Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine
Organization of the Oppressed on Earth
Revolutionary Justice Organization
Hizballah is an Islamic movement founded after the Israeli military seizure of Lebanon in 1982, which resulted in the formation of Islamic resistance units committed to the liberation of the occupied territories and the ejection of Israeli forces. Hizbollah was established in 1982 during the Lebanon War when a group of Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims declared themselves to be the “Party of God” (Hizb Allah, which is clear in Hizbollah but progressively less so in Hizbollah / Hizbullah / Hezbollah). Upon the realization that the IDF was entrenching itself in south Lebanon, and influenced and assisted by 1,500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon, Hizballah cells began developing with the immediate desire to resist the Israeli invasion. Hizbollah began establishing its base in Lebanon in 1982 and has expanded and strengthened ever since, primarily due to its wave of suicide bombings and foreign support by Iran and Syria.
Formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, this Lebanon-based radical Shia group takes its ideological inspiration from the Iranian revolution and the teachings of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. The Majlis al-Shura, or Consultative Council, is the group’s highest governing body and is led by Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah. Hizballah is dedicated to liberating Jerusalem and eliminating Israel, and has formally advocated ultimate establishment of Islamic rule in Lebanon. Nonetheless, Hizballah has actively participated in Lebanon’s political system since 1992. This radical Shia is dedicated to creation of Iranian-style Islamic republic in Lebanon and removal of all non-Islamic influences from area. It is strongly anti-Western and anti-Israeli.
A very important factor that developed Hizballah was the establishment of the Islamic Revolution in Iran that was led by the Imam Khomeini. This revolution consolidated new concepts in the field of Islamic thought mainly the concept of Willayat Al-Faqih. The revolution also generalized Islamic expressions against the west such as arrogance, the great Satan, hypocrites and the oppressed. Due to that it was only normal for the ideological doctrine in Iran to take root in Lebanon. This tie was very quickly translated on the ground by direct support from the Islamic Republic of Iran through its revolutionary guards and then to Hizballah that was resisting the Israeli occupation. This religious and ideological tie between Hizballah and Iran following the revolution with its stance towards the Zionist entity had a great effect on releasing vital material and moral support to Hizballah. Hizballah’s ideological ideals sees no legitimacy for the existence of Israel, a matter that elevates the contradictions to the level of existence. And the conflict becomes one of legitimacy that is based on religious ideals. The seed of resistance is also deep in the ideological beliefs of Hizballah, a belief that found its way for expression against the occupation of Lebanon.
Once established as a militia, Hizbollah received acclaim and legitimacy in Lebanon and throughout the Muslim world by fighting against IDF and SLA troops. In fact, since 1988 Hizbollah replaced Amal (the other prominent Shi’ite organization in Lebanon) as the predominant force due to its activity against Israel. Over the years Hizbollah military operations have grown to include attacking IDF and SLA outposts, ambushing convoys, laying explosive devices booby-trapping cars, and launching long range mortar shells and Katyusha rockets at IDF outposts and into Israel proper.
Between the spring of 1983 to the summer of 1985 the Hizballah launched an unprecedented wave of suicide bombings which included an attack on the US embassy and at a US Marine base in Beirut. Known or suspected to have been involved in numerous anti-US terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck bombing of the US Embassy and US Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 and the US Embassy Annex in Beirut in September 1984. Elements of the group were responsible for the kidnapping and detention of US and other Western hostages in Lebanon. The group also attacked the Israeli Embassy in Argentina in 1992.
On 07 February 2000 Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to act, in accordance with the decisions of the Political-Security Cabinet, against terrorist and Lebanese infrastructure targets. The Political-Security Cabinet’s decisions were in response to the serious escalation in Hizballah operations against the IDF and SLA, operations which are based in Lebanese villages – a violation of the “Grapes of Wrath” understandings. These operations were being neither prevented by the Lebanese government nor restrained by Syria.
The organization was very active against Israel during its stay in Lebanese territory, and since the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 it began focusing on increasing and expanding its activities within Israel with the aim of carrying out “quality” attacks in Israeli territory, thus disrupting any attempt at dialogue and any opportunity to return to the peace process. This became evident during earlier attempts to hold negotiations with regard to a ‘hudna’ (ceasefire), when Hizballah operators encouraged attacks aimed at causing these contacts to fail.
