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Hezbollah emblem
(Hezbollah flag)
Leader Hassan Nasrallah
Founded 1982 - 1985 (officially)
Religion Shi'a Islam
Political ideology Islamism
Nationality Lebanese
Website Varies. See List of official sites.

Hezbollah[1] (Arabic: حزب اللهḥizbu-'llāh(i),[2] literally "party of God") is a Shi'a Islamic political and paramilitary organisation based in Lebanon.[3] It is a significant force in Lebanese politics, providing social services, which operate schools, hospitals, and agricultural services for thousands of Lebanese Shiites.[4] It is regarded as a legitimate resistance movement throughout much of the Arab and Muslim world.[3] However the group is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, Canada, and the Netherlands. The United Kingdom has placed its military wing on its list of proscribed terrorist organisations,[5] while Australia considers part of its military structure, the External Security Organisation, a terrorist organization.[6][7][8][9]

Hezbollah first emerged as a militia in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, also known as Operation Peace for Galilee, in 1982, set on resisting the Israeli occupation of Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.[10][3] Its leaders were inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guards.[11] Hezbollah's 1985 manifesto listed its three main goals as "putting an end to any colonialist entity" in Lebanon, bringing the Phalangists to justice for "the crimes they [had] perpetrated," and the establishment of an Islamic regime in Lebanon.[12][13] Recently, however, Hezbollah has made little mention of establishing an Islamic state, and forged alliances across religious lines.[11] Hezbollah leaders have also made numerous statements calling for the destruction of Israel, which they refer to as a "Zionist entity... built on lands wrested from their owners."[12][13]

Hezbollah, which started with only a small militia, has grown to an organization with seats in the Lebanese government, a radio and a satellite television-station, and programs for social development.[14] Hezbollah maintains strong support among Lebanon's Shi'a population, and gained a surge of support from Lebanon's broader population (Sunni, Christian, Druze) immediately following the 2006 Lebanon War,[15] and is able to mobilize demonstrations of hundreds of thousands.[16] Hezbollah alongside with some other groups began the 2006–2008 Lebanese political protests in opposition to the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.[17] Later dispute over Hezbollah preserve its telecoms network led to clashes and Hezbollah-led opposition fighters seized control of several West Beirut neighborhoods from Future Movement militiamen loyal to Fouad Siniora, this areas then handed over to the Lebanese Army.[18] Finally, on the basis of Doha Agreement, Hezbollah was granted veto power in Lebanon's parliament. In addition, National unity government was formed which Hezbollah has one minister and controls eleven of thirty seats in it.[19][4]

Hezbollah receives its financial support from Iran, Syria, and the donations of Lebanese and other Shi'a.[20][21] It has also gained significantly in military strength the last few years.[22] Despite a June 2008 certification by the United Nations that Israel had withdrawn from all Lebanese territory, [23] in August of that year, Lebanon's new Cabinet unanimously approved a draft policy statement which secures Hezbollah's existence as an armed organization and guarantees its right to "liberate or recover occupied lands." Since 1992, the organization has been headed by Hassan Nasrallah, its Secretary-General.

Flag of Hezbollah




Map of southern Lebanon, featuring the Blue Line and Litani River, 2006.


Scholars differ as to when Hezbollah came to be a distinct entity. Some organizations list the official formation of the group as early as 1982 [24] whereas Diaz and Newman maintain that Hezbollah remained an amalgamation of various violent Shi’a activists until as late as 1985 [25]. Another version states that it was formed by supporters of Sheikh Ragheb Harb, a leader of the southern Shiite resistance killed by Israel in 1984.[26]


Ending Israel's occupation of Southern Lebanon was the primary focus of Hezbollah's early activities.[10] Israel had become militarily involved in Lebanon in combat with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had been invited into Lebanon after Black September in Jordan. Israel had been attacking the PLO in Southern Lebanon in the lead-up to the 1982 Lebanon War, and Israel had invaded and occupied Southern Lebanon and besieged Beirut.[27]

Hezbollah waged an asymmetrical guerrilla war against Israel. At the beginning, it had used suicide attacks against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and against Israeli targets outside of Lebanon.[28] Hezbollah is reputed to have been among the first Islamic resistance groups to use tactical suicide bombing, assassination, and capturing against foreign soldiers in the Middle East.[11] But gradually, Hezbollah turned into a paramilitary organization and used missiles, Katyusha, and other type of rocket launchers and detonations of explosive charges[29][30] instead of capturings,[31][32] murders,[31] hijackings,[33] and bombings.[33][34][35] Hezbollah has been subject to assassination and abduction by Israel as well.[33]

During Lebanese Civil War, although Hezbollah battled the Amal militia for control of Shiite areas and vigorously attacked Israel's Lebanese proxies(SLA), unlike other wartime militias, it never engaged in sectarian bloodletting (or fought a major engagement with the army) during the war. [36] At the end of civil war in 1990, despite Taif Agreement asked "disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias", Syria, in control of Lebanon at that time allowed Hezbollah to maintain their arsenal, control the Shiite areas in Southern Lebanon along the border with Israel.[37]

After 1990

In this decade Hezbollah transformed from a revolutionary group into political one, in a process which is described as Lebanonisation of Hezbollah. Unlike the uncompromising revolutionary stance in 1980s, Hezbollah conveyed a lenient stance towards the Lebanese state.[38]

The process start with the election of Abbas al-Musawi as the secretary general and promoted when he succeeded by Hasan Nasrallah. Hezbollah changed its discourse and made it pluralistic and inclusive in orientation which is called "Infitah policy". In 1991, al-Manar TV station was launched.

