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Briefing: What are Hezbollah's true colors?

Hezbollah has become an important player in Lebanese politics. While it still advocates the destruction of Israel and has offered to help Palestinians from Lebanon, it says that Palestinians must take the lead in securing their freedom.

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Women from Hezbollah prepare food to give to the poor in Beirut.

Hussein Malla/AP

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What are the origins of Hezbollah?

In response to Israel's 1982 invasion of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah was founded by a small group of Lebanese Shiite clerics inspired by the teachings of two radical religious scholars, Mohammed Baqr as-Sadr of Iraq and Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.

With the assistance of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah's early leadership mobilized Lebanon's Shiite population to resist the Israeli occupation. Beginning in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, hundreds of new recruits were given military training and religious indoctrination. During the 1980s, Hezbollah's influence spread from the Bekaa to Beirut, where it was blamed for the 1983 suicide bombings of the US Embassy and the US Marine barracks in which more than 300 people perished, as well as the kidnappings of foreigners. Hezbollah denies any role.

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