Also referred to as Hizbullah by some, Hezbollah means the “Party of God.” God in this instance refers to Allah, the God of Islam. Hezbollah is a militant Islamic group that was formed in the early 1980s, purportedly to counter the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. This group holds that any land considered Israeli land is in fact Muslim territory that is simply being occupied by Israel.
Harsh Hezbollah rhetoric includes statements that Israel has no right to exist and that Israel’s destruction is part of its mission. The group has been fighting with Israel for decades and has dug into Lebanon, intermingling with its government as well as its citizenry. Many Lebanese people see Hezbollah as a protector and a provider of social services, although it is classified by Israel and others around the world as an Islamic terrorist organization.
In 2006, as Hezbollah crossed Israel’s border, killed and kidnapped a handful of its soldiers, and began raining rockets over civilian populations, Israel again entered Lebanon. As the battle ensued, many were appalled that Hezbollah hid amongst civilians while carrying out attacks. Others claimed that Israel used “disproportionate force” and intentionally went after civilians.
Hezbollah clearly defied United Nations Resolution 1559, which in previous years demanded that it disarm. Many worry that the sketchy cease-fire of 2006 will be more of the same, since such resolutions have not been enforced in the past. It is quite possible that this is merely a “time out” for Hezbollah to regroup and re-arm or wait for further instructions from its benefactors, rather than a true cease-fire. Terrorist organizations rarely pay heed to resolutions, Geneva Conventions, or any other rules of war.
Hezbollah has obvious ties to Iran and Syria and appears to do the bidding of Iranian and Syrian leaders, accepting money and arms from these states. While some see Hezbollah as an arm of these countries, a way to attack without formal declarations of war against other nations, others hold Hezbollah up as a legitimate political and military organization.
Israel is not the only enemy of Hezbollah. This group also seeks to defeat other influences in the Middle East, including that of the United States. It is believed that the suicide bombing of a U.S. Marine’s barracks in Beirut in 1983 was the work of Hezbollah. The attack killed 241 Marines. Many other suicide bombings are credited to Hezbollah as well, and several Western hostages are believed to have been kidnapped by this group over the years.