Saudi Arabia threatens to punish Hezbollah supporters

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it would punish anyone who belongs to Hezbollah, sympathizes with it, supports it financially or harbors any of its members.

An Interior Ministry statement carried by the state news agency SPA and quoted by Reuters said that Saudis and expatriates would be subjected to "severe penalties" under the kingdom's regulations and anti-terrorism laws. Foreigners would be deported, it said.

The Saudi move comes after Gulf Arab countries declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization, raising the possibility of further sanctions against the group.

On Friday, the Arab League followed suit and blacklisted the organization as well.

"Any citizen or resident who supports, shows membership in the so-called Hezbollah, sympathizes with it or promotes it, makes donations to it or communicates with it or harbors anyone belonging to it will be subject to the stiff punishments provided by the rules and orders, including the terrorism crimes and its financing," the statement quoted by Reuters said.

Foreigners working and living in the oil-exporting kingdom would also face expulsion, it warned.

Hezbollah has close ties to Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional rival. Saudi Arabia supports Syrian opposition groups to topple Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad while Iran and Hezbollah assist the embattled Syrian leader.

Hezbollah was outraged by the Gulf states' decision to blacklist it, calling it “irresponsible and hostile” and urging the Saudi regime to “face the consequences”.

Iran also expressed great outrage over the designation of Hezbollah and said, "Those who call Hezbollah terrorists, have intentionally or unintentionally targeted the unity and security of Lebanon."


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