The Jerusalem Post reports that Egypt has banned Hezbollah leaders from entering the country, after the Gulf Cooperation Council labeled Hezbollah a terrorist organization last week.
“Egypt’s decision also states that people affiliated with Hezbollah would also be banned from holding stocks in Egyptian banks,” adds the Jerusalem Post.
An Egyptian security official said the decision was made after Egypt warned Hezbollah to “stop supporting armed organizations in Gaza Strip, which poses a threat to Egypt’s national security.”
As the JPost notes, this is a surprising turnaround for Egypt, which has been courting improved relations and security coordination with Hezbollah, hosting a delegation from the Lebanese terror group just two weeks ago.
On that occasion, the Syrian civil war was discussed as a point of mutual concern for Egypt and Hezbollah, along with tensions between Iran-linked Shiite Hezbollah and the pro-Saudi government of Lebanon, tensions some fear could boil over into a Syria-style civil war. The Syrian civil war was seen as bringing Egypt and Hezbollah together in mutual opposition to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
“However, in light of the upcoming visit of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud to Cairo in April amid a growing rift in the Arab world between the pro-Hezbollah camp lead by Iran and the anti-Hezbollah camp lead by Saudi Arabia, Egypt seems keen to align with the Saudi kingdom,” wrote the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
The Gulf Cooperation Council — consisting of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar — has sanctioned individuals and branches of Hezbollah as terrorists before, but this is the first time the main Lebanese core of the group has been labeled a terrorist organization by the GCC.
The move has been portrayed as part of the escalating proxy conflict between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, with critics noting the GCC is much slower to condemn Sunni terror organizations like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihad. On the other hand, Hezbollah critics contend it has effectively become a mercenary army for Iran, with a list of current and future targets spanning every conflict zone in the Middle East, including Yemen and Iraq.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the GCC declaration against Hezbollah came “two weeks after Saudi Arabia canceled a $4 billion aid package for Lebanon’s security forces, and a week after five members of the bloc warned their citizens against traveling to the heavily tourism-dependent Mediterranean country.”