April 30 (UPI) -- Germany on Thursday banned activities by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group and designated it a terrorist organization.
Spokesman Steve Alter said interior minister Horst Seehofer outlawed the Iran-backed militant group he called a "Shiite terrorist organization." He said police raids in several states early Thursday targeted group operations.
"The rule of law can also act in times of crisis," he said.
Jeremy Issacharoff, Israel's ambassador to Germany, said Jerusalem welcomed the ban as an "extremely significant and meaningful step by Germany" in fighting terrorism.
"This measure by Germany is also important given the ongoing attempts by Hezbollah to threaten Israel and undermine regional stability," Issacharoff said. "This decision, that is already being implemented on the ground by the German police, should be adopted by all members of the European Union."
The United States and Israel have long pushed Germany to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
During a visit to Germany last fall by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, German foreign minister Heiko Maas told reporters his government had discussed the issue with Israeli and American officials and was looking for "a European answer."
"We have been witnessing developments in the region and in Lebanon that gives us cause to be seriously concerned," Maas said. "And, as I said, we will be engaging with our European partners with an eye to a possible listing of Hezbollah, but this presupposes European unanimity."
German Parliament passed a motion in December urging Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to ban the militant group.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "commended" Germany for the move.
"Obstructing this terrorist organization's ability to plot terrorist attacks and to raise money will further reduce Iran's malign behavior and influence," he said in a statement.
Britain barred Hezbollah last year and was the second European country to do so after the Netherlands. Canada added the group to its terror list in 2002. The United States designated it a foreign terrorist group in 1997 and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist four years later.
The European Union has designated Hezbollah's military wing as a terrorist organization but not its political arm.
The American Jewish Committee urged the EU to label Hezbollah's political faction a terrorist organization.
"Permitting its 'political' wing to operate on European soil allows for active recruitment, fundraising and the poisonous spread of antisemitism, not to mention sending a European message of hesitation and indecisiveness," AJC CEO David Harris said in a statement.