UK adds entire Hezbollah group to terror blacklist

The group was established in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and is an important part of a regional Tehran-led alliance known as “the axis of resistance.”
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Updated 18 January 2020

UK adds entire Hezbollah group to terror blacklist

  • Political wrangling continues in Lebanon over new govt with major political parties boycotting it
  • The US already designates Hezbollah as a terrorist organization

BEIRUT: The UK on Friday said it had added the whole Hezbollah movement to its terrorism blacklist and frozen all its assets.

HM Treasury previously targeted the movement’s military wing, but the new sanctions classify all Hezbollah organizations and institutions under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act 2020 and freeze all its assets.

Hezbollah had “publicly denied a distinction between its military and political wings,” the treasury said on its website. “The group in its entirety is assessed to be concerned in terrorism and was proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK in March 2019. This listing includes the Military Wing, the Jihad Council and all units reporting to it, including the External Security Organisation.”

The sanctions come amid continued wrangling in Lebanon over the formation of a new government comprising 18 ministers from one political camp: Hezbollah and its allies.

Three main political parties — the Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and the Lebanese Forces — are boycotting the new government.

Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati said: “They claim that they are about to form a government of technocrats and specialists, at a time when they are openly disputing over shares and ministries, as if we are living in a normal situation with no crisis in the country, nor protesters in the streets.”

The country has been roiled by demonstrations, political instability and an economic crisis. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government resigned on Oct. 29, two weeks after the start of peaceful protests against tax increases and corruption. 

Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab was tasked last month to form a new government and there were hopes a new cabinet would be formed by the end of this week. 

Hariri has become more vocal about the obstacles blighting political negotiations, saying Thursday evening that the ones who fought his politics were also the ones who had brought the country to this “crisis situation.”

Hezbollah had previously said it wanted him to head the new government, but the group’s Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem recently criticized the policies of previous governments that were characterized with “financial waste, corruption, and protection of law breakers.”

These factors had, he warned, put Lebanon on the track leading to a “great economic and social crisis.”

“There will always be those who are not content with anything, those who have legitimate suspicions, and those who consider that they were excluded and who will try to obstruct the path of the government so that it would not succeed,” he added.

Former minister Pierre Raffoul, from the Free Patriotic Movement, accused Hariri of playing “an essential role” in obstructing the formation of the new government.

Public affairs expert Dr. Walid Fakhreddin ruled out a new government being formed soon but said the delay had more to do with regional developments, including the assassination of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani.

But protesters are keeping up the pressure on authorities and institutions, with banks the focus of widespread anger. 

Video footage showed a woman confronting protesters while they were smashing the glass of banks on Hamra Street. She can be heard asking where they are from, then telling them to go elsewhere. “Shame on you for terrorizing the inhabitants of Beirut,” she said.

Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

Fadi Hidmi. (Supplied)
Updated 04 April 2020

Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

  • East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic

AMMAN: Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Hidmi was released by Israeli police on Friday afternoon after being arrested for the fourth time without charge.

Ministry spokesman Awad Awad told Arab News that Hidmi had been “warned” not to “move around” or “do any work in” Jerusalem in accordance with measures being taken to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Awad also claimed that Hidmi had been physically abused by the police, saying that the minister was “punched in the face and forced to wear a mask with blood on it.”

CCTV at Hidmi’s Mount of Olives house show that he was manhandled by Israeli police during his arrest in the early hours of Friday.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the arrest.

Rosenfeld told the Israeli press that Hidmi was arrested “on suspicion of Palestinian activities in Jerusalem.”

He said police searched Hidmi’s home and confiscated documents as well as “large sums of money. Israeli media said that the police had confiscated NIS10,000 ($2,750) found in the house.

Hidmi, a Jerusalem resident, was the director of the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and Industry before accepting his current job in the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s government.

Before Hidmi’s release on Friday, Shtayyeh wrote on social media: “Israel targets who work for #Jerusalem, even at such critical moments as we work to save our people's lives from #COVID19.”

East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Jamil Kousa, director of the St. Joseph hospital, told Palestine TV that he was only informed on March 25 that his hospital should be prepared to accept patients with COVID-19.

Ahmad Buderi, the coordinator of the Jerusalem Alliance — an organization launched to help combat COVID-19 — has said that people in the city are depending almost solely on local initiatives to deal with the pandemic.

Before his arrest, Hidmi launched the website to coordinate the distribution of urgenly needed food and medical supplies to the city’s residents.

Walid Nammour, secretary-general of the Jerusalem Hospital Network, estimates that the city’s six hospitals need $7 million to to deal with the potential spread of COVID-19 in East Jerusalem.

Nammour told Arab News that 300-400 ventilators are needed and that only 26 are available at present.