April 30 (UPI) — Germany has banned activities by Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, its Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
Ministry spokesman Steve Alter said Horst Seehofer, the interior minister, banned the Iran-backed militant group, calling it a “Shiite terrorist organization.”
He said police have conducted raids in several states targeting the group since early Thursday, without elaborating.
“The rule of law can also act in times of crisis,” he said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeremy Issacharoff, Israel’s ambassador to Germany, said via Twitter they “welcome” the ban as an “extremely significant and meaningful step by Germany in combatting international terror.”
“This measure by Germany is also important given the ongoing attempts by Hezbollah to threaten Israel and undermine regional stability,” Issacharoff said. “This decision, that is already being implemented on the ground by the German police, should be adopted by all members of the European Union.”
The United States and Israel have long pushed Germany to designate and ban Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
In November 2019 during a visit to Germany by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters that his government had been discussing the issue with their Israeli and American counterparts and was looking to find “a European answer.”
“We have been witnessing developments in the region and in Lebanon that gives us cause to be seriously concerned,” Maas said. “And, as I said, we will be engaging with our European partners with an eye to a possible listing of Hezbollah, but this presupposes European unanimity.”
In December, the German parliament passed a motion urging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to ban the militant group.
The move follows Britain banning Hezbollah last year while Canada added the militant group to its list of terrorist organizations in 2002.
The European Union has designated Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization but not its political arm.