The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







A Hezbollah carrying a Hezbollah Flag
A Hezbollah militant carrying a Hezbollah Flag

Hezbollah (Arabic ‮حزب الله‬, meaning Party of God) is a political and military organization in Lebanon founded in 1982 to fight Israel in southern Lebanon. It is regarded by the Arab and Muslim world, and by some European Union countries, as a legitimate, militant, Shia political party in Lebanon, and by the Israeli government and several Western governments as an Islamic fundamentalist, or Islamist, terrorist organization.

The organization was conceived in 1982 as a guerrilla group, started by Lebanese clerics and financed by Iran, to oppose the 1982 Israeli invasion and subsequent occupation of southern Lebanon. Some critics argue that the real reason it was set up by Iran was to spread the Iranian Islamic revolution into Lebanon and throughout the Arab world. It maintains an active fighting force, or militia, known as the Islamic Resistance. Since the May 2000 Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, Hezbollah has continued fighting the Israeli Defense Forces around the disputed, Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms area. Although the United Nations regards Shebaa Farms as Syrian territory, Hezbollah considers the area a part of Lebanon. Syrian officals have orally declared that Shebaa Farms are part of Lebanon. The Shebaa farms were taken by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war. Syria was asked to notify the UN that it considered the Shebaa farms to be part of Lebanon but no official statement was ever sent. This has led some specialists to think that Hezbollah’s attempt to recapture the area was a Syrian-backed pretext to keep Israel under military pressure.

In addition to its military wing, Hezbollah maintains a civilian arm, which runs hospitals, schools, orphanages and a television station. Hezbollah currently holds eight seats in the 128-member Lebanese Parliament and is primarily active in the Bekaa Valley, the southern suburbs of Beirut, and southern Lebanon. The group is headed by Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and is financed largely by Iran and Syria, though it also raises funds itself through charities and commercial activities.



Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States [1] the United Kingdom [2], Canada [3][4] and Australia [5]; the U.S. Department of State notes that Hezbollah has killed more than 300 American citizens (over 200 of whom were Marines in Lebanon.) Russia has only recently begun to draw up a list of organizations it classifies as terrorist, which may reflect that of the EU [6]. The European Union has designated Hezbollah's so-called External Security Organization or international wing as "terrorist," which can be construed to afford legitimacy to the group's political wing. On March 10 2005 the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly (473 in favor 33 against) on a resolution branding Hezbollah in whole as a terrorist organization. The resolution stated that the "Parliament considers that clear evidence exists of terrorist activities by Hezbollah. The (EU) Council should take all necessary steps to curtail them"[7]. The EU has also decided to block Hezbollah's Al-Manar television from European satellites due to its anti-Semitic content[8]. The United Nations has not included Hezbollah on its list of terrorist groups (which is just being drawn up). However it has called for the disbanding of Hezbollah's military wing in the UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

Hezbollah has denounced some acts of terror, like the September 11 attacks[9] and the murder of Nick Berg[10]. However, as a stated aim of Hezbollah is the destruction of the state of Israel, it expresses support [11] for the activities of Hamas, an Islamist group responsible for suicide attacks inside the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as inside Israel itself.

Using names like the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth and the Revolutionary Justice Organization, Hezbollah is also believed by the United States to have kidnapped and tortured to death U.S. Army colonel William Higgins and the CIA Station Chief in Beirut, William Buckley, and to have kidnapped around 30 other Westerners between 1982 and 1992, including the American journalist Terry Anderson, British journalist John McCarthy, the Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy Terry Waite and Irish citizen Brian Keenan.

Hezbollah was also implicated in the suicide truck bombings that killed 241 U.S. Marines in their barracks in Beirut in 1983; the 1984 truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut that killed 24; the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome; the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, which killed 29; and the 1994 bombing in Argentina of a Jewish community center, which killed 95. Hezbollah denies involvement in some or all of these attacks.

Hezbollah's role in the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon gained the organization widespread respect in Lebanon, particularly among the country's Shia community, which makes up 40 per cent of Lebanon's three million citizens. The President of Lebanon, Émile 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." [12]. However, others in Lebanon, particularly the Christian community, criticize the movement as extremist and divisive.

The continued existence of Hezbollah's military wing, and its presence on the Israeli border, violates the Taif Agreement that ended the Lebanese civil war, which stipulates the "disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias" and requires the government to "deploy the Lebanese army in the border area adjacent to Israel." The Lebanese government has evidenced no interest in enforcing this aspect of the agreement.