On Saturday morning, 7 October 2000, an armed and frenzied mob, numbering in the hundreds, attacked the border fence from Lebanese territory, immediately followed by heavy shelling of Israeli border positions by Hizballah terrorist elements from Lebanese territory, using explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, Sager missiles and border shells. During the course of this aggression, three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped by a Hizballah unit which had entered Israeli territory for this purpose.
The organization operates against Israel in four main ways:
- Bringing terrorists and collaborators through the border crossings using foreign documents
- Setting up a terrorist organization inside Israel and in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip
- Cross-border operations – smuggling weapons and terrorists
- Financial support for Palestinian organizations and groups.
Since 2003 it has been possible to see a trend of increasing cooperation between Hizballah in Lebanon and operational entities among the other Palestinian terrorist organizations, with the accent on Tanzim, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Popular Front. This cooperation is particularly evident between Hizballah and the Tanzim and in practice, in recent months Hizballah has served as a kind of “external command” for most of the Tanzim organizations in the territories.
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizballah, admitted for the first time in public the existence of a Hizballah unit responsible for activities with the Palestinians. He said this on Almanar television on July 19, 2004, after the death of Ghaleb Awaleh, a senior Hizballah terrorist: “. the fallen Ghaleb Awaleh is like the fallen Ali Salah, from the group which dedicated its life in recent years to helping our brothers in conquered Palestine. We do not wish to conceal the truth. We declare it and glory in it. Ghaleb Awaleh today has fallen on the Palestine road. He is a Jerusalem martyr. He is an Al Aksa Mosque martyr. He is a martyr in the fight against the Zionist enterprise. and we will not to abandon this fight and have never abandoned it. We are in a position where we will fight openly and we will fight clandestinely.”
Hizballah’s methods of controlling terrorist organizations in the territories are similar to those characteristic of the involvement of the command centers of Palestinian terrorist organizations abroad (Hamas and Islamic Jihad) in the actions of their organizations inside the country. Striking in this framework are the instructions to carry out mass murder attacks within Israeli territory, mediation between terrorists at the different centers of action, the large-scale transfer of money, and finally, coordination of the effort to upgrade the terrorist capabilities of the organizations.
The most significant remaining armed group in Lebanon is Hizballah, which the Government refers to, not as a Lebanese militia, but as a “national resistance group”. Hizballah seeks to defend Lebanon from Israel and the removal of Israeli forces from Lebanese soil, namely, the Shab’a farms. Lebanon maintains that the Shab’a farms are Lebanese territory, not Syrian. In the Secretary-General’s report of 16 June 2000, however, he confirmed that Israel has fulfilled the requirements of Security Council resolutions 425 and 426 to “withdraw its forces from all Lebanese territory”. The Council endorsed that conclusion on 18 June 2000 in a presidential statement. Notwithstanding the Lebanese Government’s position that the Shab’a farms area lies within Lebanon, the Government has confirmed that it would respect the Blue Line as identified by the United Nations. The Council has called on Lebanon to respect fully its line.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 (02 September 2004) called for the “disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias”. The Government of Lebanon is responsible for the disbanding and disarming of the militias, including Hizballah, and preventing the flow of armaments and other military equipment to the militias, including Hizballah, from Syria, Iran, and other external sources. Lebanon basically rejected Resolution 1559, and by early 2005 this presented the risk of Israeli retaliation against vital Lebanese infrastructure to force action to disarm Hizballah.
A heavy exchange of fire between Hizbollah and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) across the Blue Line took place on 21 November 2005, surpassing any activity level since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000. The exchange began with heavy Hizbollah mortar and rocket fire from a number of locations against several IDF positions close to the Blue Line in the eastern sector of the UNIFIL area of operation. Simultaneously, a large group of Hizbollah fighters infiltrated Ghajar village and launched an assault on the Mayor’s office and the IDF position inside the village, south of the Blue Line, which was vacant at the time. The ensuing Israeli retaliation was heavy and included aerial bombing. The exchange of fire subsequently spread all along the Blue Line and lasted for over nine hours. Around 800 artillery, tank and mortar rounds and rockets were exchanged. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) dropped at least 30 aerial bombs.
In a written report to the Security Council 18 April 2006, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Syria and Iran to stop interfering in Lebanon. The report, which was written by the secretary-general’s special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen, said that Hizballah, the Lebanese militant group, “maintains close ties, with frequent contacts and regular communication” with Syria and Iran.