In 1992, Hezbollah decided to participate in election and Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of Iran, endorsed it. Former Hezbollah secretary general, Subhi al-Tufayli, contested this decision which led to schism in Hezbollah. Then Hezbollah published its political program which contains liberation of Lebanese land from Zionist occupation, abolishment of political sectarianism, ensuring political and media freedom, amending in electoral law to make it more representative of the populace. This program led to the victory of all of twelve seats which were on its electoral list. At the end of that year Hezbollah began to dialog with Lebanese Christians. Hezbollah regards cultural, political and religious freedoms in Lebanon as sanctified. This dialog expands to other groups except those who have relation with Israel. [39]

In 1997, Hezbollah formed Multi-confessional Lebanese Brigades to Fighting the Israeli Occupation, which was an attempt to revive national and secular resistance against Israel, which marks the Lebanonisation of resistance.[40]


On February 16, 1985, Sheik Ibrahim al-Amin issued Hezbollah's manifesto. According to this manifesto (titled "An Open Letter: The Hizballah Program"), the three objectives of the organization are:[12]

  • To expel the Americans, the French and their allies definitely from Lebanon, putting an end to any colonialist entity on our land.
  • To submit the Phalanges to a just power and bring them all to justice for the crimes they have perpetrated against Muslims and Christians.
  • To permit all the sons of our people to determine their future and to choose in all the liberty the form of government they desire. We call upon all of them to pick the option of Islamic government which, alone, is capable of guaranteeing justice and liberty for all. Only an Islamic regime can stop any future tentative attempts of imperialistic infiltration onto our country.

The 1985 manifesto makes it clear that Hezbollah intends to use armed force to achieve these goals and phrases its argument for this measure through the language of defensive jihad.[41]

Hezbollah's Shi'a Islamic doctrine

Hezbollah was formed in the early 1980s, mostly with the aid of the Ayatollah Khomeini's followers, in order to spread Islamic revolution.[42] It follows a newly invented distinct version of Islamic Shi'a Faqihi ideology (“Willayat Al-Faqih”) developed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran.[3]

Translated excerpts from Hezbollah's original 1985 manifesto read:

We are the sons of the umma (Muslim community) ...
... We are an ummah linked to the Muslims of the whole world by the solid doctrinal and religious connection of Islam, whose message God wanted to be fulfilled by the Seal of the Prophets, i.e., Prophet Muhammad. Our behavior is dictated to us by legal principles laid down by the light of an overall political conception defined by the leading jurist....As for our culture, it is based on the Holy Quran, the Sunna and the legal rulings of the faqih who is our source of imitation...[12]

Although Hezbollah originally aimed to transform Lebanon into a formal Faqihi Islamic republic, this goal has been abandoned.[10] Nasrallah has been quoted as saying, "We believe the requirement for an Islamic state is to have an overwhelming popular desire, and we're not talking about fifty percent plus one, but a large majority. And this is not available in Lebanon and probably never will be."[11] Doubts, however, remain.[43][44] Since that time, Hezbollah has transformed from a revolutionary movement to a socio-political movement of Lebanese Shi'a and has accepted the multi-cultural situation of Lebanon. This transformation is known as "Lebanonization".[45] However, Hezbollah is not satisfied with the multi-confessional quotas under the Ta'if Accord, under the pretext that the Shia's position in the state is lower than its proportion of population. Hezbollah favors a one-person-one-vote system, but does not intend to force it onto the other minorities.[26]

Attitudes, statements, and actions concerning Israel

From the inception of Hezbollah to the present,[11][12][46][47][48] the elimination of the State of Israel has been one of Hezbollah's primary goals. Some translations of Hezbollah's 1985 Arabic-language manifesto state that "our struggle will end only when this entity [Israel] is obliterated".[12] However neither the original publication of the manifesto, nor those found on Hezbollah's website, include the statement.[12] In an interview with the Washington Post, Nasrallah said "I am against any reconciliation with Israel. I do not even recognize the presence of a state that is called 'Israel'".[49] In March 2009, in a speech marking the birthday of Muhammad, Nasrallah said, "As long as Hezbollah exists, it will never recognize Israel." rejecting a US precondition for dialogue. [50][51][52]

In 1993, during the Oslo peace process, Nasrallah and several other top Hezbollah generals came out staunchly opposed to any final peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians to the point that they accused Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat of blasphemy and treachery to the Muslim people.[53]

Israel's occupation of the Shebaa Farms, along with the presence of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails, is often cited as justification—and invoked as a pretext, according to many[54][55][56]—for Hezbollah's continued hostilities against Israel even after Israel's verified withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah's spokesperson Hassan Ezzedin, however, had this to say about an Israeli withdrawal from Shebaa Farms:

"If they go from Shebaa, we won't stop fighting them. ... Our goal is to liberate the 1948 borders of Palestine, ... The Jews who survive this war of liberation can go back to Germany or wherever they came from. However, that the Jews who lived in Palestine before 1948 will be 'allowed to live as a minority and they will be cared for by the Muslim majority.'"[57]

On May 26, 2000, After the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebenon Hassan Nassrallah said: "I tell you: this "Israel" that owns nuclear weapons and the strongest air force in this region is more fragile than a spiderweb".[58][59]Arie W. Kruglanski, Moshe Ya'alon, Bruce Hoffman, Efraim Inbar, and YNET interpret the "spider web" theory as the notion, articulated by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, that Israel's reverence for human life, the hedonistic nature of the Israeli society, and its self-indulgent Western values make it weak, soft, and vulnurable. Such a society, though technologically advanced, will crumble under continued war and bloodshed.[60][61][62][63]

According to Joseph Alagha, Hezbollah's Deputy-General Na'im Qasim said during an interview on October 28, 2002 for the Daily Star that the struggle against Israel is a "core belief" of Hezbollah and "the central rationale of Hizbullah's existence".[64]

In a 2003 interview, Nasrallah answered questions concerning the renewed peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, stating that he would not interfere in what he regarded as "... primarily a Palestinian matter." However, in his speeches to his followers, he provides rationalizations for suicide bombings.[65] Similarly, in 2004, when asked whether he was prepared to live with a two-state settlement between Israel and Palestine, Nasrallah said again that he would not sabotage what is finally a "... Palestinian matter."[11] He also said that outside of Lebanon, Hezbollah would act only in a defensive manner towards Israeli forces, and that Hezbollah's missiles were acquired to deter attacks on Lebanon.[66]

Attitudes and actions concerning Jews and Judaism

Hezbollah officials have claimed that the group distinguishes between Judaism and Zionism. However, various anti-Semitic statements have been attributed to them, and their Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah.[67] Hezbollah accused Jews of deliberately spreading H.I.V. and other diseases to Arabs throughout the Middle East.[68][69][70] Al-Manar, the Hezbollah-owned and operated television station, was criticized for airing "anti-Semitic propaganda" in the form of a television drama depicting a Jewish world domination conspiracy.[71][72][73] Hezbollah also used antisemitic educational materials designed for 5-year-old scouts.[74][75] Likewise, the group has been accused of engaging in Holocaust denial, and supporting Holocaust deniers.[76][77]


Organizational chart of Hezbollah, by Ahmad Nizar Hamzeh.

At the beginning many Hezbollah leaders have maintained that the movement was "not an organization, for its members carry no cards and bear no specific responsibilities,"[78] and that the movement does not have "a clearly defined organizational structure."[79]

Nowadays, as Hezbollah scholar Magnus Ranstorp reports, Hezbollah does indeed have a formal governing structure, and in keeping with the principle of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (velayat-e faqih), it "concentrate[s] ... all authority and powers" in its religious leaders, whose decisions then "flow from the ulama down the entire community."

The supreme decision-making bodies of the Hezbollah were divided between the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Assembly) which was headed by 12 senior clerical members with responsibility for tactical decisions and supervision of overall Hizballah activity throughout Lebanon, and the Majlis al-Shura al-Karar (the Deciding Assembly), headed by Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah and composed of eleven other clerics with responsibility for all strategic matters. Within the Majlis al-Shura, there existed seven specialized committees dealing with ideological, financial, military and political, judicial, informational and social affairs. In turn, the Majlis al-Shura and these seven committees were replicated in each of Hizballah's three main operational areas (the Beqaa, Beirut, and the South).[80]

Since the Supreme Leader of Iran is the ultimate clerical authority, Hezbollah's leaders have appealed to him "for guidance and directives in cases when Hezbollah's collective leadership [was] too divided over issues and fail[ed] to reach a consensus."[80] After the death of Iran's first Supreme Leader, Khomeini, Hezbollah's governing bodies developed a more "independent role" and appealed to Iran less often.[80]

Political activities


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Lebanon’s majority Shi’a areas, where Hezbollah is most prominent.
Dec 10 2006 pro-Hezbollah rally in Beirut

Hezbollah alongside with Amal is one of two major political parties in Lebanon that represent the Shiite Muslims. It holds 14 of the 128 seats in Lebanon's Parliament and is a member of the Resistance and Development Bloc. According to Daniel L. Byman, it's "the most powerful single political movement in Lebanon." [81]

Hezbollah, along with the Amal Movement, represents most of Lebanese Shi'a.[82] However, unlike Amal, Hezbollah has not disarmed. Hezbollah participates in the Parliament of Lebanon. In the general election of 2005, it won 10.9% of parliamentary seats. The Resistance and Development Bloc, of which Hezbollah is a member, won all 23 seats in Southern Lebanon, and in total, 35 seats, or 27.3% of parliamentary seats nationwide.[83] When municipal elections were held in the first half of 2004, Hezbollah won control of 21% of the municipalities.[26]

