Hezbollah is one of the most active terrorist organizations in the world and has successfully built a global terror network. Their long list of achievements includes suicide bombings, plane hijackings, assassinations, weapons smuggling and firing rockets at civilians. Since 1982, hundreds of innocent civilians have lost their lives and thousands more have been injured thanks to Hezbollah. Let’s take a closer look at how Hezbollah fights and why so many classify it as a terrorist organization.
Hezbollah has the dubious honor of being the first organization in modern history to have perpetrated a suicide bombing attack. In order to carry out such attacks, they maintain a mechanism called the Unit for Overseas Operations which is under the command of Hassan Nasrallah. The unit’s second-in-command is Mustafa Badr Al-Din. They have established terror sleeper cells around the world, weapons stores, safe houses and assets. They also rely on local criminal organizations. All of these can be activated to carry out attacks.
At 10 a.m. on July 18, 1994, a Hezbollah suicide bomber drove a car with 275 kilograms of explosives in front of the Jewish Community Center in a commercial area of Buenos Aires, and detonated it. The explosion completely destroyed the building. The attack killed 85 people and wounded 300.
Later, an Argentinean investigation determined that the attack was ordered by the leadership of the Iranian regime and executed by Hezbollah. Among the decisions makers was Ahmad Vahidi, today the Iranian Defense Minister. The Hezbollah squad arrived in Argentina only weeks before the attack. Ibrahim Mohsen Berro, who drove the car before blowing himself up, was from a Shia family from Southern Lebanon.
Exactly 18 years later, on July 18, 2012, a Hezbollah operative blew himself up on an Israeli tourist bus in Burgas, Bulgaria. Six people were killed and 36 wounded. The bus was meant to take a group of Israeli tourists who were spending their vacation in the area. According to Bulgarian authorities, Hezbollah had local support in executing the attack.
When Hezbollah is unable to carry out suicides attacks by themselves, they provide support to others to plan and perpetrate attacks. During the Second Intifada, Hezbollah provided massive assistance to terrorist organizations operating in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip. On March 30, 2006, a Tanzim suicide bomber blew himself up on an Israeli vehicle and killed four civilians. The suicide bomber had been in direct contact with Hezbollah operatives.
Hezbollah’s list of successful and attempted suicide bombing attacks is long. There is no indication at all that Hezbollah will stop these attacks any time soon – quite the opposite. Nasrallah declared in October 2000: “The most important operations in the confrontation are suicide missions.”
Targeting civilians and using human shields
Hezbollah does not fight like a regular army. The Lebanese Armed Forces and Hezbollah are two entirely separate entities. Lebanon’s government and defense minister have no control over Hezbollah’s actions. In confrontations, Hezbollah primarily targets civilian populations while using its own people as human shields, and hiding its weapons and terrorists among civilian facilities such as homes, schools, hospitals and mosques.
During the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah continuously targeted Israel’s northern population centers – Carmiel, Nahariya and even Haifa. They purposefully fired on densely populated areas in order to kill and wound as many Israeli civilians as possible. Throughout the conflict, Hezbollah fired some 4000 rockets and killed 44 civilians.
- On July 13, a rocket hit the apartment of Monica Lerner, 40, killed her on the spot and wounded dozens of other people. She had immigrated from Argentina to Israel and was living in Nahariya.
- On July 16, a rocket hit a train depot near Haifa. Eight people were killed and 20 injured.
- On July 19, two brothers, Muhammed and Revia Talousi, 7 and 3 years old, were killed in Nazareth by a Hezbollah rocket. They were on their way to play soccer.
Hezbollah routinely used the Lebanese population as a human shield and bears responsibility for the loss of many Lebanese lives. Jan Egeland, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said: “Hezbollah must stop this cowardly blending … among women and children. I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don’t think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men.”
The residents of Southern Lebanon expressed anger at being used as human shields. Rima Khouri, a resident of the village of Ain Abel, said: “Hezbollah are using us as human shields. Their protection comes with a heavy price. We want nothing to do with them.”
Nasser Kareem, a resident of Bint Jbeil, who saw Hezbollah operatives drag a rocket launcher in front of his house and fire a rocket from it, explained: “Five minutes after that, the Israelis started bombing. Hezbollah is making us magnets for the Israelis.”
