***This article was first published in the Letter from Jerusalem newsletter. To receive this bulletin every week, please click here
Boris Johnson has been urged to toughen up the UK’s ban on Hizbollah after it emerged that the Government does not provide public data on how many people are collaborating with the Lebanese terrorist group.
A cross-party alliance of MPs who are concerned about the influence of the group in Britain has written to the Government expressing their alarm at the lack of data, which has led to fears that the UK’s ban could be toothless.
Hizbollah, which is backed by the Iranian regime, was banned in its entirety by the British government last year when Sajid Javid was Home Secretary.
Previously, the armed wing of the group was banned in the UK but its political wing was allowed to operate in the country.
As a result, supporters of Hizbollah were able to march through British streets bearing the group’s flag without consequences.
The group’s primary foreign policy goal is the destruction of the state of Israel, which is one of the UK’s most important strategic partners in the Middle East.
It comes as the Israeli government continues to encourage Western governments to crack down on the Lebanese group, which is said to be constantly plotting terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens in Europe.
The UK rules ban displays of support for the group, such as attending pro-Hizbollah marches or displaying Hizbollah flags, but the Government has said it will not disclose how many people have been charged or convicted of offences since the law was imposed in March 2019.
“The United Kingdom has the finest intelligence agencies in the world and the British people can remain confident that the Government will continue to prioritise their safety,” the MPs wrote.
“However, the display of flags and other symbols of illegal organisations in public spaces by fellow British citizens, such as on political marches or on social media, is evident and offensive to ordinary people.”
The letter, which was addressed to security minister James Brokenshire, added that the public would not be able to “properly assess” whether the ban on Hizbollah was effective unless more data was published on investigations and convictions.
The letter was signed by Tory MPs Andrew Rosindell, Sir Graham Brady, Theresa Villiers and Matthew Offord.
It was also signed by Labour MP Stephen McCabe, the chairman of Labour Friends of Israel, the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and the crossbench peer Lord Kilclooney.
The Telegraph understands that Israeli officials were encouraged by the UK’s initial ban and are hopeful that the legislation delivers results, such as convictions for those found to be supporting the Lebanese group.
Tensions between Hizbollah and Israel have soared on the Israel-Lebanon border in recent days.
On Tuesday, the Israeli military said it had opened fire on a small group of armed Hizbollah fighters who had crossed the Blue Line into the Jewish state’s territory, apparently with the aim of carrying out an attack.
According to some reports, one of the Hizbollah fighters was killed in an exchange of fire. Israel said there were no casualties on its side.
The tensions at the border are part of a broader proxy conflict between Israel and Iran which is largely based in Syria, where Israel is believed to have carried out a series of surgical strikes on Tehran’s proxy groups.
Israeli analysts say that when Iran retaliates it usually orders Hizbollah to plot attacks or other disruptive activities such as fence-cutting on Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.
But there are mounting concerns that the skirmishes on the border could soon erupt into a full-blown conflict.
The Israeli government has reportedly told its allies that it does not want war with Hizbollah, but is ready to deliver a “painful blow” to the Iran-backed group if the situation escalates further.