The United States has offered a $12 million bounty for information leading to the arrest of two senior officials from the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement.
The US State Department said on Tuesday that it will pay up to $7 million for tips about Talal Hamiyah, head of Hezbollah’s foreign operations, and $5 million for Fu’ad Shukr, a top military officer of the movement.
Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, told reporters that the reward, the first of its kind in a decade, was “another step to increase the pressure” on Hezbollah.
Sales denounced the resistance movement as a “global threat” and stressed that “countering Hezbollah is a top priority for the [US President Donald] Trump administration.”
He further signaled that Washington would press countries into designating Hezbollah as a terrorist group and into making no distinction between the group’s political and military wings.
“Hezbollah has no political wing. It is a single organization, a terrorist organization,” he claimed.
The US labels the entire Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Most recently, the Congress Foreign Affairs committee voted for a network of additional sanctions against the movement.
Additionally on Tuesday, Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the US National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), claimed that Hezbollah “seeks to develop and maintain a global capability to carry out acts of terror.”
“We in the intelligence community do in fact see continued activity on behalf of Hezbollah here inside the homeland,” Rasmussen added.
Separately, Israeli minister of military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, claimed that Hezbollah controls the Lebanese army.
“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,” he added.
Hezbollah has played a critical role in the Syrian military’s counter-terrorism operations over the past few years. The movement says the mission is aimed at preventing the spillover of the Syria crisis into Lebanon.
In the latest gain against terrorists, Hezbollah and the Syrian military successfully purged Daesh elements from Syria’s Qalamoun region on Lebanon’s border. The Qalamoun operation came following a similar joint campaign at Lebanon’s highlands of Arsal.
Now, the US and Israel see their interests at stake as their proxy militants have been dealt heavy blows amid sweeping advances by Syrian government forces on the battlefield.
‘US bans won’t change Hezbollah course’
On Sunday, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said US sanctions had affected the group, but vowed that the bans would not weaken the group’s resolve.
“There is a new American policy against Hezbollah,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech. “But it will not change Hezbollah’s course – not in our positions against Israel, against the Takfiris, against the US scheme in the region or internally within Lebanon.”
He also blamed the US for delaying the battle against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist outfit on the Lebanese-Syrian border.