Some argue that Hezbollah is being used by Syria and Iran as a proxy against Israel.[13]

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. Syria is also in violation of the resolution because of their military presence in Lebanon.

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." [14]

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." [15]

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. [16]


The word ‮حزب الله‬ is transliterated in a number of ways. A scientific transliteration would be hizbu l-llahi. Hezbollah is used by CNN and the BBC. It is also written as Hizbullah, Hizballah, Hizbollah, Hezbullah, and Hizb Allah, which is used by Al-Jazeera.

Hezbollah is also known as Al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Resistance), Organization of the Oppressed, Revolutionary Justice Organization, Organization of Right Against Wrong, and Followers of the Prophet Muhammed. [source: Canada's United Nations Suppression of Terrorism Regulations (SCHEDULE 1), SOR/2001-360, Registration: 2 October, 2001][17]


Hezbollah was formed from numerous other Lebanese Shia groups shortly after Israel's 1982 invasion of the mainly Shia southern part of Lebanon. The group was conceived by Iran, or at least was aided in its inception by the arrival in Lebanon of 1,500 Revolutionary Guards from Iran, three years after that country's own Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iran, as an Islamic republic -- a Shia one -- 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. In return, Hezbollah protects Syria's interests in Lebanon and serving as a card for Damascus to play in its own confrontation with Israel over the occupation of the Golan Heights.[18]

Combat Operations

Prior to 2000

Main article: Hezbollah (Pre-2000)

After emerging during the civil war of the early 1980s as an Iranian-sponsored second militia (besides Amal) for Lebanon's Shia community, Hezbollah focused on expelling Israeli and Western forces from Lebanon. It is the principal suspect in several notable attacks on the American, French and Italian Multinational peacekeeping force, whose claimed purpose was the stabilization of Lebanon: the suicide bombings of the U.S. Embassy, which killed 63 including 17 Americans, of the US Marine barracks in Beirut (see Marine Barracks Bombing), which killed 241 American servicemen, and of the French multinational force headquarters which killed 58 French troops. Seven months after the US withdrew its forces from Lebanon a second attack upon the United States embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984 killed 20 people including 2 Americans[19].

Elements of the group have been linked to involvement in kidnapping, detention and torture of American and other Western hostages in Lebanon by groups such as Islamic Jihad who claimed the hostage-takings were in retaliation to the detentions, hostage-taking and torture by the Israeli ally South Lebanon Army (SLA).

After the Israelis were forced out of central Lebanon, by a variety of Lebanese armies including Hezbollah, they occupied a so-called "security zone" along the southern border. During the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah fought the SLA and IDF. Despite being greatly outnumbered, it soon became an opponent to be reckoned with. Casualties inflicted by Hezbollah were a major factor in Israel's decision to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000.

Aside from fighting the IDF in Lebanon Hezbollah may have been involved in international terrorism. In 1992 and 1994, Hezbollah is claimed to have carried out the Israeli Embassy Bombing and the AMIA Bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eight days after the AMIA Bombing the Israeli Embassy in London was car bombed by two Palestinians linked to Hezbollah.

2000 and Later

In January 2000, Hezbollah assassinated the commander of the South Lebanon Army Western Brigade, Colonel Aql Hashem, at his home in the security zone. Hashem had been responsible for day to day operations of the SLA.[20]

In May 22 2000, Israel withdrew from Lebanon to the UN-agreed Israeli border, and their pullout was certified by the UN as complete[21]. However, Hezbollah claims the Shebaa Farms area, which is still occupied by Israel, to be Lebanese territory, and on that basis has continued to attack Israeli forces in that area. For more details see: History of Lebanon.

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 [22]. On November 7, 2004, Hezbollah responded to what it described as repeated Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace by flying an unmanned drone aircraft over northern Israel.[23]

With the aid of a local UN peacekeeping force, Hezbollah snatched the bodies of 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 IDF 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, and then retracted, by a previously unheard of Sunni group called Jund Ash Sham , while Israel denied involvement[24]. According to Al-Arabiya, unidentified Lebanese police also identified the group as a cover for Israel[25]. Israel alleges that Hezbollah had been increasingly involved in training and arming the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas (see section in this article: Hezbollah activities in the al-Aqsa Intifada.) This claim has been strengthened by Nasrallah's own words. In 2001 Jordan arrested 3 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."[26][27] After Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin Hezbollah attacked the IDF along the Blue Line[28]. Most recently, during Awwali's funeral, Nasrallah proclaimed that Aawali was "among the team that dedicated their lives in the last few years to help their brothers in occupied Palestine"[29], which some take to refer to aiding Hamas. On February 9, 2005 Palestinian Authority officials blamed Hezbollah of attempting to derail the recent truce between Israel and Palestine by offering increased funding and bonuses to the militant cells it operates in Israel and Palestine for any terrorist attack they carry out[30][31].

