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Insurgency Overview​​

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shia Islamist political party and militant group. It is led by Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah since 1992. As an organisation it has several wings, one being the paramilitary wing (known as the Jihad Council) and it has a political wing present within the Lebanese parliament (known as the ‘Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc’ party) (Levitt p15, 2013). Established 3 years after the end of the 1982 Lebanon War by Shia clerics, it modelled itself after the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini and it adopted the name 'Hezbollah' following training received by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps instructors (Shatz, 2004). Listing several objectives in its 1985 manifesto, it took on an overtly anti-imperialist tone calling for the expulsion of "to expel the Americans, the French and their allies definitely from Lebanon, putting an end to any colonialist entity on our land" (Hezbollah, 1988). Hezbollah has also participated in multiple conflicts from its inception and even organised volunteers to fight alongside the Bosniak army during the Bosnian war between 1992 and 1995 (Fisk, 2014).

Hezbollah has participated in Lebanese politics since 1990. When a national unity government was formed in 2008, they, along with allied parties, gained enough seats (11 out of 30) to attain a veto power, henceforth enabling them to have serious control over the flow of Lebanese politics (CFR, 2008). In the 2018 Lebanese general election, the Hezbollah political wing held 12 seats and its alliance won the general election and gained a majority of 70 out of 128 seats in the parliament (Reuters Staff, 2018). Maintaining strong support within Lebanon’s Shia community (BBC Middle East, 2005) and support amongst Lebanon’s Christian communities (Zirulnik, 2012), it has also participated in Syria’s Civil war since 2012 on the side of the Syrian Government under Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah militias have been deployed to Syria and Iraq in order to train local militias (Hashem, 2014) as well as fight against Islamic State forces (Sly and Haidamous, 2015).

Hezbollah has been designated as a terrorist organisation by several countries, as well as by the European Union (Kanter and Rudoren, 2013) and most of the Arab League with some exceptions, that being Lebanon and Iraq (Wedeman, 2017). The Gulf Cooperation Council also designated the organisation as a terrorist group through a unanimous decision and said it would “take measures against the group’s interest in the Gulf countries” (Al-Tamimi, 2013). Interestingly, Russia has not designated the group as a terrorist organisation but rather as a "legitimate socio-political force" (Reuters Staff, 2015) which may indicate its attempts to draw closer relations with Iran, who have consistently supported Hezbollah with both arms, funding and training through the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp) (Goldberg, 2002).

History & Foundations

Hezbollah evolved into a formidable paramilitary force in Lebanon during the 1980s, influenced directly by Israel's 1982 invasion of the nation. Shortly after its inception, Hezbollah engaged in prolonged guerrilla warfare against Israeli forces in southern Lebanon, with Iranian financial and ideological support (BBC Middle East, 2010). This newly-formed group extended its operations beyond Lebanon's borders, targeting Western interests such as the U.S. embassy in Beirut and the U.S. Marine barracks, resulting in significant casualties and global attention. These events solidified Hezbollah's reputation as a 'determined and formidable group', drawing both international condemnation and support from select nations. Hezbollah strategically positioned itself within Lebanon's socio-political landscape, becoming a major player and laying the groundwork for future conflicts that would profoundly impact the nation's history.

Throughout the 1990s, Hezbollah continued to grow in power, solidifying its position in Lebanon's political and security landscape, while extending its influence further afield. The group's actions continued to involve protracted battles with Israeli forces in southern Lebanon, prompted by Hezbollah's persistent attacks. Israeli military offensives in 1992 ("Operation Accountability") and 1996 ("Operation Grapes of Wrath") responded to these attacks, resulting in civilian casualties and extensive displacement. However, these campaigns failed to weaken Hezbollah's resolve. Instead, the organisation balanced its roles as an armed force and a political actor, leveraging its military strength to bolster its political standing within Lebanon's complex political framework. As the decade progressed, Hezbollah's support in Lebanon grew, granting it significant influence and representation in the Lebanese parliament and administration. By openly supporting the Assad administration in the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah expanded its regional influence, albeit amid global controversy (Fanack, 2015). The 1990s saw Hezbollah's military activities, political ambitions, and regional involvement intertwine, shaping Lebanon's socio-political structure and impacting the broader Middle East.

