From Shebaa Farms to Iran angle, Israel's more hate, little love for Hezbollah is unsurprising

As a Shiite Muslim political party and militant group based in Lebanon, Hezbollah is practically “a state within a state.” It came into exis...

As a Shiite Muslim political party and militant group based in Lebanon, Hezbollah is practically “a state within a state.” It came into existence during the 15-year Lebanese Civil War and is considerably backed by Iran as a front against Israel. Hezbollah also does not share a very fond relationship with the Western powers.

Hezbollah, which translates into Arabic as “Party of God”, literally made a big bang appearance onto the international scene in 1983, when they simultaneously bombed the United States Marine barracks and French paratrooper base in Beirut killing 241 US Marines and 58 French personnel in the process.

In 1984, Hezbollah bombed the US Embassy annex in Beirut killing 24 people followed by a massacre of 85 people at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994. In 1996, it bombed a housing complex for American oil executives in Saudi Arabia killing 19. In 1985, Hezbollah highjacked TWA Flight 847, tortured Jewish passengers and killed US Navy diver Robert Stethem. The group killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri in 2005. In August 2019, Israel publicly released information about Hezbollah’s efforts to produce precision-guided missiles within Lebanon. Hezbollah operations are not just restricted to Lebanon and there are evidences of Hezbollah operations in Africa, the Americas, and Asia.

Given its history of violence, it is not at all surprising that Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist organisation by the US, Canada, Germany, Britain, Argentina, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. The EU classifies Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group, but spares its political wing from such a tag.

In the Country Reports on Terrorism 2019: Lebanon, the US Department of State gave a damning report on Hezbollah.

"Despite the Lebanese government’s official policy of disassociation from regional conflicts, Hizballah continued its military role in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, in collaboration with the Iranian regime. Separately, Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps remained largely outside the control of Lebanese security forces and posed a security threat because of the potential for militant recruitment and terrorist infiltration. In addition, several individuals on the FBI’s most wanted list or listed by the State or Treasury Departments as Specially Designated Global Terrorists reportedly remained in Lebanon," the report said.

In May this year, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated seven individuals in connection with Hezbollah and its financial firm, Al-Qard al-Hassan (AQAH). AQAH is used by Hezbollah as a cover to manage the terrorist group’s financial activities and gain access to the international financial system.

Along with Ibrahim Ali Daher (Daher) who serves as the chief of Hezbollah’s Central Finance Unit, which oversees Hezbollah’s overall budget and spending, including the group’s funding of its terrorist operations and killing of the group’s opponents, another six individuals Ahmad Mohamad Yazbeck (Yazbeck), Abbas Hassan Gharib (Gharib), Wahid Mahmud Subayti (Subayti), Mostafa Habib Harb (Harb), Ezzat Youssef Akar (Akar) and Hasan Chehadeh Othman (Othman) are being designated for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, AQAH.

How was Hezbollah born?

Lebanon as a country has a little truce with peace. As far back as 1943, when the country had a Sunni Muslim as prime minister, a Maronite Christian as president and a Shiite Muslim as the speaker of parliament it seemed like the ideal scenario of unity but in reality, it was a recipe for disaster. Soon things exploded into a civil war as the arrival of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon suddenly swelled the Sunni Muslim population. Moreover, the Shiite Muslims increasingly felt marginalised by the ruling Christian minority. Taking advantage of the inner turmoil, Israel invaded southern Lebanon twice in 1978 and in 1982 to expel Palestinian guerrilla fighters who had already started using Lebanon as the new base to attack Israel.

In 1979, a group of Shiites took up arms against the Israeli occupation and Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps wasted little time to fund, train and convert them into a deadly guerrilla unit. Hezbollah technically became Iran's tool of terror which it brutally unleashed among the Shiite militias of the Amal Movement. Hezbollah has a deadly doctrine where it pledges to become the torchbearer of Shiites resistance, free Lebanon of Western powers and destroy Israel. It is of no surprise that the group pledged allegiance to Iran’s supreme leader. Founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah has been embroiled in the Syrian civil war since 2012 supporting Bashar al-Assad’s regime and has transformed itself into an increasingly effective military force.

According to 2019 State Department estimates, Iran continues to support Hezbollah with weaponry and more than $700 million per year. Legal businesses, international criminal enterprises and Lebanese diaspora also fund the group with millions of dollars.

Who heads Hezbollah?

Hassan Nasrallah, took over as secretary-general and head of Hezbollah in 1992 after Israel assassinated the group’s cofounder and previous leader Abbas Al-Musawi.

Nasrallah oversees the seven-member Shura Council and its five sub-councils: the political assembly, the jihad assembly, the parliamentary assembly, the executive assembly, and the judicial assembly. Hezbollah controls parts of Beirut, southern Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley region which are Lebanon's Shiite-majority areas.

