Hizballah makes gains in Lebanon election, drawing Israeli ire

Hizballah makes gains in Lebanon election, drawing Israeli ire
Hizballah's potential gains in Lebanon's parliament make the state indistinguishable from the Iran-backed group, Israel's Naftali Bennett said.
2 min read
An unofficial preliminary count sees Hizballah win more than half the seats in parliament [Getty]
Hizballah and its political allies won more than half the seats in Lebanon's first parliamentary elections in nine years, according to an unofficial preliminary count.

If the result is confirmed, it would boost the Iran-backed Shia group politically, with parties and individuals aligned with the group securing a simple majority.

Hizballah's potential gains in the Sunday election has drawn ire from Israel, with cabinet minister Naftali Bennett saying the state is now indistinguishable from the Tehran-funded movement and that Israel should not distinguish between them in any future war.

"Hezbollah = Lebanon," Education Minister Bennett said on Twitter on Monday, using an alternative spelling for the group's name.

"The State of Israel will not differentiate between the sovereign State of Lebanon and Hezbollah, and will view Lebanon as responsible for any action from within its territory."

Read more: Seven things to know about Lebanon’s parliament elections

Hizballah's powerful position in Lebanon reflects Iran's growing influence in the region, stretching through Iraq and Syria to Beirut. Founded in 1982 as a resistance movement to the Israeli occupation of parts of Lebanon, the group is an enemy of the Jewish state and classified as a terrorist group by the United States.

The unofficial count reported by politicians and Lebanese media indicated that incumbent Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri would emerge as the Sunni Muslim leader with the biggest bloc in parliament, making him the frontrunner to form the next government even though he lost seats in his strongholds.

Lebanon's prime minister must be a Sunni according to the country's sectarian power-sharing politics, which means no single alliance in the 128-seat parliament will enjoy a stable majority and analysts expect a fragile status quo to be preserved.

The provisional turnout figure of 49.2 percent was announced by Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk late on Sunday.