The Arab League on Friday declared Lebanon-based Shiite group Hezbollah a terrorist organization, a day after the Cairo-based body elected Ahmed Aboul Gheit, a former aide to ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, as its new leader.
Nearly all members of the pan-Arab body supported the decision, expect for Lebanon and Iraq, which expressed “reservations,” the 22-member bloc said in a statement read out at a news conference by Bahraini diplomat Wahid Mubarak Sayar.
“The resolution of the League’s council [of foreign ministers] includes the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group,” the statement said.
Earlier in the day, the Saudi delegation briefly withdrew from discussions to protest against Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s refusal to label Hezbollah as terrorist.
The Revolutionary Guards created Hezbollah (Party of God) in the 1980s. Funded by Iran, it is the only side not to have put down weapons after Lebanon’s civil war from 1975 to 1990.
The United States, Canada and Australia have listed Hezbollah as a “terrorist” group. The European Union has also blacklisted its military wing.
The League’s declaration comes a little over a week after the predominantly Sunni Gulf states took a similar stance.
The blacklisting of Hezbollah by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council came amid the continued deterioration of relations between Hezbollah’s Shiite backer Iran and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia. Gulf monarchies had already sanctioned Hezbollah in 2013 in reprisal for its armed intervention in Syria in support of embattled President Bashar Assad.
“Countries from the Arab world decided to recognize Hezbollah as a terror group. This is an important development. Even amazing,” Netanyahu told the Knesset last week.
“But what’s no less amazing is that two parties here in the Knesset condemned the decision. Will you continue to condemn them when Hezbollah shoots missiles at your villages? Have you gone mad?” the prime minister said, adding immediately: “Excuse the expression.”
Hezbollah is openly committed to destroying Israel, and has an estimated 100,000-plus rockets and missiles aimed at the Jewish state.
Last month, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to bomb the Haifa ammonia storage facility, bragging that a missile strike there would have an impact similar to a nuclear attack.
In January, Bahrain said it had dismantled a “terror” cell allegedly linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah.
That same month, a lower court in Kuwait sentenced 22 people, all but one of them Kuwaiti Shiites, who were charged with spying for Iran and plotting Hezbollah-linked attacks in the Gulf country.