Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim organization formed in Lebanon after the Israeli invasion in nineteen eighty-two. The name means “Party of God."
|Hezbollah militants during a parade last year|
Hezbollah calls itself a resistance group. It took credit when Israel ended the occupation of southern Lebanon in two thousand. The United States, among others, considers it a terrorist organization.
Hezbollah's history of attacks includes the bombing that killed two hundred forty-one Americans in Beirut in nineteen eighty-three. Most of the dead were Marines. That attack led to the withdrawal of American peacekeepers from Lebanon. This week Marines were back in Beirut to help Americans leave the country.
Most Western experts believe Hezbollah gets much financial and military support from the Iranian government. Iran says it gives only moral support.
An Iranian spokesman this week denied an Israeli charge that Iranian forces were in Lebanon helping Hezbollah fire rockets into Israel. He also said Israel would face great losses if it attacked Syria, which withdrew troops from Lebanon last year.
Hezbollah is organized into political and military parts. It has thousands of rockets, which the group has used to kill Israelis. But Hezbollah also provides social services, including schools and hospitals, in Lebanon. And it has entered Lebanese politics. It holds seats in Parliament and, after elections last year, has two members in the government.
Hezbollah operates from mainly Shiite areas of Beirut, southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. American intelligence experts say some members are active in Europe, Africa and the Americas.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is the secretary-general of Hezbollah. He says Israel is the aggressor. He says Muslims have a duty to fight Israeli occupation of their lands. But critics says the group's actions are hurting Lebanon at a time when its economy was beginning to recover from years of civil war.
On Thursday, at the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for an immediate end to the hostilities of the past week. He said Hezbollah started the crisis and is holding the nation of Lebanon hostage. On July twelfth Hezbollah members kidnapped two Israeli soldiers inside Israel. But Mister Annan also condemned the Israeli military actions that have followed as "excessive."
Israel says its goal is to end the threat of attacks from Hezbollah. It also wants the kidnapped soldiers back. Hezbollah's leader demanded a prisoner exchange.
Kofi Annan called for an international conference on putting Security Council guidelines into effect. Israel has said it would welcome any effort on Resolution Fifteen Fifty-Nine. That resolution calls for the deployment of Lebanese troops along the border, and the disarming of militant groups including Hezbollah.
And that's IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English, written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Steve Ember.