Two years ago this month, Hezbollah operatives murdered six people—five tourists and their bus driver—and wounded many more in a bus bombing at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria. The incident brought global attention to the extent of the group’s operations in Europe, far afield of its traditional home base of Lebanon, where it was founded with a mission to fight Israel. But today, despite a European Union ban on the group's military wing, Hezbollah is just as strong on the continent as it was two years ago.
Hezbollah’s European networks are so strong, in fact, that just this month it was revealed that Hezbollah procurement agents bought parts and technologies in Europe for the surveillance drones the group deploys in Syria and Israel. And U.S. lawmakers are worried. On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed a bill that, if enacted into law, would allow the U.S. to take the unprecedented step of sanctioning European banks found to be doing business with the group.
Nor was the Burgas plot Hezbollah's only operational venture in Europe at the time. Indeed, a similar Hezbollah plot targeting Israeli tourists en route to a Bulgarian ski resort had been foiled just six months earlier. To be sure, Hezbollah had been active in Europe for decades, but evidence uncovered in the weeks leading up to the Burgas bombing indicated Hezbollah's financial, logistical, criminal, and even operational activities in Europe were on the upswing, and those activities have not diminished. How did it get to the point that the U.S. would consider sanctioning banks in Europe to combat a movement spawned in Lebanon? Last year, Bulgarian investigators lifted the veil on Hezbollah’s growing operational efforts in Europe when they found the group responsible for the Burgas bombing, which killed not only Israeli tourists but a Bulgarian bus driver.