Hezbollah (meaning Party of God) is a political and military party in Lebanon founded in 1982 to fight the IsraelI occupation in southern Lebanon. It is regarded by many in the Arab and Muslim world as a legitimate militant Shia political party in Lebanon . In addition to its military wing, Hezbollah maintains a civilian arm, which runs hospitals, various news services, and eductional facilities.
Hezbollah has denounced some acts of terror, like the September 11 attacks and the murder of Nick Berg.
Hezbollah was formed from numerous other Lebanese Shia groups shortly after Israel's 1982 invasion, largely fought in mainly Shia southern Lebanon. The group was conceived by Iran, or at least was aided in its inception by the arrival in Lebanon of 1,500 Islamic revolutionary guards from Iran, three years after that country's own Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran, as an Islamic republic remains a close ally, financial backer, arms supplier and model for Hezbollah. Syria backs Hezbollah morally and has also supplied it with money and arms, such as Katyusha rockets.
One of the main objective of Hezbollah at the time was to spread the Iranian Revolution. Since then, the party has publicly declared that it will suspend its attempts to create an islamic state in Lebanon "because the conditions are not met". It remained underground for a number of years and did not make a public announcement of its existence till 1985, until which time its earliest members operated under the auspices of the "Lebanese National Resistance", an amalgam of forces united in their opposition to the Israeli invasion.
Hezbollah during the Lebanese war (1982-1990)
After emerging during the civil war of the early 1980s, Hezbollah focused on expelling Israeli and Western forces from Lebanon.
There may also have been (attempted) terrorist attacks against Hezbollah. According to Bob Woodward's book Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, the CIA asked Elie Hobeika to kill Hezbollah's spiritual leader Fadlallah, but asked for minimal bloodshed. The assassination attempt failed to kill Fadlallah but more than 80 civilans died. The fiasco lead the CIA to terminate its relationship with Elie Hobeika.
Conflict in South Lebanon
South Lebanon was occupied by Israel between 1982 and 2000. Hezbollah fought a guerilla war against Israel and the South Lebanon Army. The fighting culminated during Operation Grapes of Wrath in April 1996 when Israel launched an assault and air-campaign against Hezbollah. The campaign failed and resulted in the Israelis killing more than 100 civilians in one incident alone.
In May 2000, Israel withdrew its army from south Lebanon. This was widely considered a victory for Hezbollah and boosted its popularity in Lebanon. The move did not end the conflict because Hezbollah is still contesting Israel's control of the Shebaa farms region.
Hezbollah's role in the Israeli withdrawal from southern gained the organization respect in Lebanon, particularly among the country's Shia community, which comprises 40% of Lebanon's three million citizens. The President of Lebanon, Emile Lahoud, said: "For us Lebanese, and I can tell you a majority of Lebanese, Hezbollah is a national resistance movement. If it wasn't for them, we couldn't have liberated our land. And because of that, we have big esteem for the Hezbollah movement."
Hezbollah after the Israeli withdrawal
In May 22, 2000, Israel withdrew from Lebanon to the UN-agreed Israeli border, and their pullout was certified by the UN as complete. However, Hezbollah says the Shebaa Farms, a 28 sq. km. area, which is still occupied by Israel, to be Lebanese territory, and on that basis has continued to attack Israeli forces in that area. The UN recognizes the Shebaa farms as part of the Golan Heights, and thus occupied Syrian (and not Lebanese) territory.
Israel continues to overfly Lebanese territory, eliciting condemnation from the UN Secretary-General's representative in Lebanon. Hezbollah's anti-aircraft fire has on some occasions landed within the northern border region of Israel, inciting condemnation from the UN Secretary-General. On November 7, 2004, Hezbollah responded to the repeated Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace by flying an unmanned drone aircraft over northern Israel.
Hezbollah abducted three IDF soldiers during an October 2000 attack in Shebaa Farms, and sought to obtain the release of 14 Lebanese prisoners, some of whom had been held since 1978. On January 25, 2004, Hezbollah and Israel agreed on an exchange of prisoners. The prisoner swap was carried out on January 29: 30 Lebanese and Arab prisoners, the remains of 60 Lebanese militants and civilians, 420 Palestinian prisoners, and maps showing Israeli mines in South Lebanon were exchanged for an Israeli businessman and army reserve colonel kidnapped in 2001 and the remains of the three IOF (The Israeli Occupation Forces) soldiers mentioned above.
