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Netanyahu welcomes Paraguay's decision to label Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups

Israel is working to get other states to take similar action against the Palestinian and Lebanese groups, premier says
Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking reelection in Israel in polls set for next month (AFP/File photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed Paraguay's decision to label Hamas and Hezbollah as "international terrorist organisations", a move that comes less than a month after Argentina also blacklisted the Lebanese militant group and political party.

Paraguay on Monday designated Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, and Hamas, a Palestinian political faction that governs the Gaza Strip, as terrorist groups.

"I welcome the decision of Paraguayan President Mario Abdo to define Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist organisations," Netanyahu said in a statement.

"We are working so that more countries will also take this important step."

Two days later, the United States also joined in, lauding Paraguay for the decision.

"The world is increasingly recognizing Hezbollah for what it is – not a defender of Lebanon as it purports to be, but a terrorist organization dedicated to advancing Iran’s malicious agenda," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday.

Paraguay's presidency said on Monday that it was designating Hamas and Hezbollah as "international terrorist organisations" and al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group as "global terrorist organisations". It was not clear what the distinction is.

With the move, the country "recognises and reaffirms its commitment to redouble efforts to prevent and combat violent extremism", the presidency said.

Israel, the United States and Canada are among several states that have already listed Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist groups.

In recent months, however, the Trump administration has pushed other countries to sanction Hezbollah as part of its "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.

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Argentina became the first country in South America to designate the Lebanese group last month, a move that was welcomed by anti-Iran hawks in Washington, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Argentine authorities ordered a freeze on Hezbollah's assets in the country on 18 July, the 25th anniversary of a deadly attack on a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that was blamed on the Lebanese group.

The move effectively designated the group a terrorist organisation in Argentina.

A day later, on 19 July, a group of Republican lawmakers called on Pompeo to pressure Paraguay and Brazil to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group, as well.

"Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay are in a unique position to take meaningful strides in the fight against terrorism at the hands of Hezbollah," said Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn in a statement at the time.

"We must recommit to ensuring that Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies are denied the resources they need to escalate their campaign of global terrorism," added Ted Cruz, another Republican senator and co-signatory of the letter to Pompeo.

Washington designated Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group and political party backed by Iran, as a terrorist organisation in 1997.

The group's leaders say it is a resistance movement that aims to protect Lebanon from Israel.

But the US rejects the difference between Hezbollah's military wing and its political activities.

In early July, the Trump administration also imposed sanctions on Hezbollah political officials in Lebanon, including members of the Lebanese parliament, accusing the group of threatening the "economic stability and security of Lebanon and the wider region".