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Hizbullah, aka: Party of God, Islamic Jihad , Revolutionary Justice Organisation, Organisation of the Oppressed on Earth, Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine.

Hizbullah, an arabic phrase meaning Party of God, is one of the more significant independence movements based in the Middle East. This Lebanese Shi'ite group was created in 1983 with strong guidance from the Islamic government in Iran. Its goal today, as always, is the creation of an independent, Islamic Lebanon and the ousting of anything related to the "godless West", which is borne out in their virulently anti-U.S.A. and anti-Israel activities. In light of these facts, it is no surprise that Hizbullah has been extremely active in its efforts to disrupt the peace process. Examples of this are plentiful but have included mass demonstrations, guerrilla strikes from camps in the Bekaa Valley and the much feared suicide car bombings.

Their targets have included Israeli civilians and military personnel. Bombing over the Israeli border since the withdrawal from South Lebanon and the disbanding of the South Lebanese Army. Hizbullah has taken significant losses in men and material, but strong backing from Iran has definitely benefitted the group, both in terms of training and weaponry.

The group's military wing, Islamic Resistance Movement (not to be confused with HAMAS which also uses the name), has received a steady supply of advanced explosives and detonating devices which has enabled Hizbullah to create what has become their trademark: the car bomb. Never was this capability more evident than the infamous 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. In this incident, a suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden truck through the inadequate perimeter defenses before setting off his bomb. The resulting explosion demolished the building, killing hundreds. Katuysha rockets have also been used by this group in retaliatory attacks on Jewish settlements.

Hizbullah sometimes operates under the name Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine, which sometimes causes confusion due to the fact that another group, Palestine Islamic Jihad, operates in the same area and has attacked some of the same type of targets. Hizbullah has spawned numerous splinter groups as well. Most notable of these may well be a little-known group "Supporters of God". In March 1992, an immense car bomb destroyed the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. An identical device exploded there on July 18 outside a Jewish community centre killing nearly 100 civilians. It wasn't until the July 23rd 1994 that a credible claim was made as to who carried out the attacks. In a statement out of Lebanon, a group calling itself Ansarollah ("Supporters of God" or "Partisans of God") announced that it was responsible for not only these horrendous acts, but also for the little-known bombing of a Panamanian commuter flight that crashed near Colon on July 19. The Lebanese government provided information that confirmed not only the existence of the group, but additionally linked Supporters of God to Hizbullah. As car bombs are a signature weapon of Hizbullah, the possibility that the builders of the bombs, if not members of Hizbullah, may very well have received their training from the Palestinians.

Hizbullah's existence has been complicated slightly by the January 24th 1995 Executive Order, signed by President Clinton which prohibits transactions with the group due to their potential for disrupting the Middle East peace process. As mentioned previously, Hizbullah obtains the majority of its external support from the Islamic regime in Iran. World pressure has recently been increased against nations sponsoring international terrorism, with significant sanctions being imposed against said sponsors. Nonetheless, Iran has not relented and Hizbullah remains one of the most significant terrorist organisations operating today.

Hizbullah's Own View

Hizbullah - social radicals?.

"The prevelant perception of Hizbullah in the "west" is of a militant, armed terrorist organization bent on abduction and murder. While the initial years of its emergence as a political movement in Lebanon were turbulent and controvertial, The Party of God has matured to become an important and pivotal force in Middle East politics in general and Lebanese society in particular. Hizbullah has its immediate historic roots in the social uprising of the Lebanese Shia community in the late 1960's and early 70's that took its inspiration from the charismatic Imam Musa Sadr who "disappeared" in Libya in 1978.

"Sadr's Movement of the Deprived (Harakat al-Mahrumin) with it's military wing and present-day political party, Amal soon became mired in the convolutions of Lebanese politics and the 15-year civil war. The Israeli invasion of 1982 provided the catalyst for Shi'ite radicalism. Hizbullah emerged with the aim of expelling the occupants and alleviating the social sufferings of the Shia community.

"While Al Moqawama al Islamia (The Islamic Resistance) has attracted much of world attention, the various other community activities of Hizbullah are of equal if not greater importance at home. It runs a range of philanthropic and commercial activities including hospitals, medical centers, schools, orphanages, rehabilitation centers for the handicapped, supermarkets, gas stations, contructions companies, a radio station (Nur) and public service television station (Al Manar). Up until the middle 1990's Hizbullah was also responsible for public services and utilities in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

"In it's early days, Hizbullah gained much notoriety through the kidnappings of several westerners by one of its fringe groups. But what has caused most political consternation are its quite spectacular actions against various foreign occupants. The bombing of the barracks of the US Marines and French headquarters in 1983 killed 300 soldiers of the Multinational Force that by then had lost its semblance of neutrality of intervention in the punishing Israeli siege and occupation of West Beirut.

"That humiliation led the US to lose its nerve in trying to police the conflict which no longer was restricted to an Israeli - Palestinian matter, with force. The subsequent bombing of the "Israeli Defence Forces" headquarters in Tyre with 75 soldiers lost took its toll on Israeli resolve and led to it's retreat to the present occupation zone in the south. The present activities of the resistance in southern Lebanon continue to try both morale and staying-will of the Israeli occupation whose losses in 1997 alone were 35 men. What is not commonly understood abroad is that the aim of the resistance in southern Lebanon is not military activity against northern Israel as carried on by the Palestinian guerillas of the 70's and early 80's, but the liberation of occupied Lebanon.

"The revolution against the Shah in Iran undoubtedly carried much inspiration for the Shi community in Lebanon, but it's modern historic roots go back to the Islamic revival at the centers of learning in Najf, Iraq in the 1960's. Hizbullah's spiritual leader is Sheikh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah who remains somewhat distant from the running of the party who's general secretary is Sheikh Sa'id Hassan Nasrallah".

March 1998 / bl

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