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Estonia bans entry to Hezbollah members, sanctions terror group

Eastern European country says organization ‘poses a considerable threat to international — and thereby Estonian — security’; Israeli FM hails ‘clear message against terrorism’

Supporters of Hezbollah terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah chant slogans ahead of his televised speech in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, January 5, 2020. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)
Supporters of Hezbollah terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah chant slogans ahead of his televised speech in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, January 5, 2020. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

Estonia on Thursday said it would sanction Hezbollah and prevent officials from the terror organization, or those affiliated with it, from entering its territory.

The country’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said the Hezbollah posed “a considerable threat to international — and thereby Estonian — security,” but appeared to stop short of officially blacklisting the group.

“With this step, Estonia stands by the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Lithuania as well as other countries who have concluded that Hezbollah uses terrorist means and constitutes a threat to the security of many states,” Reinsalu said in a statement.

The ministry stated that entry to the eastern European nation will be prohibited for “Hezbollah affiliates about whom there is information or there are reasonable grounds to believe that their activity supports terrorism and who therefore pose a threat to the Estonian as well as international security.”

A separate statement noted that the ban applied to members of both Hezbollah’s political and military wings, if they were involved in terror activities.

It was not immediately clear what the sanctions would entail, beyond the entry ban.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi hailed the decision, which he deemed “a clear message against terrorism and against Hezbollah activities that threaten global peace and destabilize the region.”

He urged other nations to follow in Estonia’s footsteps.

Several European countries have recently taken steps against Hezbollah, after years of lobbying from Israel predicated on Hezbollah’s involvement in a deadly 2012 bus bombing in Bulgaria that left five Israeli tourists and one local dead.

In April, Germany outlawed activities by the Iranian-backed Lebanese organization. In a dramatic departure from Berlin’s previous policy, which was based on the European Union’s stance, the ban does not differentiate between the group’s military and political wings.

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu in Washington, DC, Oct. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Hezbollah activities “violate criminal law and the organization opposes the concept of international understanding,” German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said at the time.

The US, the UK, the Netherlands and several Arab states have also designated the organization in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

Jerusalem views the terror group as Iran’s proxy on its doorstep and as the greatest threat along its borders. It is believed to have many thousands of rockets and missiles ready for use against the Jewish state in any future war. The sides last openly fought in a bloody month-long conflict in 2006.

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