In the 2000s, Hezbollah's complex and significant role in the Middle East continued to evolve. The organisation entered the new millennium with unwavering determination, eventually leading to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon in 2000, partly due to Hezbollah's persistent resistance (Leung, 2003). This withdrawal showcased Hezbollah's resilience and established its reputation as a formidable regional adversary. Hezbollah's use of hit-and-run tactics, such as ambushing Israeli patrols and launching rockets at Israeli settlements, severely strained Israel's military capabilities. Simultaneously, the group's social welfare initiatives, including support for hospitals, schools, and the families of "martyrs," garnered support within the Lebanese Shiite community, strengthening its domestic base.

Tensions with Israel persisted, culminating in a full-scale conflict in 2006, triggered primarily by Hezbollah's capture of Israeli troops. This conflict resulted in extensive damage to Lebanon's infrastructure and civilian population. Hezbollah demonstrated its military capabilities by firing thousands of rockets into Israeli territory, forcing mass evacuations. Its use of advanced weapons, including anti-ship missiles, showcased its ability to counter Israeli aggression, raising concerns regionally and globally.

The 2006 war further solidified Hezbollah's reputation as a fervently anti-Israel resistance group, drawing both criticism and support. While Saudi Arabia denounced Hezbollah's actions, some Arab states viewed them as part of the larger Arab-Israeli confrontation and offered implicit support. The conflict also exposed the limitations of Israel's military strength, prompting a reevaluation of its tactics (Nasrallah, 2006).

Hezbollah's political influence in Lebanon continued to grow, shaping the nation's governance and societal structure. Its increased involvement in the Syrian civil war further stoked regional tensions and global attention. Hezbollah played a pivotal role in supporting the Assad regime, contributing to its territorial gains and the shifting tide of the war. However, this military engagement sparked international criticism and strained relations with certain Arab nations, who saw Hezbollah's involvement in Syria as unwarranted interference.

As the decade concluded, Hezbollah's multifaceted actions in the 2000s underscored the intricate interplay between its military endeavours, domestic political ascent, and regional involvement, significantly impacting the Middle East's geopolitical landscape. These events emphasised Hezbollah's dual identity as a political actor and an armed non-state entity, a defining feature that would continue to shape its identity in the years ahead.

In the 2010s, Hezbollah maintained and expanded its influence, further shaping the Middle East's complex geopolitical landscape. Its dual status as a political organisation and an armed non-state actor remained central to its prominence in Lebanon and the region. Hezbollah deepened its involvement in the Syrian civil war, solidifying its regional power by steadfastly supporting the Assad government (Chulov, 2013). Despite international scrutiny and tensions with some Arab states, Hezbollah retained its strong presence in Lebanon's domestic politics. However, its growing influence and alignment with Iran led to criticism and hostility from various Lebanese political factions, causing internal tensions.

Furthermore, Hezbollah's conflicts with Israel escalated, occasionally resulting in clashes along the Israel-Lebanon border. Tensions increased due to allegations of Hezbollah attempting to acquire precision-guided missiles, which raised security concerns for Israel. The 2010s highlighted the complex nature of Hezbollah's actions, reshaping power dynamics and security in the Middle East.

The 2020s continued to witness Hezbollah's influence, building on its established prominence and multifaceted role in the region. The organisation's diverse activities continued to impact regional geopolitics, raising concerns about stability and security. Hezbollah's sustained involvement in the Syrian civil war, coupled with its support for the Assad government, solidified its status as Iran's reliable partner. This dedication drew increased international scrutiny and strained relations with some Arab states. Hezbollah maintained a strong presence in Lebanon's domestic politics, exerting political influence and participating in governance. However, its expanding influence and alignment with Iran caused tensions and challenges within Lebanon.

Moreover, Hezbollah's conflicts with Israel intensified, with occasional clashes along the Israel-Lebanon border. Heightened hostilities resulted from the organisation's alleged efforts to acquire precision-guided missiles, raising concerns for Israeli security. The complexities of Hezbollah's actions in the 2020s underscored its multifaceted nature and its pivotal role in reshaping power relations and security in the Middle East.

Objectives & Ideology

Hezbollah's ideology has been described as Shi’ite radicalism and it follows the Islamic Shi’a theology which was developed by the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini (Jamail, 2006). Although the group had originally been formed in order to transform Lebanon into an Islamic Republic (much like other groups in the region), this was abandoned in order to create a more inclusive country (BBC Middle East, 2010). The group has several stated goals, with one of its most well-known being the elimination of the State of Israel.

