Germany bans Hezbollah in move hailed by Israel and the US

By Anne Beatrice Clasmann and Rachel More, dpa
Berlin (dpa) – The Islamist Hezbollah movement has been banned from operating in Germany following a decision by the interior minister, in a move welcomed by Israel and the United States as an important step towards combatting terrorism.

The news came on Thursday as police conducted dawn raids at mosques and other locations linked with the group.

Hezbollah, founded in Lebanon in 1982, draws its support from the Shiite community. It has been blamed for numerous attacks on Israel and has ties to Iran.

“It is a very important decision and a valuable and significant step in the global fight against terrorism,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in response to the German ban.

“I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the German government for this step,” he said in a statement, adding he was “sure” that moderate governments throughout the Middle East as well as “thousands of victims” of Hezbollah attacks were thankful.

The German ban “reflects the resolve of the West to confront the global threat posed by [Hezbollah],” US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell said, adding that the group “cannot be allowed to use Europe as a safe haven to support terrorism in Syria and across the Middle East.”

Both Grenell and Katz called on other EU member states to follow Berlin’s example.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer declared the ban as police raids were carried out on four mosques and organizations associated with Hezbollah, in Berlin, Dortmund, Munster and Bremen.

A prohibition order, seen by dpa, states Hezbollah’s symbols are also now banned in Germany. Supporters of the group are prohibited from assembling and assets may also be confiscated.

In comments to the Bild tabloid, Seehofer explained the decision in relation to Germany’s “historic responsibility” to Israel following the horrors of World War II.

The Lebanese movement questions Israel’s right to exist and openly calls for its destruction, he said.

The German government does not expect the ban to result in attacks in Germany or German interests to be affected in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is in government.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency estimates that there are about 1,050 potentially extremist individuals linked to Hezbollah in the country. They do not comprise an official organization in Germany, but work unofficially, doing fundraising, among other activities, according to security officials.

In December, the German parliament passed a resolution calling on the federal government to place an outright ban on Hezbollah and pressed other EU countries to take similar measures.

Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, praised the decision on Twitter.

“We welcome this extremely significant and meaningful step by Germany in combatting international terror,” he tweeted.

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