Hezbollah has been one the main parties of March 8 Alliance since polarization of political atmosphere of Lebanon in March 2005. Although Hezbollah had joined the new government in 2005, it remained staunchly opposed to the March 14 Alliance.[84] In November 2006, Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), and the Amal Movement jointly demanded the establishment of a "national unity government",[85][86] in which they demanded early elections and one third of the Cabinet seats; effectively, veto power.[87][88] When negotiations with the ruling coalition failed, five Cabinet Ministers from Hezbollah and Amal resigned their positions. On December 1, 2006, these groups began the 2006–2008 Lebanese political protests, an ongoing series of protests and sit-ins in opposition to the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.[89][17] Finally, on May 7, 2008 Lebanon's 17-month long political crisis spiraled out of control. The fighting was sparked by a government move to shut down Hezbollah's telecommunication network and remove Beirut Airport's security chief over alleged ties to Hezbollah. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the government's decision to declare the group's military telecommunications network illegal was a "declaration of war" on the organization, and demanded that the government revoke it.[90][91] Hezbollah-led opposition fighters seized control of several West Beirut neighborhoods from Future Movement militiamen loyal to the American-backed government, in street battles that left 11 dead and 30 wounded. The opposition-seized areas were then handed over to the Lebanese Army.[18] The army also pledged to resolve the dispute and has reversed the decisions of the government by letting Hezbollah preserve its telecoms network and re-instating the airport's security chief.[92][93] At the end, rival Lebanese leaders reached consensus over Doha Agreement on May 21 2008, to end the 18-month political feud that exploded into fighting and nearly drove the country to a new civil war.[94] On the basis of this agreement, Hezbollah was granted veto power in Lebanon's parliament. At the end of the conflicts, National unity government was formed by Fouad Siniora on July 11, 2008 and Hezbollah has one minister and controls eleven of thirty seats in the cabinet.[19][4]

Military activities

Hezbollah has a military branch known as Al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya ("The Islamic Resistance") and is the possible sponsor of a number of lesser-known militant groups, some of which may be little more than fronts for Hezbollah itself, including the Organization of the Oppressed, the Revolutionary Justice Organization, the Organization of Right Against Wrong, and Followers of the Prophet Muhammad.[95][96]

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 called for the disarmament of militia[97] with the Taif agreement at the end of the Lebanese civil war. Hezbollah denounced, and protested against, the resolution.[98] The 2006 military conflict with Israel has increased the controversy. Failure to disarm remains a violation of the resolution and agreement as well as subsequent UN Security Resolution 1701.[99][100] Since then both Israel and Hezbollah have asserted that the organization has gained in military strength[22]. A Lebanese public opinion poll taken in August 2006 shows that most of the Shia did not believe that Hezbollah should disarm after the 2006 Lebanon war, while the majority of Sunni, Druze and Christians believed that they should.[15] The Lebanese cabinet, under president Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, guidelines state that Hezbollah enjoys the right to "liberate occupied lands."[101]

Suicide attacks and kidnappings

Between 1982 and 1986, there were 36 suicide attacks in Lebanon directed against American, French and Israelis forces by 41 individuals with predominantly leftist political beliefs and of both major religions[102], killing 659. [28] Hezbollah has been accused of some or all of these attacks, but denies involvement in any.[103][104][105] These attacks included the April 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing (by the Islamic Jihad Organization),[106] the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing (by the Islamic Jihad Organization),[107][108][106][109] and a spate of attacks on IDF troops and SLA militiamen in southern Lebanon.[28] The period also saw the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985,[107] and the Lebanon hostage crisis from 1982 to 1992.[108] More recently, Hezbollah has been accused of the January 15, 2008, bombing of a U.S. Embassy vehicle in Beirut. [110]

Outside of Lebanon, Hezbollah has been accused of the 1992 Israeli Embassy attack in Buenos Aires,[107][108] and the 1994 AMIA bombing of a Jewish cultural centre, both in Argentina.[107] According to Nasrallah, however, Hezbollah refused any participation in operations outside Lebanese and Israeli lands before 2008.[111]

Conflict with Israel

South Lebanon conflict

Hezbollah has been involved in several cases of armed conflict with Israel:

  • During the 1982–2000 South Lebanon conflict, Hezbollah waged a guerrilla campaign against Israeli forces occupying Southern Lebanon. Israel withdrew in 2000 in accordance with 1978's United Nations Security Council Resolution 425.[23] With the collapse of their supposed allies, the SLA, and the rapid advance of Hezbollah forces, they withdrew suddenly on May 24, 2000 six weeks before the announced 7 July date."[33] Hezbollah held a victory parade, and its popularity in Lebanon rose.[112] Hezbollah and many analysts considered this a victory for the movement, and since then its popularity has been boosted in Lebanon.[113][114]
  • On July 25, 1993, following Hezbollah's killing of seven Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon, Israel launched Operation Accountability (known in Lebanon as the Seven Day War), during which the IDF carried out their heaviest artillery and air attacks on targets in southern Lebanon since 1982. The aim of the operation was to eradicate the threat posed by Hezbollah and to force the civilian population north to Beirut so as to put pressure on the Lebanese Government to restrain Hezbollah. [115] The fighting ended when an unwritten understanding was agreed to by the warring parties. Apparently, the 1993 understanding provided that Hezbollah combatants would not fire rockets at northern Israel, while Israel would not attack civilians or civilian targets in Lebanon.[116]
  • In April 1996, after continued Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, [117] the Israeli armed forces launched Operation Grapes of Wrath, which was intended to wipe out Hezbollah's base in southern Lebanon. Over 100 Lebanese refugees were killed by the shelling of a UN base at Qana, in what the Israeli military said was a mistake.[118] Finally, following several days of negotiations, the two sides signed the Grapes of Wrath Understandings on April 26, 1996. A cease-fire was agreed upon between Israel and Hezbollah, which would be effective on April 27, 1996. Both sides agreed that civilians should not be targeted, which meant that Hezbollah would be allowed to continue its military activities against IDF forces inside Lebanon.[26][119]

