Formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Hizballah (the “Party of God”), a Lebanon-based Shia terrorist group, advocates Shia empowerment globally. The group also supports Palestinian rejectionist groups in their struggle against Israel and provides training for Iraqi Shia militants attacking Western interests in Iraq. Hizballah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah publically indicated in May 2013 that Hizballah was supporting Bashar al-Asad’s regime by sending fighters to Syria. The European Union designated Hizballah’s military wing as a terrorist organization on 22 July 2013, following the March conviction of a Hizballah member in Cyprus, a July 2012 bus bombing in Bulgaria, and the group’s intervention in Syria.
Hizballah has been involved in numerous anti-US terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck bombings of the US Embassy in Beirut in April 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, and the US Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984, as well as the hijacking of TWA 847 in 1985 and the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia in 1996. Although Hizballah’s leadership is based in Lebanon, the group has established cells worldwide.
Hizballah has participated in the Lebanese government since 1992. With the 2004 passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for the disarmament of all armed militias in Lebanon, Hizballah has focused on justifying its retention of arms by casting itself as the defender of Lebanon against Israeli aggression. On 12 July 2006, Hizballah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, sparking the 2006 war in which Hizballah claimed victory by virtue of its survival. In May 2008, Hizballah militants seized parts of Beirut in response to calls by the government to restrict Hizballah’s secure communications and arms. In negotiations to end the violence, Hizballah gained veto power in the government and retained its arms and secure communications.
In February 2008, Hizballah’s military chief ‘Imad Mughniyah was killed by a vehicle bomb in Damascus. Nasrallah publicly blamed Israel and continues to promise retaliation. Several Hizballah operations have been disrupted since Mughniyah’s death, including the 2008 disruption of a cell in Baku, Azerbaijan, targeting the Israeli embassy there, and the late-2008 disruption of a Hizballah cell in Egypt targeting Israeli tourists and ships transiting the Suez Canal.
In July 2011 the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) indicted four Hizballah members—including a senior Hizballah official—for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, who was killed by a car bomb in Beirut on
14 February 2005. Nasrallah has publicly stated that Hizballah will not allow any members to be arrested, and continues to paint the STL as a proxy of Israel and the United States.
In July 2012, a bomb exploded on a bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian. The Israeli prime minister announced his government had “unquestionable” intelligence indicating Hizballah conducted the attack, and in February the Bulgarian Interior Minister said there was “well grounded” evidence Hizballah was behind the bombing.