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Hezbollah and Israel: Security agencies on martyr alert at home

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28 December 2023, The Australian, by Greg Brown, Joanna Panagopoulos and Alexi Demetriadi

Intelligence agencies are ramping up efforts to prevent local violent attacks inspired by the Middle East conflict, after an Australian man killed in Lebanon by an Israeli air strike was claimed to be a fighter and martyr for Hezbollah and given a military funeral by the terror group.

National security experts are warning there will likely be more Australians going overseas to join terror groups planning strikes on Israel, as the Albanese government was accused of being ­“completely out of match practice” in dealing with the threat from radicalisation.

Two Australians, 30-year-old Ali Bazzi and his 27-year-old brother Ibrahim, were killed in an Israeli air strike in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil. Hezbollah claimed through its social media platforms that Ali Bazzi was a fighter for the group that wants to eliminate Israel.

“With greater pride and pride, the Islamic Resistance celebrates the martyr Mujahid Ali Ahmed Bazzi ‘Qasim’ from the city of Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon, who rose as a martyr on the road to Jerusalem,” said a statement from the terrorist organisation.

Hezbollah did not claim Ibrahim Bazzi – whose Lebanon-based wife Shourouk Hammoud was also killed in the strike – was a fighter for the group and his Australian-based friends denied he held radical views.

Lebanese media reported that the three were killed when a two-storey building was struck by an ­Israeli warplane overnight on ­December 26.

Israel’s air force told local media that it had destroyed Hezbollah military installations and terrorist infrastructure.

Hezbollah is claiming across its social media platforms it organised a street march to honour all three killed in the strike. “(In attendance were) members (loyal to Hezbollah), Hassan Fadlallah and Hussein Jishi (both MPs), Hezbollah’s first Jabal Amel district official Abdullah Nasser, and a number of scholars, activists, figures, families of martyrs, and large crowds of people who flocked from various villages and towns,” a Hezbollah statement said.

Amid concerns Australians were being radicalised by anti-­Israel terror groups, Acting Home Affairs Minister Andrew Giles said the government was working with agencies to prevent violent attacks inspired by overseas events.

“Social cohesion is our most valuable national asset,” Mr Giles said. “Our government is working with our intelligence agencies to ensure that violence overseas does not precipitate violence in Australia.”

A spokeswoman for the Australian Federal Police said Australians travelling overseas to fight with a non-government armed group could be committing a criminal offence.

“The AFP remains alert to information or intelligence that indicates any individual or group’s propensity for, or movement towards violence,” the spokeswoman said.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus was unable to say whether ­either of the brothers was a member of Hezbollah. “We are aware of the announcement made by ­Hezbollah claiming links to one of the Australians killed. We are seeking to establish the facts,” Mr Dreyfus said. “Hezbollah is a listed terrorist organisation under Australian law.”

He said Australia had communicated with Israel following the air strike, but said he would not disclose what was discussed.

Mr Dreyfus urged Australians against travelling to Lebanon, where there was daily military activity. “For Australians in Lebanon, we urge you to leave while commercial options remain available,” he added.

Friends of Ibrahim Bazzi say he left for Lebanon a week ago with the intention of bringing his wife back to Australia with him. He had been living in western Sydney since 2020. Ali Bazzi reportedly arrived in Lebanon three years ago. Both grew up in Lebanon and their father was an Australian citizen.

Strategic Analysis Australia director Peter Jennings said it was “highly likely” more Australians would go to Lebanon to fight for Hezbollah.

“That’s based on the numbers who travelled to fight in Syria with ISIS, the size of the domestic protests we’ve seen in Australia and the failure of the government and the police to crack down on any of it and say this is unacceptable behaviour,” Mr Jennings said. “There’s a radicalised community already here. There’s a larger feeder group who could be radicalised under the right conditions and there’s a high risk others will have gone overseas or are thinking about going.”

Mr Jennings said it was problematic Mr Dreyfus was unable to say whether Ali Bazzi was a member of Hezbollah.

He said the China threat was taking up too much of the attention of intelligence agencies.

“What these comments reveal is a government and a domestic security establishment that is completely out of match practice in dealing with (the) radicalisation threat,” he said.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute head of law enforcement John Coyne said there would be Australians “attracted to returning to Gaza, Lebanon or Israel to fight”. Dr Coyne said security-­enforcement agencies had extensive experience targeting those who sought to fight for ISIS and so were “capable of going through the same processes” now to stop people travelling to fight for Hamas or Hezbollah.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief executive Peter Wertheim said there should be no difference in the treatment of Australians supportive of Hezbollah as those who were involved with ISIS.

“Both are noted for the gruesome butchery of their tactics targeting civilians,” Mr Wertheim said. “They are the sworn enemies of individual freedom, democracy, human rights and the values which western civilisation holds dear. Australians who join or assist Hezbollah have effectively repudiated their allegiance to Australia and chosen instead to serve the interests of Hezbollah’s masters in the Iranian regime.”

Sydney-based Ali Saab was childhood friends with Ibrahim Bazzi and they lived together in Australia for the past two years.

He dropped Ibrahim Bazzi at the airport a week ago and said his friend was planning on spending two to three weeks in Lebanon before bringing his wife to Australia with him.

Mr Saab, who refers to his late friend as Bob, said he never spoke about his brother.

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Article source: 28 December 2023, The Australian, by Greg Brown, Joanna Panagopoulos and Alexi Demetriadi

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000