2000 Hezbollah cross-border raid

On October 7, 2000, three Israeli soldiers – Adi Avitan, Staff Sgt. Benyamin Avraham, and Staff Sgt. Omar Sawaidwere – were abducted by Hezbollah while patrolling the Israeli side of the Israeli-Lebanese border.[120] The soldiers were killed either during the attack or in its immediate aftermath.[121][122] Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has, however, claimed that Hezbollah abducted the soldiers and then killed them.[123][124] The bodies of the slain soldiers were exchanged for Lebanese prisoners in 2004.[125]

2006 Lebanon War

The 2006 Lebanon War was a 34-day military conflict in Lebanon and northern Israel. The principal parties were Hezbollah paramilitary forces and the Israeli military. The conflict was precipitated by a cross-border raid by Hezbollah during which they kidnapped and killed Israeli soldiers. In a speech in July 2008, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged that he had ordered the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers in order to free prisoners held in Israeli jails. [100] The conflict began on July 12, 2006 when Hezbollah militants fired rockets at Israeli border towns as a diversion for an anti-tank missile attack on two armored Humvees patrolling the Israeli side of the border fence, killing three, injuring two, and seizing two Israeli soldiers.[126]

Israel responded with massive airstrikes and artillery fire on targets in Lebanon that damaged Lebanese civilian infrastructure, including Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport (which Israel alleged that Hezbollah used to import weapons and supplies),[127] an air and naval blockade,[128] and a ground invasion of southern Lebanon. Hezbollah then launched more rockets into northern Israel and engaged the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in guerrilla warfare from hardened positions.[129] The war continued until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect on August 14, 2006. Hezbollah was responsible for thousands of Katyusha rocket attacks against Israeli civilian towns and cities in northern Israel,[130] which Hezbollah claimed were in retaliation for Israel's killing of civilians and targeting Lebanese infrastructure.[131] According to The Guardian, "In the fighting 1,200 Lebanese and 158 Israelis were killed. Of the dead almost 1,000 Lebanese and 41 Israelis were civilians."[132]

Attacks against the Multinational force in Iraq

In June 2006, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield disclosed that Hizbullah cadres had attacked U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.[133]

In his testimony before the Armed Services Committees of the Congress on April 8, 2008, General David Petraeus, the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, reported that the Iranian Qods Force, with the assistance of Lebanese Hizbullah’s Department 2800, was training, arming and guiding the “Special Groups” in Iraq.[134] Asharq Alawsat reported on August 18, 2008, that Iran denied that Hezbollah operatives were involved in attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces in four Iraqi provinces.

Armed strength

Hezbollah has not revealed its armed strength. It has been estimated by Mustafa Alani, security director at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Centre, that Hezbollah's military force is made up of about 1,000 full-time Hezbollah members, along with a further 6,000-10,000 volunteers.[135]

Hezbollah possesses the Katyusha-122 rocket, which has a range of 29 km (18 mi) and carries a 15-kg (33-lb) warhead. Hezbollah also possesses about 100 long-range missiles. They include the Iranian-made Fajr-3 and Fajr-5, the latter with a range of 75 km (47 mi), enabling it to strike the Israeli port of Haifa, and the Zelzal-1, with an estimated 150 km (93 mi) range, which can reach Tel Aviv. Fajr-3 missiles have a range of 40 km (25 mi) and a 45-kg (99-lb) warhead, and Fajr-5 missiles, which extend to 72 km (45 mi), also hold 45-kg (99-lb) warheads.[135]

According to various reports, Hezbollah is armed with anti-tank guided missiles, namely, the Russian-made AT-3 Sagger, AT-4 Spigot, AT-5 Spandrel, AT-13 Saxhorn-2 'Metis-M', АТ-14 Spriggan 'Kornet'; Iranian-made Ra'ad (version of AT-3 Sagger), Towsan (version of AT-5 Spandrel), Toophan (version of BGM-71 TOW); and European-made MILAN missiles. These weapons have been used against IDF soldiers, causing many of the deaths during the 2006 Lebanon War.[136] A small number of Saeghe-2s (Iranian-made version of M47 Dragon) were also used in the war.[137]

For air defense, Hezbollah has anti-aircraft weapons that include the ZU-23 artillery and the man-portable, shoulder-fired SA-7 and SA-18 surface-to-air missile (SAM).[138] One of the most effective weapons deployed by Hezbollah has been the C-802 anti-ship missile.[139]

Targeting policy

Hezbollah has not been involved in any suicide bombing since Israel withdrew from Lebanon.[140][141] After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Hezbollah condemned Al Qaeda for targeting the civilian World Trade Center, but remained silent on the attack on the The Pentagon, neither favoring nor opposing the act.[11][142] Hezbollah also denounced the Armed Islamic Group massacres in Algeria, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya attacks on tourists in Egypt,[143] and the murder of Nick Berg.[144] In a 2006 interview with the Washington Post, Nasrallah condemned violence against American civilians.[142]

