A Hezbollah operative was sentenced by a Cypriot court Thursday to a four-year prison sentence for a plot to attack Israeli tourists in the Mediterranean island nation.
Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, who holds Lebanese and Swedish passports, acknowledged membership in Hezbollah and admitted to having staked out areas frequented by Israeli tourists, but claimed he did not know his work was part of a plot to kill Israelis.
The court said during sentencing that the crimes “potentially put in danger the safety of Israeli citizens as well as targets on the territory of the Cyprus Republic.”
Yaacoub faced a maximum 10-year sentence, but the court decision took into account his age and lack of criminal record.
The evidence that led to Yaacoub’s conviction could help tip the balance toward listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in Europe, diplomats from two leading European Union member states said this week. Hezbollah is already considered a terrorist group by the United States, Israel and several other countries.
“Our position is that we’ve always said that if we have proof that holds up in court, we can enter the procedure,” said Karl-Matthias Klause, the spokesman for the German Embassy in Washington. “There is a general readiness [for] looking into forbidding the military wing of Hezbollah.”
The other diplomat, whose country has been among those resisting such a classification, said the Cyprus conviction would make it harder not to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
The parliament of Bahrain approved a bill Tuesday declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization and called on the country’s Foreign Ministry to follow suit.
Legislators in Manama, the Bahraini capital, called on other Persian Gulf nations to declare the Lebanese militia a terrorist group, according to Israel Radio.
Whereas Bahrain’s government and royal family are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, the Bahraini population is mostly Shiite, like Iran and its proxy Hezbollah.
AP and JTA contributed to this report.