Senate approves bill targeting Hezbollah’s foreign finances
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Senate approves bill targeting Hezbollah’s foreign finances

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill that would expand sanctions targeting Hezbollah to financial institutions dealing with the group.

The bill approved Nov. 17 would target foreign financial institutions that do business with the Lebanese militia, which launched a war with Israel in 2006 and which is currently working with Iran to prop up the Assad regime in Syria.

Hezbollah has for years been a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, and U.S. individuals and entities already are banned from doing business with Hezbollah.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, authored the bill with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. A similar bill unanimously passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May. The Senate bill now goes back to the House for final approval, which Shaheen in her statement said should happen within days.

“This legislation turns the screws on its network of support and sends a message to Tehran that there will be zero tolerance for financing terrorism,” Shaheen said in a statement.

The Obama administration has in recent weeks intensified penalties on Iran and its surrogates, like Hezbollah, for terrorist activity, part of a bid to maintain pressure on the country in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal.

One of Israel’s principal fears in the wake of the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached this summer was that it would expand Iran’s influence in the region. The U.S. Treasury Department this month announced sanctions on foreign entities laundering money and procuring military equipment for Hezbollah.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee strongly backed the bill.

“Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terrorist group, poses a direct threat to American and Israeli security, dominates the Lebanese government, fights for the Syrian Assad regime, and possesses an arsenal of 150,000 rockets and missiles,” AIPAC said in a statement issued Nov. 18. “Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any terrorist group other than al-Qaeda, and has recently attempted attacks, some successfully, in multiple countries including Bulgaria, Thailand, and Azerbaijan.”