US official: Sudan to designate Hezbollah a terror group as part of Israel deal

Sudan agreed to designate Hezbollah as a terror organization as part of its US-brokered agreement to normalize relations with Israel, a senior US official said Friday.

The issue was not mentioned in the joint statement from Israel, Sudan and the US released by the White House on the normalization agreement, and no comment was immediately available from Khartoum.

The move would mark a dramatic shift for Sudan, which was a staunch ally of Iran until 2016, helping the Islamic Republic smuggle rockets and other weapons to Palestinian terror groups in Gaza. This prompted Israel to repeatedly bomb military facilities in Sudan, according to foreign reports.

Hezbollah is Iran’s main proxy in the region, and both Israel and the US have been calling on the international community to join them in blacklisting the Lebanese Shiite terror group.

US President Donald Trump announces that Sudan will normalize relations with Israel at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 23, 2020. (Alex Edelman/AFP)

Sudan would be following the lead of Estonia and Guatemala, which both took official action against Hezbollah this week.

Guatemala on Friday declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization, agreed to bar the group’s operatives from its territory and “to fight against financing” the terror group, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said on Thursday that Hezbollah posed “a considerable threat to international — and thereby Estonian — security.” He appeared to stop short of officially blacklisting the group.

His ministry stated that entry to Estonia will be prohibited for “Hezbollah affiliates about whom there is information or there are reasonable grounds to believe that their activity supports terrorism and who therefore pose a threat to the Estonian as well as international security.”

A separate statement noted that the ban applied to members of both Hezbollah’s political and military wings if they were involved in terror activities.

Illustrative: A Hezbollah supporter chants slogans as he holds his group’s flag during a protest against US involvement in Lebanon’s affairs, near the US embassy in Aukar, northeast of Beirut, Lebanon, July 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

US President Donald Trump announced the Israel-Sudan deal on Friday at the White House.

Trump said Sudan had demonstrated a commitment to battling terrorism, and earlier Friday signed a waiver to remove Khartoum from the State Department’s blacklist of state terror sponsors. Congress now has 45 days to approve the measure.

Sudan’s presence on the terror list — along with Iran, North Korea and Syria — subjects it to crippling economic sanctions and limits the impoverished country’s access to international credit.

Trump said he would remove Sudan from the blacklist on Monday after Sudan followed through on its pledge to deliver $335 million to compensate American victims of past terror attacks and their families.

The money is meant for victims of the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by the al-Qaeda network while its leader, Osama bin Laden, was living in Sudan.

A joint statement from the US, Israel and Sudan released by the White House said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sudan Sovereign Council President General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok “agreed to the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel and to end the state of belligerence between their nations.”

The deal with Sudan will include aid and investment from Israel, particularly in technology and agriculture, along with further debt relief. It comes as Sudan and its transitional government teeter on the edge. Thousands have protested in the country’s capital Khartoum and other regions in recent days over dire economic conditions.

Recently, the United States brokered diplomatic pacts between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Jordan recognized Israel in the 1990s, while Egypt was the first to sign a peace deal in 1979.

Netanyahu has made it a priority to forge ties with formerly hostile countries in Africa and the Arab world in the absence of any progress with the Palestinians during his tenure, which has lasted over a decade.

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