The British government revealed on Monday that it plans to outlaw Hizballah and designate the group as a terrorist organization in its entirety.
The UK, like most European countries, previously limited their terror designations only to Hizballah’s military wing. The latest announcement suggests London intends to ban the terror group’s political and other wings as well.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid justified the move by citing Hizballah destabilizing interventions and activities throughout the Middle East.
Hizballah “is continuing in its attempts to destabilize the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party,” Javid said in a statement, adding that “because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”
The designation, which would have to be approved by Parliament, is expected to prevent Hizballah “supporters from parading its flag through the streets of Britain,” The Telegraph reported. There is concern that Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-Semitic leader of the UK’s Labour Party, will oppose this measure. Corbyn once referred to the terrorist groups Hizballah and Hamas as “friends.”
The EU only designated Hizballah’s military wing as a terrorist organization in 2013 after the group facilitated the bombing of an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria in July 2012, which killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver.
Yet other leaders of major European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, remain reluctant to outlaw Hizballah entirely, despite the group’s active presence in the region.
There are roughly 250 active Iranian-backed Hizballah operatives and a total of 950 Hizballah members throughout Germany, according to a 2014 Berlin intelligence report summarized by the Jerusalem Post.
Hizballah is also investing in other realms, including cyber crime, to destabilize the United States and Europe. The terror group dispatches hackers to use catfishing techniques on social media to infiltrate mobile devices worldwide and extract sensitive information.
The United States and some of its allies, including Canada and the Netherlands, do not distinguish between Hizballah’s military or political departments.
Even Hizballah leaders acknowledge that the distinctions are futile. The militant group is hierarchically organized and each of the group’s specialized wings – including departments devoted to social service provisions or external terrorist attacks – answer to its political leadership.