BERLIN, Nov 16 (Reuters) – German police conducted raids early on Thursday in seven states over the Islamic Centre of Hamburg’s suspected support for the militant group Hezbollah, the interior ministry said.
The move comes at a particularly sensitive time for Jews in Germany after Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and the resulting Israeli assault on Gaza. Since then, German authorities have cracked down on pro-Palestinian groups.
“I want to make clear that we are acting against Islamists, not against a religion or another state,” said German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.
“But we have the Islamist scene in our sights,” she said.
Authorities searched more than 50 properties connected to the centre, which has strong ties to Iran and whose activities are suspected of violating Germany’s constitutional order.
The raids, which also targeted five other associations believed to be subgroups of the centre, were aimed at securing evidence as part of the ministry’s investigation, it said.
The centre was not immediately available for comment.
In Hamburg alone, 300 officers conducted 31 searches in connection with the centre, the city’s interior senator said.
“The suspicions against the Islamic Centre of Hamburg are serious,” and it has long been monitored by the domestic intelligence agency for Islamist activities, said Faeser.
“Especially now, when many Jews feel particularly threatened, we do not tolerate Islamist propaganda or anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate speech,” said Faeser.
Hezbollah’s activities were banned in Germany in 2020, with any symbols of the group banned and their assets confiscated.
The Lebanese group, which has deep ties to Hamas and receives weapons from Iran, has been exchanging fire with Israeli forces at the Lebanese-Israeli frontier since Oct. 8.
Since the Oct. 7 attacks, German authorities have prohibited many pro-Palestinian demonstrations in what they say are efforts to prevent public antisemitism and curb disorder.
Supporters of the Palestinians say they feel blocked from publicly expressing support or concern for people in Gaza without risking arrest, their jobs or immigration status.
(Reporting by Linda Pasquini; Writing by Miranda Murray and Madeline Chambers; Editing by Edmund Klamann)