Paraguay recognizes Hamas, Hezbollah as terror groups, drawing Israeli praise
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Paraguay recognizes Hamas, Hezbollah as terror groups, drawing Israeli praise

Asuncion blacklists military wings of Iran-backed organizations along with Islamic State, al-Qaeda

Paraguay's newly-elected President Mario Abdo Benitez greets the crowd during his arrival at his inauguration ceremony at 'Lopez Palace' in Asuncion, Paraguay, on August 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
Paraguay's newly-elected President Mario Abdo Benitez greets the crowd during his arrival at his inauguration ceremony at 'Lopez Palace' in Asuncion, Paraguay, on August 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Paraguay on Monday said it had officially recognized the military wings of Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah as terrorist organizations drawing praise from Israel’s prime minister and foreign minister.

President Mario Abdo Benitez made the declaration in an official document, signed on August 9, saying it was aimed at supporting the fight against international terrorism. He also recognized the Islamic State and al-Qaeda as global terror organizations.

Both Iran-affiliated movements, who have been waging a decades-long war against Israel and have attacked its cities with tens of thousands of rockets, will now be blacklisted in the Latin American country.

Interior Minister Juan Ernesto Villamayor said the decision was in line with work carried out by the United Nations and international treaties protecting human rights.

Hezbollah runs much of its financial operations in South America. Villamayor said Paraguay would now be obliged to take action against the money flow to terror groups through local banks, Paraguayan media reported.

“Now the task has to be coordinated and open to all in the terms of this decree,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement in a brief statement, saying Israel was making efforts to have other countries also take that step.

Israel has pushed for the international community to blacklist Hezbollah and Hamas. While many countries outlaw the movements’ armed wings, most have balked at also blacklisting their politburos.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz also hailed the move as an “important decision,” saying in a tweet that it “contributes to the global battle against these Iranian proxies.”

Despite the warm words, Israel and Asuncion remain on shaky terms, since Paraguay moved its embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in September 2018, just weeks after it had become just the third country to move its embassy to the Israeli capital.

Israel reacted furiously to the move, and shuttered its own mission in Asuncion.

View of Asuncion’s World Trade Center, which housed the embassy of Israel, on September 6, 2018. (AFP / NORBERTO DUARTE

Most countries have maintained their embassies in Tel Aviv so as to not prejudge the outcome of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel’s embassy in Asuncion was closed from 2003 to 2016 over budgetary constraints.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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