Resolution 1680 (2006), adopted by the Security Council on 17 May 2006, welcomed the decision of the Lebanese national dialogue to disarm Palestinian militias outside refugee camps within six months, supports its implementation and calls for further efforts to disband and disarm all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias and to restore fully the Lebanese Government’s control over all Lebanese territory.
On July 12, 2006 members of Hizballah infiltrated the Lebanese-Israeli border near Shtula, an Israeli farming village, and claimed responsibility for an ambush conducted on two Israeli Army Hummvees. The attack resulted in the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the deaths of three others. Five more Israeli soldiers were killed in the ensuing pursuit of Hizballah members into Lebanese territory. The combined capture of two soldiers and the deaths of 8 others; was considered the worst loss for Israeli military forces in more than four years. Hizballah also claimed responsibility for two separate Katyusha rocket attacks on Israeli towns resulting in the death of 1 civilian and the injury of 25 others.
The kidnapping of Israeli troops by Hizballah came in the wake of a similar incident less than a month before, on June 25th, 2006, when Palestinian militants forcibly captured an Israeli soldier to use as leverage for bargaining with the Israeli government. The last time Hizballah carried out a similar operation against Israel was in October of 2000, when 3 Israeli soldiers were abducted by the Lebanese militants. All three victims died either by execution or wounds sustained during their capture. Their bodies were returned to Israel in exchange for the release of several Arab prisoners.
The 12 July 2006 attack resulted in immediate retaliation by the Israeli military, which responded to the hostilities against their troops and citizens by bombing roads, bridges, and power plants inside Lebanon. The specific targeting of al-Manar, the Hizballah controlled television station, and the Lebanese international airport as well as the blockading of Lebanon’s sea ports was an attempt to force the return of the captured Israeli troops and place greater pressure on Hizballah. These retaliatory actions by Israel resulted in the deaths of dozens of Lebanese civilians and threats of further rocket attacks by Hizballah.
Syrian Civil War
Up to 10,000 Hezbollah militiamen are estimated to have been fighting in Syria at any one time. By November 2015 Hezbollah fighters increased in numbers on the front lines in northern Syria, aiding the military of President Bashar al-Assad against rebel forces and Islamic State militants. The presence of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah had grown noticeably in Syria since Russia began its air campaign in late September 2015 in support of the Assad government. Hezbollah casualty figures in October showed a steady increase in battle deaths.
In the ongoing battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, Tehran-backed Hezbollah fighters have reportedly taken a key role alongside Iranian forces in support of the Syrian regime. Hezbollah is preoccupied in other battles as well, including in northern Hama and a smaller involvement in Quneitra.
Since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, Hezbollah had not been very open about the scale of its involvement, but its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has occasionally referred to siding with the Syrian government as a strategic need and a religious duty.
Hezbollah lent support to Assad’s regime from the start of the civil war with small numbers of fighters but committed heavily when the war dragged on to do all it could militarily to save Syria’s strongman, a member of the Alawite minority sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam. Hezbollah fighters were schooled from a young age to submit to strict military discipline and are nurtured in a culture of martyrdom, believing that God sanctions their struggles.
Many attended university or at least completed high school, and their military and ideological training is rigorous. They are lauded within the Shi’ite communities of the Bekaa Valley and southern Lebanon as defenders of a Muslim sect that traditionally was powerless and downtrodden in a country dominated by Christian and Sunni Muslim landlords and politicians.
Many Lebanese Shi’ites doubted the wisdom of the involvement in Syria. When young Lebanese Shi’ite fighters started to return in body bags in 2014, some supporters, especially those in southern Lebanon, questioned why Hezbollah was fighting in Syria, arguing the real enemy is Israel. But a series of jihadist bombings in Shi’ite strongholds of Beirut and suicide bombings in the Bekaa Valley changed that — the critics fell back into line.
“The Islamic State has been a saving grace for Hezbollah’s recruitment efforts,” said Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and author of the book “Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God.” Until the bombings and the rise of the Islamic State, “there was a lot of backlash to Hezbollah,” he adds. “Hezbollah is seen as the only one capable of defending Shi’ites from the onslaught of the radical Sunnis.”
By early 2016 there was increasing concern that Hezbollah is getting valuable battlefield experience in Syria, especially when it comes to large-scale, coordinated offensive operations, something the Shi’ite militia had little knowledge of before. That practical experience could be of use in any subsequent conflict with Israel. Hezbollah commanders acknowledge the benefits. Hezbollah has been in the vanguard of large assaults on Syrian rebels and not just along the border in Qalamoun and Quneitra but also further afield around Aleppo in northern Syria.