Although Hezbollah has denounced certain attacks on Western civilians, some people accuse the organization of the bombing of an Argentine synagogue in 1994. Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, Marcelo Martinez Burgos, and their "staff of some 45 people"[145] alleged that Hezbollah and their contacts in Iran were responsible for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina, in which "[e]ighty-five people were killed and more than 200 others injured."[146] In June 2002, shortly after the Israeli government launched Operation Defensive Shield, Nasrallah gave a speech in which he defended and praised suicide bombings of Israeli targets by members of Palestinian groups for "creating a deterrence and equalizing fear." Nasrallah stated that "in occupied Palestine, there is no difference between a soldier and a civilian, for they are all invaders, occupiers and usurpers of the land."[11]

Attacks on Hezbollah leaders

Hezbollah has also been the target of bomb attacks and kidnappings. These include:

  • On July 28, 1989, Israeli commandos kidnapped Sheikh Abdul Karim Obeid, the leader of Hezbollah.[148] This action led to the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 638, which condemned all hostage takings by all sides.
  • In 1992, Israeli helicopters attacked a motorcade in southern Lebanon, killing the Hezbollah leader Abbas al-Musawi, his wife, son, and four others.[33]

Media operations

Hezbollah operates a satellite television station, Al-Manar TV ("the Lighthouse") and a radio station al-Nour ("the Light").[150] Al-Manar broadcasts from Beirut, Lebanon.[150] The station was launched by Hezbollah in 1991[151] with the help of Iranian funds.[152] Al-Manar, self-proclaimed "Station of the Resistance" (qanat al-muqawama), is a key player in what Hezbollah calls its "psychological warfare against the Zionist enemy"[152][153] and an integral part of Hezbollah's plan to spread its message to the entire Arab world.[152]

Hezbollah's television station Al-Manar airs programming designed to inspire suicide attacks in Gaza, the West Bank, and Iraq.[57][154][155] Al-Manar's transmission in France is prohibited due to promotion of Holocaust denial, a criminal offense in France.[156][157][158] The United States lists Al-Manar television network as a terrorist organization.[159]

Materials aimed at instilling principles of nationalism and Islam in children are an aspect of Hezbollah's media operations.[160] The Hezbollah Central Internet Bureau released a video game in 2003 entitled Special Force, in which players conduct war on Israeli invaders, wherein the winner becomes a national hero on Earth and a martyr in Heaven.[161]

Social services

Hezbollah also organizes extensive social development programs, running hospitals, news services, and educational facilities. Social services have a central role in the party's programs. Most experts believe that Hezbollah's social and health programs are worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.[20]

Hezbollah organizes an extensive social development program and runs hospitals, news services, and educational facilities.[20] Some of its established institutions are: Emdad committee for Islamic Charity,[162] Hezbollah Central Press Office, Al Jarha Association,[163] and Jihad Al Binaa Developmental Association.[164] Jihad Al Binna's Reconstruction Campaign is responsible for numerous economic and infrastructure development projects in Lebanon.[165][166] Hezbollah has set up a Martyr's Institute (Al-Shahid Social Association), which guarantees to provide living and education expenses for the families of fighters who die in battle.[167] In March 2006, an IRIN news report of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted: "Hezbollah not only has armed and political wings - it also boasts an extensive social development program. Hezbollah currently operates at least four hospitals, twelve clinics, twelve schools and two agricultural centres that provide farmers with technical assistance and training. It also has an environmental department and an extensive social assistance program. Medical care is also cheaper than in most of the country's private hospitals and free for Hezbollah members".[20]

According to CNN: "Hezbollah did everything that a government should do, from collecting the garbage to running hospitals and repairing schools."[168] In July 2006, during the war with Israel, when there was no running water in Beirut, Hezbollah was arranging supplies around the city. "People here [in South Beirut] see Hezbollah as a political movement and a social service provider as much as it is a militia, in this traditionally poor and dispossessed Shiite community."[168] Also, after the war it competed with the Lebanese government to reconstruct destroyed areas. According to analysts like American University Professor Judith Swain Harik, Jihad al-Binaa has won the initial battle of hearts and minds, in large part because they are the most experienced in Lebanon in the field of reconstruction.[169]


Hezbollah's financial support is a matter of controversy. Critics argue that it is, or has been, massively supported with tens of millions of dollars annually from the Islamic Republic of Iran.[57] Hezbollah maintains that the main source of its income comes from donations by Muslims.[170]

Lebanese Shi’ites often make zakat contributions directly after prayers and an additional donation in a Hezbollah donation box. Hezbollah also receives financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and training, from the Islamic Republic of Iran.[20][21][167] The US estimates that Iran has been giving Hezbollah about US$60-100 million per year in financial assistance.[171]

Hezbollah has relied extensively on funding from the Shi'ite Lebanese Diaspora in West Africa, the United States and, most importantly, the Triple Frontier, or tri-border area, along the junction of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.[172] U.S. law enforcement officials charged that smugglers of illegal cigarettes in the United States were funneling millions of dollars to Hezbollah.[173]