It has argued that continued hostilities against Israel are justified as retaliation for what they claim is Israeli occupation of Lebanese core territory (Mitnick, 2006). Also due to the fact that Hezbollah considers Israel to be an illegitimate invading force, they frame their resistance of Israeli incursions into Lebanese territory and also any actions they carry out against Israeli forces as acts of defensive jihad, further legitimising (amongst Islamist circles) their actions (Memri, 1999).

Regarding Israel and Judaism, there have been accusations that Hezbollah is anti-semitic in nature. This involves statements from Hezbollah's secretary general Hassan Nasrallah in which he denies the holocaust and has stated that “God imprinted blasphemy on the Jews’ hearts” (Weinthal, 2012). There have also been efforts by Hezbollah-aligned attorneys -- as well as other legal organisations within Lebanon -- to remove what they consider ‘Israeli influence’ in the education system of Lebanon. For example, this has involved pressuring schools to drop chapters of Anne Frank's Diary, an effort which has been deemed a “blatant expression of holocaust denial” and an “intimidation campaign” (JTA, 2009). However, in response, Hezbollah's Al-Manar television asked how long Lebanon would “remain an open arena for the zionist invasion of education” (JTA, 2009).

Military & Political Abilities

Hezbollah has extensive military and political abilities which rival many of the local regions' states and its integration into the Lebanese state has proven beneficial for the organisation in terms of both its military and political abilities. This is due to the fact that as it is now a legitimate party within Lebanon it has utilised its position in several ways in order to enhance the aforementioned abilities.

Hezbollah's political abilities have been enhanced by its integration into the Lebanese state through its holding of 13 seats in Lebanon's parliament. Hezbollah has been described as “the most powerful political movement in Lebanon” (Byman, 2008) and it has formed several political alliances within the country. One of these alliances is with the March 8 Alliance, which Hezbollah joined in March of 2005. This Alliance is a coalition of political parties and other independent candidates in Lebanon, formed in 2005, and is marked by its pro-Syrian government stance. The origins for the name of the alliance is a reference to a mass demonstration called for by large political parties in downtown Beirut, in response to the Cedar Revolution (which called for the removal of pro-Syrian government influences as well as the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon). This demonstration, however, thanked Syria for their help in stopping the Lebanese Civil War and the aid which the Syrian government provided in supporting Lebanese resistance to Israeli occupation years prior. Simultaneously, it instead opposed the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon (Mouawad, 2005). The March 8 Alliance holds 61 out of the 128 seats in the Lebanese Parliament and also holds 16 out of the 24 seats in the Cabinet of Lebanon. This allows Hezbollah to exercise a significant degree of authority and sway in Lebanese politics.

Hezbollah's military abilities are extensive and consist of several ‘wings’, much like the military branches found in state forces. It does not reveal the numbers of armed fighters which fight for the organisation, although the Gulf Research Centre, a Dubai-based think tank, has estimated that Hezbollah's armed wing comprises around 1,000 full time fighters and a further 6,000-10,000 volunteers (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2006). It has been described as being militarily greater than the Lebanese army (Voice Of America, 2013).

In terms of equipment, Hezbollah has an extensive arsenal, including small arms from Eastern-bloc firearms such as AK-47s, AKMs and also AK-74s, to NATO firearms such as M16 rifles which have been sourced from Syria. The group has also acquired platforms such as the ORSIS T5000 sniper rifle, which is Russian in origin (Frantzman, 2023) and Iranian drone platforms. These Iranian drone platforms are actually more likely to be domestically-produced copies of Iranian technology provided to the group by the Iranian military and government, which enable Hezbollah to produce drones within Lebanese territory (The Associated Press, 2022) and these drones have been known to penetrate Israeli air defence systems (Hambling, 2016). Hezbollah also possesses large quantities of unguided and guided rockets numbering from around 15,000 on the eve of the 2006 Lebanon War, in which they fired around 4,000 at Israel during the 34 day conflict. However, as of 2018, they have expanded their rocket arsenal which is now estimated to number at 130,000 (Shaikh and Williams, 2018).

