Lebanese bankers lash out at Israel for suing them

Other News Materials 9 July 2008 22:21 (UTC +04:00)

Claiming they are being slandered, five Lebanese banks being sued in the US by Israelis for allegedly supporting the Hezbollah guerrilla group hit out at the allegations Wednesday and insisted they adhere to international rules against "terrorist financing."

"Lebanese and Arab banks are subject to slander campaigns ... and this will not affect their reputation," local radio stations quoted a statement by the Lebanese Banking Association as saying Wednesday.

"Lebanese banks have for years relied on sophisticated standards to counter money laundering and terrorist financing, in line with the recommendations of the international working group on banking secrecy," the statement added, the dpa reported.

The suit, filed in a US Federal court in Manhattan by 60 Israelis who were injured by Hezbollah rockets or who lost relatives, during the 2006 Lebanon War, seeks at least 100 million dollars in damages from Fransabank, Banque libanaise pour le commerce (BLC), Bank of Beirut, Banque Libano-Francaise SAL and the Middle East and Africa Bank.

The plaintiffs accuse the five banks of having violated international law by holding Hezbollah accounts and having knowingly provided financial services to the Iranian-backed movement and to its fund-raising arm, the Islamic Resistance Support Organization.

The 2006 war erupted on July 12 2006, when Israel launched a fierce offensive against Hezbollah, hours after the guerilla group snatched two Israeli soldiers, and killed three others, in a deadly cross-border raid.

During the ensuing fighting some 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians were killed in ferocious Israeli bombings, while 164 Israelis were killed, including 45 civilians from Hezbollah missile strikes, and 119 soldiers.