in a vacuum. They are armed, trained, fuelled with extremist ideology, financed and housed by their state supporters, the genuine ‘axis of terror’ – the Islamic Republic of Iran and ally Syria.
Syria and Iran also support terrorist groups, Hizbullah and Hamas, because they provide Tehran and Damascus with the ability to divert attention from other issues which have exposed them to international pressure (i.e. Iran’s nuclear programme and Syria’s involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri).
Hizbullah personnel have participated in Iranian-led operations while Iran has provided financial, logistical, intelligence, and operational support to Hizbullah operations against Jewish and Israeli targets worldwide. These include attacks on Israeli forces in southern Lebanon from 1982-2000; the bombing of the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires in March 1992 and July 1994 respectively.
Israeli military intelligence estimates Hizbullah has between 10,000 and 12,000 missiles, supplied by Iran and Syria (with Chinese and North Korean technology), including 25km range Katyusha rockets, Iranian Fajr 3 (43km) and Fajr 5s (75km).
What are the prospects for long term peace in the Middle East?
As recognised by Arab states, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and moderate Lebanese politicians, like opposition leader Walid Jumblatt, Hizbullah is responsible for the current conflict with Israel.
Israel is also embroiled in conflict in the Gaza Strip as a result of the Palestinian terrorist attack (by Hamas’ ‘military wing’ and Popular Resistance Committees) on 25th of June. Terrorists tunnelled under the Gaza border into sovereign Israeli territory, kidnapped Cpl Gilad Shalit and killed two of his colleagues. Orders for this attack came from the Hamas Political Bureau Chief based in Damascus – again backed by the Iranian and Syrian regimes.
Since Israel’s total withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, there have been up to 1,000 Qassam rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists, including Hamas, from the Gaza Strip. These rockets are targeted specifically at civilians.
Both Israeli withdrawals, Lebanon (2000) and Gaza (2005), have resulted in reinvigorated terrorist operations. Israel cannot sit idly by whilst Hamas and Hizbullah target civilians and kidnap soldiers on sovereign soil.
The international community must demand the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, for the disarmament of Hizbullah and deployment of Lebanese Armed Forces to the border with Israel.
Ultimately, long term peace in the Middle East can only be reached through negotiation. Israeli peace treaties with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994), for example, were the result of compromise on both sides.
Whilst the ‘Axis of Terror’ remains intact and all players (Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran and Syria) refuse to even recognise Israel, pursue terrorism against innocent civilians and facilitate ‘acts of war’ on Israeli sovereign soil, the path to peace in the Middle East is non-existent.