Foreign relations

Hezbollah has close relations with Iran.[174] It also has ties with the leadership in Syria, specifically with President Hafez al-Assad (until his death in 2000) and his son and successor Bashar al-Assad.[175] Although Hezbollah and Hamas are not organizationally linked, Hezbollah provides military training as well as financial and moral support to the Sunni Palestinian group.[176] Furthermore, Hezbollah is a strong supporter of the ongoing Al-Aqsa Intifada.[11] Whether there has been cooperation or any relationship between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda has been questioned.[177] Hezbollah's leaders deny links to al-Qaeda, present or past.[177][178] Also, some al-Qaeda leaders, like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi[179] and Wahhabi clerics, consider Hezbollah to be apostate.[180][181] But United States intelligence officials speculate that there has been contact between Hezbollah and low-level al-Qaeda figures who fled Afghanistan for Lebanon.[177][182][183]

Outside views

Public opinion

Velayat-e Faqih adherents rally on July 29, 2006, in support of Hezbollah in Toronto, Canada, during the 2006 Lebanon war

In much of the Arab world, Hezbollah is seen as a legitimate resistance organization that has defended its land against an Israeli occupying force and has consistently stood up to the Israeli army.[11]

According to a poll released by the "Beirut Center for Research and Information" on 26 July during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, 87 percent of Lebanese support Hezbollah's fight with Israel, a rise of 29 percentage points from a similar poll conducted in February. More striking, however, was the level of support for Hezbollah's resistance from non-Shiite communities. Eighty percent of Christians polled supported Hezbollah, along with 80 percent of Druze and 89 percent of Sunnis.[184][185]

In a poll of Lebanese adults taken in 2004, 6% of respondents gave unqualified support to the statement "Hezbollah should be disarmed". 41% reported unqualified disagreement.[186] A poll of Gaza Strip and West Bank residents indicated that 79.6% had "a very good view" of Hezbollah, and most of the remainder had a "good view".[187] Polls of Jordanian adults in December 2005 and June 2006 showed that 63.9% and 63.3%, respectively, considered Hezbollah to be a legitimate resistance organization.[188] In the December 2005 poll, only 6% of Jordanian adults considered Hezbollah to be terrorist.[189]

A July 2006 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 83% of the 1,005 Americans polled blamed Hezbollah, at least in part, for the 2006 Lebanon War, compared to 66% who blamed Israel to some degree. Additionally, 76% disapproved of the military action Hezbollah took in Israel, compared to 38% who disapproved of Israel's military action in Lebanon.[190] A poll in August 2006 by ABC News and the Washington Post found that 68% of the 1,002 Americans polled blamed Hezbollah, at least in part, for the civilian casualties in Lebanon during the 2006 Lebanon War, compared to 31% who blamed Israel to some degree.[190] Another August 2006 poll by CNN showed that 69% of the 1,047 Americans polled believed that Hezbollah is unfriendly towards, or an enemy of, the United States.[190]

Designation as a terrorist organization or resistance movement

Governments disagree on Hezbollah’s status as a legitimate political entity, a terrorist group, or both. Throughout most of the Arab and Muslim worlds, Hezbollah is referred to as a resistance movement.[3] Hezbollah's violent acts are considered by some countries as terrorist attacks; other governments regard Hezbollah as resistance and engaged in national defense."[191][192]

Countries below have officially listed Hezbollah in at least some part as a terrorist organization.

 Australia The Hezbollah External Security Organization [193]
 Canada The entire organization Hezbollah [194]
 Israel The entire organization Hezbollah [195][196]
 Netherlands The entire organization Hezbollah [197][198]
 United Kingdom Hezbollah's military wing only [5][6]
 United States The entire organization Hezbollah [199]

In 1999, Hezbollah was placed on the US State Department terrorism list. After Hezbollah's condemnation of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the USA, it was removed from the list, but it was later returned to the list.[200] In 2002, US State Department official Christopher Ross was cited as explaining that while "the Hezbollah party and some of its members carried out terrorist acts in the past", "the acts that it carried out against the Israeli forces in South Lebanon were not terrorist acts."[201]

The European Union does not list Hezbollah as a "terrorist organization",[202] but does list the late Imad Mugniyah, a senior member and founder of Hezbollah, as a terrorist.[203][204][205] In addition, on March 10, 2005, the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution recognizing "clear evidence" of "terrorist activities by Hezbollah"[9] and urging the EU Council to brand Hezbollah a terrorist organization and EU governments to place Hezbollah on their terrorist blacklists, as the bloc did with the Palestinian Hamas group in 2003.[9] The Council, however, has been reluctant to do this, because France, Spain, and Britain fear that such a move would further damage the prospects for Middle East peace talks.[9] In the midst of the 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, Russia’s government declined to include Hezbollah in a newly released list of terrorist organizations, with Yuri Sapunov, the head of anti-terrorism for the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, saying that they list only organizations which represent "the greatest threat to the security of our country".[206] Prior to the release of the list, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov called "on Hezbollah to stop resorting to any terrorist methods, including attacking neighboring states."[207]

The Quartet’s fourth member, the United Nations, does not maintain such a list.[208] Human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Hezbollah of committing war crimes against Israeli civilians,[209] in which in the same article, they also accused Israel of war crimes but against Lebanese civilians.