Following the October 7th attacks in Israel by Hamas, Hezbollah has shown support for the latter by firing shells across the Israel-Lebanon border, as well as demonstrating solidarity and attempting to infiltrate Israel. According to some experts, Iran and Hezbollah likely advised and trained Hamas on how to attack Israel. However, Hamas claims that neither Iran nor Hezbollah was involved in planning its 2023 operation (CFR, n.d.). Hezbollah has indicated a willingness to further support Hamas, which could escalate tensions and lead to more significant regional instability. However, how far Hezbollah will engage in this conflict remains uncertain, as deeper involvement could risk their political position within Lebanon.

Approach to Resistance

Hezbollah is extremely violent in its pursuit of the destruction of the state of Israel and the furthering of Iranian interests in the region. It has been involved in several instances of armed conflict with Israel such as the South Lebanon conflict from 1982-2000. The group has also allegedly utilised suicide attacks on some occasions, including the 1992 Israeli Embassy attack in Buanos Aires which killed 29 people in Argentina. This attack was attributed to the group given that Hezbollah operatives were revealed to have been apart of the atack (Alegra, 2023). Hezbollah also provided fighters to muslim forces during the Bosnian war in order to defend muslim communities from Serbian attacks (Fisk, 2014). They have also been implicated in the assassination of various figures in and around the Middle East, such as the assassination of Rafic Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister who was killed alongside 21 other people by a roadside bomb in Beirut (BBC Middle East, 2020). They have also operated widely outside of the Middle East and Lebanon, with Hezbollah operating openly in South America in Paraguay. In particular, there are allegations that the Venezuelan government has aided them in the form of money laundering amongst other methods of support (StratFor, 2018).

International Relations & Potential Alliances

Hezbollah has several significant international relations. It has close relations with Iran and Hezbollah regards the Iranian spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei, as “its ultimate authority” (Halliday, 2006). The group also has close ties to the Syrian government under Bashar Al-Assad and, since 2012, the group has helped the Syrian government during the Syrian Civil War in the fight against rebel groups (Al Jazeera, 2014). They also have relations with several other Islamic movements such as Hamas (CRS, 2006) and they also have an alleged relationship with al-Qaeda -- a claim made by Israeli and US military intelligence. Nevertheless, due to the disagreements between the Sunni and Shia religious sects, this seems unlikely and Hezbollah has released statements claiming that these allegations were propagated by US intelligence to “mislead international public opinion so as to sway it against Hezbollah and cover up Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people” (People's Daily, 2006). Multiple nations such as the USA, the UK, Israel, and organisations such as the EU, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Arab League have declared the group as a terrorist organisation, whereas some nations such as France have only declared the military wing a terrorist organisation whilst viewing the political wing as a legitimate sociopolitical organisation (JNS, 2013). Similarly, Russia has also refused to label the entirety of Hezbollah a terror organisation and instead considers it a legitimate sociopolitical organisation (Times Of Israel, 2015).

Works Cited (MLA-style)

Al Jazeera. “Hezbollah in Syria’s War.”, 2 May 2014,

Al-Tamimi, Sultan. “GCC: Hezbollah Terror Group.” Arab News, 3 June 2013,

Alegra, Shlomo. “Hezbollah’s Deadly Attacks: Targeting Americans and Israelis.”, 13 Aug. 2023,

BBC Middle East. “Huge Beirut Protest Backs Syria.”, 8 Mar. 2005,

---. “Rafik Hariri Tribunal: Guilty Verdict over Assassination of Lebanon Ex-PM.” BBC News, 18 Aug. 2020,

---. “Who Are Hezbollah?”, 4 July 2010,

Byman, Daniel. “Hezbollah: Most Powerful Political Movement in Lebanon - Council on Foreign Relations.” Council on Foreign Relations, 29 May 2008,

CFR. “Hezbollah (A.k.a. Hizbollah, Hizbu’llah) - Council on Foreign Relations.”, Council on Foreign Relations, 13 Sept. 2008,

CFR. “What Is Hezbollah?” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations,

Chulov, Martin. “Hezbollah’s Role in Syrian Conflict Ushers New Reality for Its Supporters.” The Guardian, 24 May 2013,

CRS. Lebanon: The Israel-Hamas-Hezbollah Conflict. 21 July 2006,

Fanack. “Hezbollah and the Price of Supporting Al-Assad.” The MENA Chronicle | Fanack, 27 July 2015,

Fisk, Robert. “It’s No Wonder Today’s Jihadis Have Set out on the Path to War In.” The Independent, 8 Sept. 2014,

