JERUSALEM, Israel – Germany has officially classified the Iranian-backed Hezbollah as a terror organization and banned all Hezbollah activity in the country, Germany’s Interior Ministry announced Thursday.
The announcement came as German officials conducted early morning raids against suspected members of the organization. They raided four mosques believed to be linked to Hezbollah in Berlin, Bremen, and the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
"Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has banned the Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah in Germany," a ministry spokesman said.
"Even in times of crisis, the rule of law is capable of acting," he added. There was no immediate reaction from Hezbollah.
Previously, Germany had distinguished between Hezbollah’s political wing and its military wing. Security officials believe up to 1,050 people in Germany are members of Hezbollah’s extremist wing, Reuters reports.
Last December, Germany’s parliament approved a motion urging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to ban all Hezbollah activity in Germany.
Israel and the United States have long pushed Germany to designate the Lebanon-based group as a terrorist organization.
Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff welcomed “this extremely significant and meaningful step by Germany in combatting international terror” in a tweet Thursday morning.
The American Jewish Committee also applauded the designation.
“This is a welcome, much-anticipated, and significant German decision,” said AJC CEO David Harris, who has been directly involved in this issue for decades. “We would like to thank the Government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, and express particular appreciation for the leadership role of Interior Minister Horst Seehofer as well as the important support of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, in advancing the landmark decision.”
Two other European countries – the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – have previously designated Hezbollah as a terror group.
Hezbollah is also considered a terror organization by Argentina. Canada. Honduras, Paraguay, the Arab League, Gulf Cooperation Council, Israel, and the US.