Some other countries have criticized Hezbollah, citing terrorist activities, without maintaining such a list. Argentine prosecutors hold Hezbollah and their financial supporters in Iran responsible for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center, described by the Associated Press as "the worst terrorist attack on Argentine soil", in which "[e]ighty-five people were killed and more than 200 others injured."[146] On 24 February 2000, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin condemned attacks by Hezbollah fighters on Israeli forces in south Lebanon, saying they are "terrorism" and not acts of resistance. "France condemns Hezbollah's attacks, and all types of terrorist attacks which may be carried out against soldiers, or possibly Israel's civilian population."[210] On August 29, 2006, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema differentiated the wings of Hezbollah: "Apart from their well-known terrorist activities, they also have political standing and are socially engaged."[211][212] Germany does not maintain an independent national list of terrorist organizations, choosing instead to adopt the common EU list; however, German officials indicate that they would likely support a designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.[213]

In contrast, supporters of Hezbollah justify Hezbollah's attacks against Israel on several grounds. Firstly, Hezbollah justifies its operations against Israel as reciprocal to Israeli operations against Lebanese civilians and as retaliation for Israel's occupation of Lebanese territory.[191][214][215] Many of these attacks took place while Israel occupied the southern part of Lebanon and held it as a security zone in spite of United Nations Security Council Resolution 425. Although Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, and their complete withdrawal was verified by the United Nations, Lebanon now considers the Shebaa farms—a 26-km² (10-mi²) piece of land captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 war and considered by the UN to be disputed territory between Syria and Israel—to be Lebanese territory. Additionally, Hezbollah has identified three Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails who it wants released.[216] Finally, Hezbollah and others among the Muslim world consider Israel to be an illegitimate state. For these reasons, many in the Arab world consider acts performed by Hezbollah against Israel to be justified as acts of defensive Jihad.[217] Although some Arab states (Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia) have condemned Hezbollah's actions, saying that "the Arabs and Muslims can't afford to allow an irresponsible and adventurous organization like Hezbollah to drag the region to war" and calling it "dangerous adventurism,"[218] Hezbollah is regarded as a legitimate resistance movement throughout much of Lebanese society and the Arab and Muslim world.[3] In August 2008, Lebanon's cabinet completed a policy statement which recognized "the right of Lebanon's people, army, and resistance to liberate the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, Kafar Shuba Hills, and the Lebanese section of Ghajar village, and defend the country using all legal and possible means." [219]

See also


  1. ^ Other transliterations include Hizbullah, Hizbollah, Hezballah, Hizballah, Hisbollah, and Hizb Allah.
  2. ^ In English the stress is most commonly placed on the final syllable, as suggested in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (this is in accord with the Persian pronunciation, of Iran); in the Arabic of Hezbollah's theatre of operations it is most commonly placed on the second syllable. Hizb (party) is the Modern Standard Arabic pronunciation, and hezb is closer to Persian and Lebanese dialect. The name is derived from a Qur’anic ayat (verse) referring to those who belong to and follow the "party of God" [1].
    حزب الله ḥizbu-'llāh(i) -u nominative case marker in iḍāfa, initial "a" (written as "alif" ا) in Allāh (الله) is silent.
    Initial letter alif (ا) is usually dropped in this situation. Hence, expresssions: bi-'llaah(i), wa-'llaah(i), etc. Final i (unwritten "kasra") (often dropped - is the genitive case marker). The 1st word ends in -u (unwritten ḍamma) in nominative case, -a in accusative, -i in genitive.
    ḥizbu-'llāh(i) - nominative
    ḥizbi-'llāh(i) - genitive
    ḥizba-'llāh(i) - accusative
  3. ^ a b c d e f Jamail, Dahr (2006-07-20). "Hezbollah's transformation". Asia Times. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HG20Ak02.html. Retrieved on 2007-10-23. 
  4. ^ a b c "Hezbollah (a.k.a. Hizbollah, Hizbu'llah)". Council on Foreign Relations. 2008-09-13. http://www.cfr.org/publication/9155/hezbollah.html?breadcrumb=%2F. Retrieved on 2008-09-15. 
  5. ^ a b British Home office official listing of Proscribed terrorist groups
  6. ^ a b "UK ban on Hezbollah military arm". BBC News. 2008-02-07. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7485213.stm. Retrieved on 2008-12-12. 
  7. ^ Australian National Security Listing
  8. ^ arabmediawatch.com
  9. ^ a b c d ISN Security Watch (March 11, 2005). "EU lawmakers label Hezbollah 'terrorist’ group". Retrieved March 3, 2007.
  10. ^ a b c "Who are Hezbollah". BBC News. 2008-05-21. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4314423.stm. Retrieved on 2008-08-15. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Adam Shatz (April 29, 2004). "In Search of Hezbollah". The New York Review of Books. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17060. Retrieved on 2006-08-14. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g author unknown. "The Hizballah Program" (PDF). provided by standwithus. com (StandWithUs). http://www.standwithus.com/pdfs/flyers/hezbollah_program.pdf. Retrieved on 2007-10-29. 
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  • Joseph Alagha (2006). The Shifts in Hizbullah's Ideology: Religious Ideology, Political Ideology. Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 9053569103. 

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