February 25, 2019 8:49 am
Updated: February 25, 2019 8:52 am

U.K. to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist group

WATCH ABOVE: Hezbollah warned in January that they could "at any moment" change how they deal with Israel for its actions in Syria, while also speaking about the tunnels Israel found dug into Lebanon.

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Britain said on Monday it plans to ban all wings of Hezbollah due to its destabilizing influence in the Middle East, classing the Lebanese Islamist movement as a terrorist organization.

London had already proscribed Hezbollah’s external security unit and its military wing in 2001 and 2008 respectively, but now wants to outlaw its political arm too.

READ MORE: Hezbollah leader warns Israel of ‘major confrontation’ if Syria attacks continue

“Hezbollah is continuing in its attempts to destabilize the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party,” Home Secretary (interior minister) Sajid Javid said.

“Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety,” he added in a statement.

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The Iran-backed Shi’ite group is already deemed a terrorist organization by the United States which last week expressed concern about its growing role in Lebanon’s government.

Canada also lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

READ MORE: Toronto charity disputes CRA accusation it was formed to spread ‘Iranian revolutionary ideology in Canada’

Hezbollah’s lawmakers said that was a “violation of sovereignty.” Set up in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, it last fought a major war with Israel, its lifelong enemy, in 2006.

WATCH BELOW: Israeli military finds several tunnels under Lebanon border

The British ban, which will come into force on Friday subject to parliament’s approval, means anyone who is a member of Hezbollah or invites support will be committing a criminal offence with a potential sentence of up to 10 years in jail.

Explaining its decision, the British government said the organization continued to amass weapons in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions, while its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had prolonged “the conflict and the regime’s brutal and violent repression of the Syrian people.”

There was no immediate reaction from Hezbollah to the British move.

WATCH BELOW: Israel calls Hezbollah’s cross-border tunnels an ‘act of war’

The group controls three of 30 ministries in Lebanon’s government, the largest number it has ever held, and has seen its regional clout expand too with fighters in various Middle East conflicts including neighboring Syria.

It does not acknowledge the existence of separate wings.

READ MORE: Israeli military releases video showing explosion, says another Hezbollah tunnel has been destroyed

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, once described Hezbollah as friends, a remark regularly seized upon by opponents for criticism.

“What do we see from his Labour Party? Hamas and Hezbollah friends, Israel and the United States enemies,” Prime Minister Theresa May said last week.

© 2019 Reuters

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