BEIRUT, Oct 8 (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah said it attacked Israeli military positions in the disputed Shab’a farms on Sunday, saying it was “standing in solidarity” with the Palestinians after Hamas gunmen launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from Gaza. people.
Israel responded by firing artillery fire into southern Lebanon. There have been no reports of casualties.
With support from Iran, the Shiite group has grown from a shadowy sect established during Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war into a heavily armed force with outsized influence over the Lebanese state. Governments around the world, including the United States, regard it as a terrorist organization.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards established Hezbollah in 1982 to export the Islamic Revolution and fight the Israeli army invading Lebanon. Hezbollah shares Tehran’s Shia Islamic ideology and recruits members among Lebanese Shia Muslims.
Hezbollah retained weapons at the end of the civil war to fight Israeli forces occupying the predominantly Shia south. Years of guerrilla warfare led to Israel’s withdrawal in 2000.
In 2006, Hezbollah demonstrated its military superiority in a five-week war with Israel that broke out after it entered Israel, kidnapped two soldiers and killed others. The war killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 158 Israelis, mostly soldiers. Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into Israel.
Its military capabilities have grown since it deployed to Syria in 2012 to help President Bashar al-Assad fight mainly Sunni rebels.
Hezbollah possesses precision rockets and claims it can strike all parts of Israel. In 2021, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the group had 100,000 fighters.
Iran provides weapons and money to Hezbollah. The United States estimates that Iran has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars annually to it in recent years.
Hezbollah has deep ties to other Iran-backed groups in the region, including Palestinian factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad. As Saturday’s attack unfolded, Hezbollah said it was “in direct contact with the leadership of the Palestinian resistance movement.”
Hezbollah has trained Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and participated in fighting there. Saudi Arabia says Hezbollah has also provided support to the Houthis, Iran’s allies in Yemen. Hezbollah denies this.
Role in Lebanon
Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon is underpinned by its weapons arsenal and the support of many Shiites who say the group defends Lebanon from Israel.
Lebanese parties that oppose Hezbollah say the group undermines the country and accuse it of unilaterally plunging Lebanon into conflict.
The organization has government ministers and members of parliament.
In 2008, a power struggle with Lebanese rivals backed by the West and Saudi Arabia turned into a brief conflict. Hezbollah militants have seized parts of Beirut after the government vowed to take action against the group’s military communications network.
Hezbollah entered politics more prominently in 2005 when ally Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon after the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who had symbolized Saudi Arabia’s influence in Lebanon.
A U.N.-backed tribunal later convicted three Hezbollah members in absentia for the assassination. Hezbollah denies any role and calls the court a tool of its enemies.
In 2016, Michel Aoun, a Christian politician aligned with Hezbollah, became president. Two years later, Hezbollah and its allies won a parliamentary majority. It lost its majority in 2022, but the organization continues to wield outsized influence.
The group launched a campaign against the judge investigating the 2020 Beirut port explosion after the judge sought to question his allies. The confrontation led to deadly clashes in Beirut in 2021.
Accused of attacking Western targets
Lebanese security officials and Western intelligence say groups linked to Hezbollah carried out suicide attacks on Western embassies and targets and kidnapped Westerners in the 1980s. One of the groups, Islamic Jihad, is thought to be led by Imad Moughniyah, a senior Hezbollah commander who was killed in a car bomb attack in Syria in 2008.
The United States holds Hezbollah responsible for a suicide bombing that destroyed the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters in Beirut in 1983 and killed 241 service members, as well as a suicide bombing at the U.S. Embassy that same year. In 1983, a suicide bombing also occurred in a French military camp in Beirut, killing 58 French paratroopers.
When talking about these attacks and hostage-taking, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah said in a 2022 interview that these attacks and hostage-taking were carried out by small groups unrelated to Hezbollah.
The United States and other Western countries list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The same goes for U.S. allies Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. The EU classifies Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization, but not its political wing.
Argentina blames Hezbollah and Iran for the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people, and the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people. Both men deny responsibility.
Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle
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