A congressional committee is considering enhancing sanctions targeting the Hezbollah terrorist group, JTA reported Friday.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee who called Thursday’s hearing, said the 2015 Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act was a good start, but one needing enhancement as Hezbollah still remained a threat to Israel.
“Part II of this legislation is coming,” he said in his opening remarks. “But unfortunately that’s of little comfort to Israelis staring down an arsenal of rockets that sit just across the border in Lebanon, or the Syrians being slaughtered at the hands of these terrorists.”
The United States, which blacklisted Hezbollah as a terrorist group, regularly sanctions members of the group.
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.
Late last month, the U.S. blacklisted Hashem Safieddine, president of Hezbollah's executive council, which oversees the group's social and economic activities.
Matthew Levitt, the director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said at Thursday’s hearing that applying secondary sanctions on organizations dealing with Hezbollah in Africa and Latin America “would serve as a powerful reminder of HIFPA’s global reach.” HIFPA is the acronym for the 2015 law.
The Anti-Defamation League, submitting written testimony, made a similar recommendation.
“Despite the public exposure of Iranian and Hezbollah operatives in the deadly 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Argentina, Hezbollah continues to enjoy financial benefit through relations with regional-based transnational criminal organizations,” the ADL said. Hezbollah has never acknowledged a role in the bombing, which killed 85 people.
David Asher, a finance expert testifying on behalf of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, described the reach of Hezbollah’s alleged criminal enterprises, which he said funds its terrorist activities.
“Hezbollah, partnered with Latin American cartels and paramilitary partners, is now one of the largest exporters of narcotics from South and Central America to West Africa into Europe and is perhaps the world’s largest money laundering organization,” he said in his testimony, according to JTA.
Royce spoke about how Hezbollah has garnered its military influence: “Since its inception,” Royce said, “Hezbollah has developed a broad criminal network involved in a range of illegal activities – from drug trafficking to cigarette smuggling to money laundering to counterfeiting. These global terrorists double as global criminals.”
The hearing was held on the same day that the U.S. Justice Department announced the arrests of Ali Kourani and Samer El Debek, for allegedly conducting activities on behalf of the terrorist organization.
Their alleged responsibilities included finding weapon suppliers in the United States to as well as identifying U.S. and Israeli military targets in the New York area.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)