When the Second Lebanon War broke out in 2006, Hezbollah had 20,000 rockets in their arsenal. Today, they have over 60,000. They have upgraded their weapons and are now able reach far deeper into Israel. Their roots in Southern Lebanon are deeper. Their potential to harm innocent civilians is very high and they are not afraid to move from potential to reality. In 2008, Nasrallah declared: “Could Israel be wiped out of existence? Yes, and a thousand times yes.”
Hezbollah needs weapons. They can count on the Iranian regime to smuggle weapons into Lebanon by sea, by air and overland. But they do even more. Hezbollah helps other terrorist organizations to smuggle arms, especially into the Gaza Strip. Here are a few of their recent operations:
- In November 2009, The cargo vessel Francop was intercepted by the Israeli Navy off the coast of Cyprus en route from Iran to Syria. The ship’s cargo – which was to be smuggled overland to Hezbollah in Lebanon – contained 36 containers with 500 tons of weapons: 9,000 mortar shells, 3,000 Katyusha rockets, 3,000 gun shells, 20,000 grenades and half of a million rounds of small ammunition, all hidden behind sacks of polyethylene.
- In May 2007, an Iranian train carrying arms (mortar shells, light arms, rocket launchers and ammunition) was uncovered in Turkey. The arms were destined for Hezbollah. The Iranians attempted to conceal and disguise the arms in order to avoid suspicion by the Turkish authorities.
- In May 2003, a fishing boat sailed from Lebanon towards Egypt carrying detonators for Kassam rockets, radio activation systems for remote control bombs and instruction manuals on how to assemble bomb belts for suicide bombers. On board was a Hezbollah explosives expert bound for Gaza.
- In December 2003 and January 2004, after the earthquake in Bam, a city in Southern Lebanon, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard transferred weapons and supplies to Hezbollah by air via Syria. They disguised the convoys as humanitarian aid intended for those injured by the earthquake.
- In May 2001, Hezbollah assisted a smuggling operation intended to equip Ahmed Jibril’s terrorist organization (PFLP-GC). They loaded weapons onto the Santorini fishing boat, which sailed from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip. They managed to make three successful smuggling runs before the IDF intercepted the ship. On board, IDF soldiers discovered anti-tank missile launchers, anti-aircraft missiles, mortars, rockets, mines and guns. Some 25 Hezbollah operatives were involved in the.
Hijacking civilian airplanes has long been one of Hezbollah’s methods to put pressure on foreign governments to release imprisoned Hezbollah terrorists. In April 1988, Kuwait Airways Flight 422 from Bangkok to Kuwait City, with 112 passengers on board, was hijacked by Hezbollah operatives. Among the passengers were three members of the Kuwaiti royal family. The terrorists forced the plane to land in Iran and demanded the release of 17 terrorists imprisoned in Kuwait. The terrorists, armed with guns and grenades, threatened to destroy the plane if anyone approached it. Three days later, they forced the plane to fly to Cyprus. There they killed two passengers and dumped their bodies on the tarmac. Their 16-day hijacking operation ended in Algeria. No Hezbollah prisoners were released, but the terrorists obtained free passage to Beirut in Lebanon, home to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah’s relies on terror as its primary tool in achieving its goals. Therefore, whenever a political force or leader rises up against Hezbollah, the terrorist organization simple takes them out. Rafik Hariri, Prime Minister of Lebanon between 2000 and 2004, worked towards the reconstruction of the country and was in favor of an independent Lebanon. Syrian President Bashar Assad, afraid that he would lose his influence in Lebanon, made it clear to Hariri he would not allow it. In February 2005, Hariri was killed by when 1000 kg of explosives were detonated near his car in Beirut. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (an international court based in the Netherlands) and an independent investigation conducted by the Intelligence Branch of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces found evidence that Hezbollah was responsible for Hariri’s murder.
Hezbollah has been responsible for other incidents including the assassination of (American academic) Malcolm H. Kerr in 1984, the assassination of (French military attaché in Lebanon) Col. Christian Gouttière in 1986, the assassination of (Lebanese politician) Pierre Amine Gemayel in November 2006, the attempted assassination of Lebanese politicians Samir Jaja in April 2012, and Boutros Harb in June 2012 and the assassination of Brig. Gen. Wissam Al-Hassan in October 2012.
Hezbollah is a dangerous terrorist organization that has the ability to operate suicide bomber attacks around the globe, to deliver arms to terrorists, to use and to kill innocent people. Make no mistake: the people who perpetrate these attacks are the same people who sit in Lebanon’s parliament as representatives of Hezbollah.
More about Hezbollah in this declassified report.