Israeli Officials: More EU States Backing Move to List Hezbollah as Terror Group Over Role in Syria

Hezbollah's aid to Assad is spurring EU to blacklist militant group; U.K. has formally requested that EU move forward with the measure; Berlin sources to Haaretz: Germany supports move if request is based on sufficient evidence.

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Barak Ravid
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Hezbollah's increased involvement in the civil war in Syria and the aid it is giving to President Bashar Assad’s regime is spurring support in the European Union to include the group in the EU’s list of terror groups, senior Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem said Tuesday.

The Bulgarian government  report on its investigation into the suicide bus bombing last year in Burgas, which determined that Hezbollah was behind the terror attack, has increased pressure to place Hezbollah on the terror list.

Five Israelis and the Bulgarian bus driver were killed in the attack, and 32 Israelis were injured.

The trial of a Hezbollah operative who had planned an attack on Israeli tourists in Cyprus, which uncovered a great deal of information about the group’s activities in Europe, has also expedited the process.

Over the past few months, Israel has approached all 27 EU members seeking their support in placing Hezbollah on the terror list, with only partial success. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and other countries said they were concerned that the move would adversely affect stability in Lebanon and compromise the safety of their soldiers serving in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), in southern Lebanon.

In Israel, senior Foreign Ministry officials said that there has been a change for the better in recent weeks. The reason for the change was not pressure from Jerusalem or involvement of Hezbollah in terrorism against Israel, they said, but rather the group’s support for the Assad regime.

According to the senior officials, the British and the Dutch governments, which have for years defined Hezbollah as a terror group, have ratcheted up pressure on France, Germany, Italy and other EU countries to obtain their support for the move.

“Because of Hezbollah’s involvement in the fighting in Syria, more and more countries in Europe understand that talk of the organization as a stabilizing factor in Lebanon is ridiculous,” a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official said.

“There are more positive signs from Germany and also from France on willingness to move in the direction of a step against Hezbollah in the EU. When this will happen and exactly how – talks are still being held about that.”

Sources in Berlin told Haaretz that the German position has constantly been that the German government will support listing Hezbollah or parts of it if such a request is based on sufficient evidence. If Hezbollah is verifiably linked to the attack in Burgas or to other terror activity on European soil, the EU has to draw consequences, the sources said.

According to the AFP, the British made an official application in the past few days to the EU in Brussels to place Hezbollah’s military wing on the EU’s list of terror organizations. The British want to try to raise the matter for discussion and lead to a decision at the June meeting of the council of EU foreign ministers.

In the past few days alone, hundreds of Hezbollah fighters took part in the fighting in the city of Kasir, which is strategically located near the Lebanese border. According to various reports, dozens of Hezbollah operatives were killed by rebel fighters there.

According to assessments in Israel, thousands of Hezbollah operatives have taken part in the fighting in Syria. The organization guards the narrow corridor linking Damascus in the south with the big cities of Hama, Homs and Aleppo, and particularly the Alawite enclave in northwestern Syria. Hezbollah operatives are also helping Assad guard strategic installations such as chemical weapons stores. It is believed that between 200 and 500 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in the fighting so far.  

A pro-Hezbollah rally in southern Lebanon.Credit: Reuters
The bombing in Burgas, July 19, 2012, to which Hezbollah has been linked.Credit: Reuters