U.S. sanctions two officials from Lebanon's Hezbollah

FILE PHOTO: A Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah are pictured along a street, near Sidon, Lebanon July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United States has imposed sanctions on two officials from the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, the U.S. Treasury Department said, including one who served as a senior military commander in the south of the country.

Nabil Qaouk, a member of the group’s executive council who fought during Israel’s 1982-2000 military occupation of south Lebanon, and Hassan al-Baghdadi were both designated “for being leaders or officials” of Hezbollah.

The United States deems Hezbollah, the heavily armed, Iran-backed group which is also a powerful political presence in Lebanon, to be a terrorist group. It has sanctioned several Hezbollah members, including its leader and deputy leader.

The U.S. Treasury said Qaouk and Baghdadi were members of a Hezbollah council responsible for electing its highest decision-making body, the Shura Council, “which formulates policy and asserts control over all aspects of (Hezbollah’s) activities, including its military activities.”

Qaouk had made speeches threatening war with Israel, denouncing the U.S. presence in the Middle East and praising Hezbollah’s guerrilla warfare, the Treasury Department said.

Baghdadi has defended attacks on Americans, and praised Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and fighters in Syria and Iraq for attacking U.S. military bases, it said.

The action freezes any U.S. assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them. Those that engage in certain transactions with those designated are also at risk of being hit with secondary sanctions, the Treasury said.

Reporting by Dominic Evans, Editing by William Maclean