Hezbollah official: U.S. trying to 'demonize' the group

Hezbollah official says multimillion dollar reward offered for two senior members of the group will not affect Hezbollah's activities.

Elad Benari, Canada,

Hezbollah supporters
Hezbollah supporters

A Hezbollah official said on Wednesday that the multimillion dollar reward offered by the Trump administration in return for information leading to the arrest of two senior members of the group is part of ongoing U.S. efforts to "demonize" Hezbollah.

The new U.S. measures, including recent sanctions, will not affect Hezbollah's operational activities, the official told The Associated Press.

On Tuesday, the State Department's Counterterrorism Bureau said it would give $7 million and $5 million, respectively, for information leading to the capture of Talal Hamiyah and Fuad Shuk

Hamiyah is the head of the organization's External Security Organization, its "element responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution of terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon", the State Department said.

Shukr is a senior operative who played a central role in planning and carrying out the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 American service personnel.

Nicholas J. Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said before announcing the reward that the U.S. believes that Hezbollah is determined to give itself an option to carry out attacks inside the United States.

"It is our assessment that Hezbollah is determined to give itself a potential homeland option as a critical component of its terrorism playbook," Rasmussen said during a briefing, adding that before the September 11, 2001 attacks, Hezbollah was responsible for more American deaths than any other foreign terrorism group.

The rewards are the first offered by the United States for Hezbollah leaders in a decade. Hezbollah is blacklisted as a terrorist organization in the United States, which regularly sanctions members of the group.

The Hezbollah official dismissed the accusations against the two members for whom rewards were offered, telling AP the United States is "the last state" to designate people on terror lists, accusing it of supporting terrorist organizations and sponsoring states and regimes "that have a long history in financing and supporting terrorism."

"It is part of the continuous efforts to demonize Hezbollah. They are false accusations that will not have any effect on the operational activities of Hezbollah," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with party regulations.

Washington has in the past imposed sanctions on the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah and two other members of the organization, for their alleged role in aiding the Syrian government in its crackdown on opposition forces.

In May, Saudi Arabia and the United States jointly blacklisted Hashem Safieddine, president of Hezbollah's executive council, which oversees the group's social and economic activities.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)