The German government designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization Thursday, finally eliminating the distinction between the group’s military and political operations. The move may mark a turning point in European capitals, which have long advocated an arbitrary separation between Hezbollah’s militia and its less overtly violent activities.
Concurrently, police raided five sites linked to the group, including mosques and community centers in Berlin, Bremen, Muenster, Recklinghausen, and Dortmund. Investigators hope the seizure of computers and documents will reveal front organizations, financial sources, and propaganda mechanisms of the group. Security officials will now also be able to confiscate the Hezbollah-linked assets and block the display of associated imagery, most notably displayed at its al-Quds day rally. Germany believes up to 1,050 people in the country are associated with the group.
Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz praised the overdue move, saying the ban is “a valuable and significant step in the global fight against terrorism.”
In December, the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, approved measures urging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to ban all the group’s activities. The UK also expanded its terrorist designation for Hezbollah to include the whole organization last year.
The developments in Germany come amid a concerted push by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell. During a visit to Germany last year, Pompeo urged Berlin to take on Hezbollah as a way to combat anti-Semitism and limit Iranian influence. Washington and Jerusalem hope the EU will eventually follow suit and ban all activities of a group that has supported worldwide terrorism against Jews and Israel.