Australia has designated all of Lebanon’s influential Hezbollah movement as a terrorist organization, expanding the earlier ban on its armed units to the political wing.
Hezbollah poses a “real” and “credible” threat to Australia, Karen Andrews, the country’s home affairs minister, said on Wednesday.
The Lebanon-based group “continues to threaten terrorist attacks and provide support to terrorist organizations,” Andrews added.
The move means that Australian citizens are now forbidden from becoming members of Hezbollah or providing funds for its operations. The group’s military wing has been on Australia’s terrorist list since 2003.
People from Lebanon make up the largest Middle Eastern community in Australia – estimated at around 230,000, mainly in the Greater Sydney area and Melbourne. Immigration to Australia peaked during the Lebanese Civil War between 1976 and 1981, but has declined significantly since then.
Hezbollah operates in various fields in Lebanon, acting as a political party, a military organization, and a provider of basic services to the population.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who reportedly asked his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison to ban Hezbollah’s political wing during the UN climate summit in Glasgow in early November, thanked Canberra for the move. He said the two countries will continue “to act in every way possible against terrorism, including in the international arena.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also expressed his gratitude that Australia, which he described as “a close friend of Israel,” joined 17 other nations that realize “there are no separate wings to terrorist organizations.”
Israel, which waged a war against Hezbollah in 2006, considers the group, which has strong links to Iran, a threat to national security.
Hezbollah has been labeled a terrorist organization by the US, Israel, and the Arab League. The EU and many individual European nations have banned its military wing, but were reluctant to act against the political party over concerns it could further destabilize the situation in Lebanon.
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