On July 19, 2004, a senior Hezbollah official, Ghaleb Awwali, was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut. Hezbollah blamed Israel; credit was claimed. According to Al-Arabiya, unidentified Lebanese police also identified the group as a cover for Israel. Israel alleges that Hezbollah had been increasingly involved in training and arming Hamas. This claim has been strengthened by Nasrallah's own words. In 2001 Jordan arrested three Hezbollah members attempting to smuggle Katyusha rockets into the West Bank. Nasrallah responded that "it is a duty to send arms to Palestinians from any possible place." After Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin Hezbollah attacked the IOF along the Blue Line.
UN resolution 1559
On September 2, 2004 the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1559, authored by France and the U.S. in an uncommon show of cooperation. Echoing the Taif Agreement, the resolution "calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon" and "for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias." Lebanon is currently in violation of Resolution 1559 over its refusal to disband the military wing of Hezbollah.
On October 7, 2004 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council regarding the lack of compliance with Resolution 1559. Mr. Annan concluded his report by saying: "It is time, 14 years after the end of hostilities and four years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestiges of the past. The withdrawal of foreign forces and the disbandment and disarmament of militias would, with finality, end that sad chapter of Lebanese history."
The January 20, 2005 UN Secretary-General's report on Lebanon states: "The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue Line is not valid in the Shab'a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions. The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel’s withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978). The Government of Lebanon should heed the Council’s repeated calls for the parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety."
On January 28, 2005 UN Security Council Resolution 1583 called upon the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of sufficient numbers of Lebanese armed and security forces, to ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it.
Hezbollah and the cedar revolution
After the assassination of Rafik Al Hariri in February 2005 Hezbollah strongly supported Syria's presence through demonstrations. It opposed the cedar revolution which resulted in Syria's withdrawal. However Hezbollah won a number of representatives during the parliamentary elections of May 2005 and managed to join the government in July 2005 in the name of national unity. Hezbollah still holds a large quantity of weapons and the subject remains extremely controversial in Lebanon.
After the 2005 elections, Hezbollah held 23 seats (up from eight previously) in the 128-member Lebanese Parliament. It also participated for the first time in the Lebanese government that was formed in July 2005. Hezbolla has two ministers in the government, and a third is Hezbollah-endorsed. It is primarily active in the Bekaa Valley, the southern suburbs of Beirut, and southern Lebanon. The group is headed by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and is financed largely by Iran and Syria, though it also raises funds itself through charities and commercial activities.
Hezbollah is an active participant in the political life and processes of Lebanon, and its scope of operation is far beyond its initial militant one. In 1992, it participated in elections for the first time, winning 12 out of 128 seats in parliament. It won 10 seats in 1996, and 8 in 2000. In the general election of 2005, it won 23 seats nationwide, and an Amal-Hezbollah alliance won all 23 seats in Southern Lebanon. Since the end of the Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon on May 22, 2000, Hezbollah has been involved in activities like building schools, clinics, and hospitals.
Hezbollah claims that it forbids its fighters entry into Iraq for any reason, and that no Hezbollah units or individual fighters have entered Iraq to support any Iraqi faction fighting America.
Hezbollah has no known links to Al-Qaida. Though Hezbollah has a Shia ideology, this does not exclude it from co-operation with Sunni groups. However, Al-Qaida and the Taliban, which are respectively a Wahhabi and a Deobandi group, have long histories of conflict with Shia groups and with Iran in particular, Hezbollah's strongest backer. Hezbollah is closely allied with Iran and has a complex relationship with Syria. Hezbollah is strongly anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli.
It is widely believed that Hafez al-Assad and Hezbollah were closely linked; this did not significantly affect his relations with the rest of the world. Bashar al-Assad, his son and successor, has been subjected to sanctions by the U.S. due to (among other things, such as occupying Lebanon) his continued support for Hezbollah. However, on March 3, 2005, the Bush administration stated that it would consider Hezbollah legitimate if it disarmed, but also said that this did not represent a change in their view of the organization, which is unlikely to do so. Mundane
The organization views an Islamic republic as the ideal and eventual form of state. However, as their conception of an Islamic republic requires the consent of the people, and Lebanon remains a religiously and ideologically heterogeneous society, their political platform revolves around more mundane issues. According to their published political platform in 2003, Hezbollah says that it favors the introduction of an Islamic government in Lebanon by peaceful democratic means. According to the United States Department of State and reports submitted to Defense Technical Information Center (among other United States agencies) as late as 2001, the organization is seeking to create an fundamentalist Iranian-style Islamic republic and removal of all non-Islamic influences.
Hezbollah operates a satellite television station from Lebanon, Al-Manar TV ("the Lighthouse") as well as a radio station, al-Nour ("the light"). Qubth Ut Alla ("The Fist of God") is the monthly magazine of Hezbollah's paramilitary wing. They are watched widely by West Bank and Gazan Palestinians as well as some Lebanese.