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Hezbollah: Violence mixed with social mission

July 13, 2006 • Saturday July 15, 2006

(CNN) — The group called Hezbollah is on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, but also participates in the Lebanese government. A few facts on the organization:

• Hezbollah is a Shiite militant group in Lebanon, regarded by the U.S. and Israel as a terrorist organization.

• It opposes Israel and the West, and supports a fundamentalist Muslim government.

• It is dedicated to eliminating Israel and has formally advocated ultimate establishment of Islamic rule in Lebanon, according to the U.S. State Department.

• It garners popular support among Lebanese by setting up schools, hospitals and other social services.

• It has become a social/political movement, holding 14 seats in the 128-member Lebanese parliament, according to the parliament’s Web site.

• The word “hezbollah” means “party of God” in Arabic.

• Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is the head of Hezbollah.

• Hezbollah fighters operate with almost total autonomy in southern Lebanon, and the government has no control over their actions, according to The Associated Press. But Lebanon has long resisted international pressure to disarm the group.

• Hezbollah has often launched shells and fired rockets into northern Israel and into the disputed Shebaa Farms area.

• Islamic Resistance is the name of Hezbollah’s military wing.

• Hezbollah is known or suspected to have been involved in numerous terror attacks against the U.S., Israel or other Western targets, including the 1983 suicide truck bombings in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. Marines at the Marine barracks and 58 at the French military barracks.

• The United States and Israel say that Hezbollah is given financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and training, from Iran and Syria. Syria says it supports Hezbollah, but denies supplying it with weapons.

• Hezbollah was founded in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

• It absorbed most of the 1980s umbrella coalition of terrorist groups known as Islamic Jihad, according to Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center.

• In 2004, Hezbollah exchanged prisoners with Israel in a deal that took three years to negotiate. Israel released more than 400 prisoners and returned 59 bodies of Lebanese fighters. Hezbollah released a kidnapped Israeli businessman and the bodies of three Israeli soldiers.

• The 1996 suicide bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, in which 19 are killed, was attributed to Hezbollah.

• Hezbollah was blamed for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina, in which 85 were killed.

• The State Department estimates Hezbollah has “several thousand supporters and a few hundred terrorist operatives.”

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