The European Union is inclined to not declare Hezbollah a terror organization, even through evidence indicates that operatives of the Shiite Lebanese group were behind a lethal attack on Israelis abroad, EU sources quoted by Israel Radio said Saturday night.
Five Israeli tourists and a local bus driver were killed in the bombing in the Bulgarian resort town of Burgas on July 18, 2012.
Reportedly, despite the fact that Bulgaria found Hezbollah responsible for the attack, even naming its prime suspects in Lebanon, the EU’s tendency is to level sanctions only on the people suspected of direct involvement, and not at the organization as a whole.
Many countries consider Hezbollah a terror organization, including Israel, the United States, Canada, the UK, Egypt and Bahrain.
Officially labeling Hezbollah a terrorist entity would significantly hamper the organization’s ability to operate. But doing so requires unanimity among the EU’s 27 member states.
Earlier this month, incoming US Secretary of State John Kerry urged other governments, “and particularly our partners in Europe, to take immediate action to crack down on Hezbollah.”
Britain, too, called on Europe to take action.
“It is important that the EU respond robustly to an attack on European soil,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said after a Bulgarian report on the bombing was published, promising to discuss with his European colleagues “measures we can now take to continue to make our citizens safer.”
On Friday, France, the main force in the EU that has thus far resisted initiatives to name Hezbollah a terror group, said it may yet reconsider its policy.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said that his government was awaiting the full results of the Bulgarian investigation before making a decision.
Lalliot offered that if the Bulgarian investigation yields clear findings, the European Union may unanimously move for adding the organization to its terror list.
Canadian diplomats have been actively lobbying the governments of European Union countries to blacklist the Lebanese-based group.
“We believe there is overwhelming evidence to suggest Hezbollah has been not just complicit, but actively carrying out terrorist attacks around the world in support of Iran,” a Canadian official said Friday. “We hope that the European Union will follow Canada’s lead.”
Last week, Bulgaria gave Europol the names of two of the people suspected in the bus bombing, with hopes that the police agency can trace their movements and uncover how they financed the attack.
The country has requested that Lebanese authorities arrest and extradite the two suspects, who are believed to be living in Lebanon, an official said.
Three men are suspected in the attack, including the dead bomber. The latter’s identity has not been established. The names of the two other suspects, believed to still be alive, have not been released to the public.
The official Bulgarian report said investigators had “well-grounded reasons to suggest” that the two belonged to Hezbollah. The report said they have been living in Lebanon for years, one with a Canadian passport and the other with an Australian one.
Israel has indicated that it suspects Iran of being directly involved in the attack, although, like its proxy Hezbollah, Tehran denies involvement.