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Cyprus trial shows EU should act against Hezbollah, Israel says

February 21, 2013|By Emily Alpert

A criminal trial centering on an alleged plot against Israelis on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus could place more pressure on the European Union to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, a Swedish-Lebanese citizen, testified that he was a paid member of Hezbollah who had been asked to gather information for the group while in Cyprus, the Associated Press reported Thursday. The information reportedly included the times that a flight arrived from Israel and license plate numbers for buses taking passengers from that flight.

Yaacoub denied that  he was helping to plan any attack, however, reportedly telling the court that he didn’t know what the flight information would be used for.

Israeli officials say the Cyprus case and a July bombing in the Bulgarian resort town of Burgas are examples of why Hezbollah should be blacklisted by the EU.

The Burgas bombing claimed the lives of five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian driver. Bulgarian investigators say they have reason to believe that Hezbollah engineered that attack, which has intensified calls for the EU to deem it a terrorist group. Hezbollah has denied any involvement in the bombing.

Cyprus officials have resisted drawing comparisons between the case against Yaacoub and the Bulgarian bombing, but Israeli leaders have not. Israeli President Shimon Peres alluded to the Cyprus trial as “further evidence of the activities of the organization and its Iranian dispatchers,”  Agence France-Presse reported Thursday.

Unlike Israel and the United States, the EU does not designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization. France, in particular, has resisted the idea out of concern that it could destabilize Lebanon, where Hezbollah is part of the ruling government coalition.

The trial will continue in two weeks, according to the national Cyprus News Agency.

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