Hezbollah activities in the al-Aqsa Intifada

Main article: al-Aqsa Intifada

In December 2001 three Hezbollah operatives were caught in Jordan while attempting to smuggle BM-13 Katyusha rockets into the West Bank. Nasrallah responded that "It is a duty to send arms to Palestinians from any possible place."[32]

During 2002, 2003 and 2004, the Israeli Security Forces thwarted numerous suicide bombing attacks, some of which Israel claims were planned and funded by Hezbollah and were to have been carried out by Tanzim activists. Israeli officials accused Hezbollah of aiding Palestinian terrorism and participating in weapon smuggling (see also: Santorini, Karin A).

After the Maxim restaurant suicide bombing (October 4, 2003) the Israeli Air Force bombed what were described as terrorist facilities in Ein-Saheb as a warning to Syria.

On June 16, 2004, two Palestinian girls - aged 14 and 15 were arrest by the IDF for plotting a suicide bombing. [33] According to IDF statement, the two minors were recurited by Tanzim (Fatah's armed wing) activists, and guided by Hezbollah. [34] On June 23, 2004, another allegedly Hezbollah-funded suicide bombing attack was foiled by the Israeli security forces. [35] .

In February 2005 the Palestinian Authority accused Hezbollah of attempting to derail the truce signed with Israel. Palestinian officials and former militants described how Hezbollah promised an increase in funding for any cell able to carry out a terrorist attack [36].

Entrance in political arena

Today, 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 now holds 8. Since the end of the Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon on May 22 2000, the Hezbollah has been involved in activities like building schools, clinics, hospitals.

Foreign relations

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. However, on April 2, 2004, Muqtada al-Sadr announced his intention to form chapters of Hezbollah and Hamas in Iraq [37]. He is not known to have consulted Hezbollah or Hamas before making this statement.

Hezbollah has no known links to Al-Qaida. Though Hezbollah has a Shi'ite 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, anti-West, 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 US due to (among other things, such as occupying Lebanon) his continued support for Hezbollah, which it views as a terrorist organization. However, on March 3, 2005, the Bush administration 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.[38]

Those who consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization consider its sponsors (in particular Iran, Syria, and Lebanon) to stand in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1566. Further, UN Security Council Resolution 1559 calls for the dismantling of Hezbollah and all other militias. Israel has lodged continuous complaints[39] about Hezbollah's actions. Israel has bombed several Syrian targets in retaliation for terrorist and guerrilla attacks by Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah that Israel claims were sponsored by Syria. An Israeli official said that those attacks are a "message to Syria to stop sponsoring terrorism".


Hezbollah views an Islamic republic, on the Iranian model, as the most desirable form of governance. However, it sees this republic as emerging from the consent of the vast majority, and, as Lebanon is a multi-religious state, this could not happen in the near future.

The organization holds 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 claims to favor 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 supports the destruction of the state of Israel[40] and co-operates with other militant Islamic organizations such as Hamas in order to promote this goal.

Media operations

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 Lebanese Muslims.

The broadcasting of Al Manar in France (even via satellite, not by any station based on French territory) is controversial. It has been accused of promoting religious and racial hatred (against the Jews), which is a criminal offense in France. On December 13, 2004, the French Conseil d'État, acting on the request of the French TV authorities, issued an injunction to Eutelsat to cease the broadcasting of Al Manar in France. (full text of the decision, press release, in French; BBC report).

See also

Anti-Israel movements | Arab-Israeli conflict | Axis of evil | Council on American-Islamic Relations | Foreign relations of Iran | Foreign relations of Lebanon | History of Lebanon | Imad Mugniyah  | Islam | Islam as a political movement | Islamic Terrorism | Islamism | Katyusha | List of terrorist groups | Politics of Lebanon | Qassam rocket | Special Force (computer game) | War on Terrorism | William Francis Buckley

External links, resources, and references

Official site

UN Resolutions regarding Lebanon

See also: History of Lebanon

United States Department of State

see also: United States Department of State



Last updated: 05-09-2005 22:58:00
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04