US strengthens sanctions against Hezbollah activists

The US Treasury and State Department have both announced new measures designed to restrict the activities of commanders and financiers of Hezbollah.

The Treasury said that it was imposing sanctions on four people believed to be Hezbollah financiers, along with one company, Global Cleaners SARL. The individuals include Yosef Ayad and Muhammad Ghaleb Hamdar, described as members of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization who were accused of plotting attacks in Thailand and Peru. The US assets of those listed will be frozen and their transactions will be blocked.

In a statement, acting Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Adam Szubin said that “Hezbollah continues to plan, coordinate and execute terrorist attacks around the world, and the Treasury will continue to aggressively target Hezbollah and those supporting its terrorist activities”.

The State Department said that it had blacklisted Hezbollah commander Haytham Ali Tabatabai, who is thought to have commanded Hezbollah special forces in Syria and is now thought to be operating in Yemen.

The State Department said that Tabatabai’s activities are “part of a larger Hezbollah effort to provide training, material and personnel in support of its destabilizing regional activities”.

The State Department declared Hezbollah a terror organisation in 1997 and American sanctions have been imposed since 2001. Earlier this year, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council both voted to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. Hezbollah is a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK and support for the group is a criminal offence.

Hezbollah is the de facto ruler of southern Lebanon, where it possesses a large military arsenal, including more than 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel. In 2006, Hezbollah fired around 4,000 rockets at Israel during the month-long Second Lebanon War, killing 43 Israeli civilians. Hezbollah has also planned and launched attacks on Israeli citizens across the world, including a bus bomb in the Bulgarian resort of Burgas which killed five Israeli tourists in 2012.

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