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ISRAEL

Germany bans three groups close to Hezbollah

The German government said Wednesday it is banning three groups close to Hezbollah, the Lebanese movement that opposes Israel, against the backdrop of the current military escalation in the Middle East.

Germany bans three groups close to Hezbollah
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer “has banned three groups that are financing the terrorist organisation Hezbollah,” his spokesman wrote in a tweet.

“Whoever supports terror will not be safe in Germany… They will find no refuge in our country.”

The interior ministry said that searches were currently under way in a number of different regional states in Germany.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Jews call for protection amid Israel-Palestinian clashes

According to German media reports, the operations had been carried in the states of Hamburg, Bremen, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein.

Hezbollah is designated a terrorist group by Israel and much of the West.

Founded in the 1980s to fight Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, it has grown into Iran’s main regional proxy with operatives in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The only Lebanese faction to have kept its weapons after the 1975-90 civil war, Hezbollah now has a more powerful arsenal than the Lebanese national army.

Israel’s deadly Gaza offensive has many eyes trained on the Lebanese border for a Hezbollah reaction, but observers argue the Iran-backed movement is unlikely to risk an all-out conflict.

Incidents at the border in recent days have raised the temperature but, with Lebanon already on its knees amid a deep political and economic crisis, the Shiite group seems intent on refraining from an escalation.

In face of the renewed violence in the region, German authorities are concerned about a rise in anti-Semitism. A pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin resulted in clashes and arrests.

Last week, Israeli flags were burned in front of synagogues in Bonn and Münster.

“Our democracy will not tolerate anti-Semitic demonstrations,” the spokesman for Angela Merkel had said at the time.

READ ALSO: Germany vows ‘no tolerance’ after anti-Semitic demos

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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