There was always a fair amount of synergy between the Iranians and Hezbollah in terms of tactics, command-and-control and training. The missions they were involved with in Syria were different from what they had been working on with Iranian revolutionary guards in the context of strategic competition with the Israelis. So in Syria, Hezbollah had to become somewhat masterful in counter-insurgency.
Hezbollah has also learned to coordinate with other other irregular militias that have come from as far away as Afghanistan. And Israel’s arch-enemy has become used to working with the Russian military — calling in airstrikes and liaising when it comes to intelligence and reconnaissance. Hezbollah is learning to use more sophisticated equipment, and it is getting more battlefield experience for its fighters.
The State Department’s 1993 report on international terrorism lists Hizbollah’s “strength” at several thousand. Hizbollah sources assert that the organization has about 5,000-10,000 fighters. Other sources report that Hizbollah’s militia consists of a core of about 300-400 fighters, which can be expanded to up to 3,000 within several hours if a battle with Israel develops. These reserves presumably are called in from Hizbollah strongholds in Lebanon, including the Bekaa Valley and Beirut’s southern suburbs. The number of members involved in combat activity in southern Lebanon is under 1,000. But it has many activists and moral supporters. After the Israeli withdrawal Hizballah reduced the number of full time fighters to about 500, though estimates range from 300 to 1,200. There are also several thousand reserves, but these lack training or experience.
Hizbollah’s militia is a light force, equipped with small arms, such as automatic rifles, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and Katyusha rockets, which it occasionally has fired on towns in northern Israel. Hizbollah forces are shown on television conducting military parades in Beirut, which often include tanks and armored personnel carriers that may have been captured from the Lebanese army or purchased from Palestinian guerrillas or other sources.
Location/Area of Operation
Operates in the Al Biqa’ (Bekaa Valley), the southern suburbs of Beirut, and southern Lebanon. Has established cells in Europe, Africa, South America, North America, and elsewhere. Its training bases are mostly in the previously Syrian-controlled Biqa Valley, and its headquarters and offices are in southern Beirut and in Ba’albek.
Hizballah was established by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who came to Lebanon during the 1982 “Peace for Galilee” war, as part of the policy of exporting the Islamic revolution. It receives substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid from Iran and Syria. Published reports that Iran provides hundreds million dollars of aid annually are probably exaggerated. Iran probably provides financial assistance and military assistance worth about $25-50 million.
Hizballah is closely allied with, and often directed by, Iran but has the capability and willingness to act independently. Closely allied with, and often directed by Iran, it may have conducted operations that were not approved by Tehran. Though Hizballah does not share the Syrian regime’s secular orientation, the group has been a strong ally in helping Syria advance its political objectives in the region.
The “Martyr’s Charity” (Bonyad-e Shahid) supplied charitable funds for the families of suicide bombers. In 2001, Paraguayan police searched the home of Hizballah operative Sobhi Mahmoud Fayad in the the Tri-Border Area where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet. Police found receipts from the Martyr’s Organization totaling more than $3.5 million for donations Fayad sent, though authorities believed Fayad had sent over $50 million to Hizballah since 1995.
Besides operating a worldwide network of fundraisers, funds are also raised through so-called ‘charity funds.’ Some of these are extremist Islamic institutions that, while not directly connected to Hizballah, support it, albeit marginally, in view of their radical Islamic orientation. While some of these funds undoubtedly pay for Hizballah’s military and terrorist operations, other funds enable the group to provide its members with day jobs, to drape itself in a veil of legitimacy, and to build grassroots support among not only Shi’a, but also Sunni and Christian Lebanese. In March 2005, Hizballah organized a large demonstration to protest American and other international pressure on Syria to completely withdraw from Lebanon. Syria did subsequently withdraw its military and intelligence forces. The Syrian withdrawal may have left a vacuum for Iran to expand its influence in Lebanon and on Hizballah.
In Israel’s view, Hizballah’s activities are part of Iran’s overall policy with regard to Israel, which is to fan the flames of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and initiate terrorist activities against Israel, despite the fact that Hizballah is a Lebanese organization consisting entirely of terrorists from Lebanon, with no national connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In view of Iran’s interest in smudging its fingerprints with regard to direct control over internal terrorist activities, Hizballah’s status is significant as Iran’s front-line operative arm against Israel.