Where does Hezbollah politically stand in Lebanon?

Hezbollah is not only strong in its military operations but also has a well-oiled political and social machinery. Since 1992, it has influenced the Lebanese government and in 2005, it went a notch higher by holding cabinet positions. In 2018, Hezbollah secured 13 seats in Lebanon’s 128-member Parliament. Hezbollah is also instrumental in providing infrastructure, healthcare facilities, educational facilities and organising youth programmes making it popular among both Shiite and non-Shiite Lebanese alike.

The violence that Hezbollah unleashed over time reveals the terroristic nature of the organisation but in the decade preceding the July War with Israel in 2006, Hezbollah transformed itself into a political and social entity of Lebanon and confined itself to fighting the Israel military and trying to abduct Israeli soldiers to force prisoner exchange.

However, since October 2019, Hezbollah is facing mass protests from the Lebanese citizens due to the economic collapse of Lebanon and its image outside as a sponsor of terror is doing little to help.

Why is there so much animosity between Israel and Hezbollah?

Israel has long considered Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon, its most serious and immediate military threat. Friday’s exchanges came a day after Israel’s defence minister warned that his country is prepared to strike Iran following a fatal drone strike on a oil tanker at sea that his country blamed on Tehran, according to AP.

Israel reportedly retaliated after 19 rockets were launched from Lebanon although no casualties were reported.

Hezbollah rockets landed in Shebaa Farms, an enclave where the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet. Israel says it is part of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in 1967 but Lebanon and Syria say Shebaa Farms belong to Lebanon, while the United Nations says the area is part of Syria.

Israel estimates Hezbollah possesses over 130,000 rockets and missiles capable of striking anywhere in the country. In recent years, Israel also has expressed concerns that the group is trying to import or develop an arsenal of precision-guided missiles.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to attack Lebanese border villages where it accuses Hezbollah of hiding rockets. An Israeli security official said Friday the military was carrying out airstrikes unlike any in years and was planning for more options. The escalation also comes at a sensitive time in Lebanon, which is mired in multiple crises including a devastating economic and financial meltdown and political deadlock that has left the country without a functional government for a full year.

Since Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon in 1978, Hezbollah has orchestrated numerous attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets abroad killing many innocents. Although Israel vacated southern Lebanon in 2000, Shebaa Farms still continue to be a cause for conflict between the two. In 2006, both Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war with Hezbollah launching thousands of rockets into Israeli territory.

The conflict started on 12 July 2006 and continued until a UN-brokered a peace deal on 14 August 2006. Due to unprecedented Iranian military support to Hezbollah before and during the war, many consider it as the first round of the Iran–Israel proxy conflict. The conflict is believed to have killed between 1,191 and 1,300 Lebanese and 165 Israelis. More than the Israeli blitzkrieg, it was the nature of weapons that Hezbollah used surprised many where the Iranian stamp was nothing but evident.

Hezbollah started the "Freedom for Samir Al-Quntar and his brothers" operation by firing rockets and abducting two soldiers which was later renamed as Operation Truthful Promise. Israel responded with Operation Just Reward by sending in a group of soldiers into Lebanon in hot pursuit only to be killed in an ambush by Hezbollah guerillas when their tank drove over a mine. Israel launched another operation named Change of Direction and this led to the July War.

The Hezbollah fighters were highly trained in guerrilla warfare and were equipped with flak jackets, night-vision goggles and communication systems. Hezbollah even countered IDF armor through the use of sophisticated Iranian-made anti-tank guided missiles.

However, it has to be kept in mind that the July War sparked many debates among legal scholars whether Israel's actions fall within the scope of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

While an attack alone does not trigger Article 51, Israel could invoke the Needle Prick doctrine (Nadelstichtaktik), also known as the "accumulation of events theory". As described by Norman Feder in his 1987 essay entitled Reading the U.N. Charter Connotatively: Toward a New Definition of Armed Attack, this doctrine was originally invoked by Israel to justify its military incursions into Lebanon during the 70s. Israel argued that even though terrorist attacks committed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation individually may not qualify as armed attacks under international law, they still constituted an armed attack triggering a right to individual self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter when considered altogether.

But there is another side of the theory as well.

If Israel is allowed to invoke the Needle Prick theory, Lebanon can also do the same because Israel frequently enters Lebanon's territorial waters without its consent. The Lebanese government often accused Israel of having regularly violated its airspace between May 2000 and July 2006. Lebanon considers these incursions "a form of international terrorism". For now, at a time so volatile as this, no pricks are pranks and certainly not between Israel and Hezbollah.

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India World News: From Shebaa Farms to Iran angle, Israel's more hate, little love for Hezbollah is unsurprising
From Shebaa Farms to Iran angle, Israel's more hate, little love for Hezbollah is unsurprising
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