Frantzman, Seth J. “What Does Hezbollah’s ‘Attack Video’ on Israel Reveal? - Analysis.” The Jerusalem Post |, 17 July 2023,

Goldberg, Jeffrey. “In the Party of God - Are Terrorists in Lebanon Preparing for a Larger War?” The New Yorker, 6 Oct. 2002,

Halliday, Fred. “A Lebanese Fragment: Two Days with Hizbollah Fred Halliday - OpenDemocracy.”, 20 July 2006,

Hambling, David. “How Did Hezbollah’s Drone Evade a Patriot Missile?” Popular Mechanics, 29 July 2016,

Hashem, Ali. “Hezbollah Arrives in Iraq.”, 26 Nov. 2014,

Hezbollah. “The Hizzballah Program: An Open Letter.” International Institute for Counter Terrorism, The Jerusalem Quarterly, 1 Jan. 1988,

International Institute for Strategic Studies. “International Institute for Strategic StudiesHezbollah a Force to Be Reckoned With.” IISS - International Institute for Strategic Studies, 18 July 2006,

Jamail, Dahr. “Hezbollah’s Transformation.”, 20 July 2006,

JNS. “Jewish Leaders Applaud Hezbollah Terror Designation by France -”, 4 Apr. 2013,

JTA. “Hezbollah Pressures School into Dropping ‘Anne Frank.’” The Forward, 9 Nov. 2009,

Kanter, James, and Jodi Rudoren. “European Union Adds Military Wing of Hezbollah to List of Terrorist Organizations.” The New York Times, 22 July 2013,

Leung, Rebecca. “Hezbollah: ‘A-Team of Terrorists.’”, 18 Apr. 2003,

Levitt, Matthew. Hezbollah : The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God. Georgetown University Press, 2013, p. 15.

Memri. “Secretary General of Hizbullah Discusses the New Israeli Government and Hizbullah’s Struggle Against...” MEMRI, Middle East Media Research Institute, 23 June 1999,

Mitnick, Joshua. “Behind the Dispute over Shebaa Farms.” Christian Science Monitor, 22 Aug. 2006,

Mouawad, Jad. “Hezbollah Leads Huge Pro-Syrian Protest in Central Beirut.” The New York Times, 8 Mar. 2005,

Nasrallah, Sayyed. “Sayyed Nasrallah Speech on the Divine Victory Rally in Beirut on 22-09-2006.”, 22 Sept. 2006,

Peoples Daily. “Lebanon’s Hezbollah Denies Link with Al-Qaeda.”, 18 June 2006,

Reuters Staff. “Factbox: Hezbollah and Allies Gain Sway in Lebanon Parliament.” Reuters, 22 May 2018,

---. “Russia Says Hezbollah Not a Terrorist Group: Ifax.” Reuters, 15 Nov. 2015,

Shaikh, Shaan, and Ian Williams. “Missiles and Rockets of Hezbollah | Missile Threat.” Missile Threat, 2018,

Shatz, Adam. “In Search of Hezbollah | by Adam Shatz | the New York Review of Books.”, 29 Apr. 2004,

Sly, Liz, and Suzan Haidamous. “Lebanon’s Hezbollah Acknowledges Battling the Islamic State in Iraq.” Washington Post, The Washington Post, 16 Feb. 2015,

Stalinksy, Steven. “Hezbollah’s Nazi Tactics - the New York Sun.”, 26 July 2006,

StratFor. “Hezbollah in South America: The Threat to Businesses.” Stratfor, 5 Feb. 2018,

The Associated Press. “Hezbollah Claims It’s Making Drones and Missiles in Lebanon; Chief Offers Export Opportunity.” Defense News, 16 Feb. 2022,

Times Of Israel. “Russia Says Hezbollah, Hamas Not Terror Groups.”, 16 Nov. 2015,

Voice Of America. “Hezbollah Upsets the Balance in Lebanon.” Voice of America, 21 June 2013,

Wedeman, Ben. “Arab League States Condemn Hezbollah as ‘Terrorist Organization.’” CNN, 19 Nov. 2017,

Weinthal, Benjamin. “Analysis: Hezbollah’s Lethal Anti-Semitism.” The Jerusalem Post |, 12 Nov. 2012,

Zirulnik, Ariel. “In Hezbollah Stronghold, Lebanese Christians Find Respect, Stability.” Christian Science Monitor, 21 Dec. 2012,

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