Saudi Arabia threatens Hizballah supporters with 'severe penalties'

Saudi Arabia threatens Hizballah supporters with 'severe penalties'
Expatriates and Saudi nationals who support the Lebanese Shia movement will be faced with stiff punishment, including deportation from Saudi Arabia, Riyadh's interior ministry has warned.
2 min read
14 March, 2016
Anyone who supports Hizballah will be punished by Saudi Arabia [Getty]
Anyone who supports Hizballah will be punished by Saudi Arabia, Riyadh announced on Sunday.

Expatriates and Saudi nationals will face "severe penalties" if they are found to sympathise with, financially support or harbour members of the Lebanese Shia movement, according to a statement issued by Saudi's ministry of interior.

"Any citizen or resident who supports, shows membership in the so-called Hizballah, sympathises with it or promotes it, makes donations to it or communicates with it or harbours anyone belonging to it will be subject to stiff punishments provided by the rules and orders, including the terrorism crimes and its financing," the statement said. 

Foreigners will also be deported from the kingdom, the statement added.

The announcement follows a series of recent measures against Hizballah since Saudi Arabia last month halted a $3 billion fund for military supplies to Beirut.

The Arab league declared Hizballah a "terrorist organisation" on Friday, in a move that followed that of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC], who also "decided to consider the militas [of Hizballah] a terrorist organisation" last week. 

The GCC targeted Hizballah due the "hostile actions of the militia who recruit the young people (of the Gulf)," GCC secretary general Abdullatif al-Zayani said in a statement. 

Zayani cited "their terrorist acts and incitement in Syria, Yemen and in Iraq", which he said were "threatening" Arab security.

In recent weeks, an anti-Hizballah movement led by Saudi Arabia saw GCC states banning their respective nationals from travelling to Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia also extended sanctions on Hizballah, freezing the assets and prohibiting dealings with three Lebanese nationals and four companies.

Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah responded to the developments by accusing the Arab states of seeking to protect Israel from "the resistance."

In a televised speech, Nasrallah asked why GCC states have not armed the Palestinians to fight Israeli occupation if it considers Hizballah a "terrorist group" unworthy of their support.

Hizballah is backed by Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran, which supports opposing sides to Riyadh in conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Announcing the military funding cut last month, a Saudi official said the kingdom had noticed "hostile Lebanese positions resulting from the stranglehold of Hizballah on the state".

He specifically cited Lebanon's refusal to join the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in condemning attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in January.

Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran after demonstrators attacked its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr earlier this year.