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Saudi Arabia to ‘severely’ punish Hezbollah supporters

Move follows declarations by Gulf states, Arab League to officially declare Lebanese Shiite organization a terrorist group

In this August 2, 2013 file photo, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah speaks during a rally to mark Jerusalem day, or Al-Quds day, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
In this August 2, 2013 file photo, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah speaks during a rally to mark Jerusalem day, or Al-Quds day, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Saudi Arabia said Sunday it would severely punish citizens or residents of the kingdom for supporting or having ties with the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

A statement published by Saudi Arabia’s official press agency said that those who show “loyalty to the so-called Hezbollah, sympathize with it, promote it, donate to it, communicate with it or house or cover those who belong to it will be subjected to the severe penalties stated in the regulations and orders, including the regulation on crimes of terrorism and its financing, in addition to the deportation of any expatriates found guilty of such actions.”

The new rules were implemented in accordance with the recent declaration by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to designate all factions of the Lebanese Shiite militia as a terror organization, the statement said.

A Saudi-led bloc of six Gulf Arab nations formally branded Hezbollah a terrorist organization on March 2, ramping up pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s key ally.

The sister of Hezbollah member Mohammad Issa who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sunday, holds his son Ahmed as she mourns over his coffin during his funeral procession, in the southern village of Arab Salim, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015 (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Zaatari)
The sister of Hezbollah member Mohammad Issa who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sunday, holds his son Ahmed as she mourns over his coffin during his funeral procession, in the southern village of Arab Salim, Lebanon, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015 (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Zaatari)

GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif al-Zayani said after the decision that Hezbollah’s terror activities in GCC member states and in Syria, Yemen and Iraq “are incompatible with the values and moral and humanitarian principles and international law, and pose a threat to Arab national security.”

The GCC’s move was quickly followed by the Arab League last Friday, which overwhelmingly voted in favor of declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

Out of the 22-member pan-Arab organization, only Lebanon and Iraq—two countries with large Shiite populations and heavy Iranian influence—expressed “reservations” against the declaration.

The blacklisting of Hezbollah by the GCC 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 Assad.

The March 2 decision by the Gulf states drew condemnation from Israel’s Arab MKs, who were in turn lambasted for their stance by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hits out at Arab MKs for supporting Hezbollah during a speech in the Knesset on March 7, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hits out at Arab MKs for supporting Hezbollah during a speech in the Knesset on March 7, 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)

“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 arsenal of rockets and missiles.

An image grab from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV shows Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah, giving a televised address from an undisclosed location on February 16, 2014 in Lebanon (screen capture: Al-Manar/AFP)
An image grab from Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV shows Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah, giving a televised address from an undisclosed location on February 16, 2014 in Lebanon (screen capture: Al-Manar/AFP)

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.

Agencies contributed to this report

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