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Washington offers $12m rewards for two Hezbollah leaders

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The US offered multimillion-dollar rewards on Tuesday for two Hezbollah militia leaders.
The State Department said the government would pay up to $7 million for information leading to the arrest of Talal Hamiyah, head of the group’s external security organization, and up to $5m for Fuad Shukr, a top Hezbollah military operative, reported Arab News (Saudi Arabia).

Hamiyah is responsible for planning and executing Hezbollah’s terrorist activities outside Lebanon. He is suspected of involvement in the 1994 Hezbollah attacks in Argentina. Shukr runs the group’s military forces in southern Lebanon.

US counterterrorism officials said they believed Hezbollah wanted to develop the capacity to strike inside the US and they continue to see activity on behalf of the group in America.

The rewards were offered as Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Lebanese Army was now controlled by Hezbollah, and Israel would fight both in any future war.

“We are no longer talking about Hezbollah alone,” Lieberman told Israeli troops. “We are talking about Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army, and to my regret, this is the reality. The Lebanese Army has turned into an integral part of Hezbollah’s command structure. It has lost its independence and become an inseparable part of the Hezbollah apparatus.”

Lieberman’s remarks are a reversal of Israel’s previous view, which was that the Lebanese Army was autonomous, even if some of its troops cooperated with the better-armed Hezbollah, who are aligned with and supplied by Iran.

The Lebanese Army insists it operates independently of Hezbollah. During an operation against Daesh militants in the Arsal border area in July and August, when Hezbollah attacked from the Syrian side at the same time, Lebanon said there was no coordination.

Lieberman said on Tuesday that Israel, which invaded Lebanon in 2006, sought to avoid going to war again on its northern border — but if it did, any conflict would include Syria.
“In anything that transpires, it will be one theater, Syria and Lebanon together, Hezbollah, the Assad regime and all of the Assad regime’s collaborators,” he said.

There was no immediate reaction in Lebanon to Lieberman’s remarks. However, a military source told Arab News that military strength in the south, depleted by the action against Daesh on the northeastern border with Syria, was being reinforced again.

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The U.S. Department of State's Rewards for Justice Program is offering rewards for information leading to the location, arrest, or conviction in any country of two key leaders of the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hizballah. The Department is offering a reward of up to $7 million for information on Talal Hamiyah, and up to $5 million for information on Fu’ad Shukr, released U.S. Department of State.

Hizballah has been involved in numerous terrorist attacks against Americans, including the suicide truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984, and the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985. Hizballah’s victims have also included numerous other nationalities.

Talal Hamiyah has been linked to several terrorist attacks, hijackings, and kidnappings targeting U.S. citizens. He leads Hizballah’s international terrorist branch, the External Security Organization (ESO). The ESO maintains terrorist cells worldwide and is responsible for planning and conducting terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon. Those attacks have targeted primarily Israelis and Americans.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Hamiyah as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224 on September 13, 2012. As a result of the designation, all of Hamiyah’s assets that are based in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

Fu’ad Shukr is a senior Hizballah military commander of the group’s forces in southern Lebanon and a member of Hizballah’s highest military body, the Jihad Council. Shukr played a key role in Hizballah’s recent military operations in Syria and in planning and launching the 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in which 241 U.S. service personnel were killed. The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Shukr as a Specially Designated National pursuant to Executive Order 13582 on July 21, 2015 for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.

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A multimillion dollar reward offered by the Trump administration in return for information leading to the arrest of two senior operatives of Hizbullah is part of ongoing U.S. efforts to "demonize" the group, a Hizbullah official said Wednesday, reported Naharnet (Lebanon).

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

He was reacting to the State Department's announcement Tuesday of a total of $12 million for information leading to the location, arrest or conviction of the two, as part of tougher U.S. action against Iran, the Shiite militant group's regional backer.

The rewards are the first offered by the United States for Hizbullah leaders in a decade, and come against the backdrop of heightened U.S.-Iran tensions resulting from President Donald Trump's threats to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

An avowed critic of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, Trump has called it one of America's "worst and most one-sided transactions" ever. U.S. officials have said he is looking for ways to pressure Tehran. Under the new policy, the White House is focusing on the Revolutionary Guard and Hizbullah -- two Iran-backed entities that have long elicited scorn from much of the West.

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