Lebanese see victory in rubble of homes


  • World
  • Monday, 14 Aug 2006

By Tom Perry

BEIRUT (Reuters) - His home and business had been flattened, but Hilal Hashem said it didn't matter as he surveyed the devastation wreaked by Israeli air raids on his suburb. 

"We'll come back and rebuild. All this destruction is a sign of victory," he said, his two sons and daughter at his side. 

A general view of destroyed buildings in the southern Beirut suburbs August 14, 2006. (REUTERS/ Fadi Ghalioum)

"It shows they could not succeed militarily, so they resorted to hitting civilians." 

Lebanese returned to Beirut's southern suburbs on Monday to find hills of rubble where their homes once stood. Satellite dishes and water tanks lay in the streets. 

Israel bombed the southern suburbs saying it was aiming at Hizbollah offices in the area. 

Finding shops and homes blown to pieces, many in Hizbollah's Beirut heartland said the destruction was a monument to what they see as the group's victory in the war with Israel. 

More than a month of heavy fighting and air raids were brought to an end by a U.N.-brokered truce on Monday. 

Hashem said his support for Hizbollah had grown. "Why? Because they have protected our dignity," he said. 

Young men darted around the streets on mopeds, handing out glossy leaflets picturing Hizbollah guerrillas next to a rocket launcher. "The Divine Victory," read one pamphlet in English. 

The yellow flag of Hizbollah flew from cars which clogged the main road through the suburb. 

"I don't know where my house is. It's like a tidal wave, an earthquake. But more than that, it's a crime," said Ani Farhat as she toured the area with her sister. "Watch out, don't go further in. There are unexploded shells," she warned. 

"ISRAELI RAGE" 

Many who fled the area were returning for the first time, holding tissues over their faces so as not to breathe the clouds of concrete dust thrown up by bulldozers scooping up piles of rubble. 

Israeli jets dropped leaflets over Beirut before the truce took hold, blaming Hizbollah for the war and warning that Israel would hit back if the Shi'ite Muslim group attacked. 

The war was triggered when Hizbollah staged a raid into Israel and captured two soldiers. 

There was no sign that faith in Hizbollah had been shaken in the Shi'ite area. Residents expect the group, which runs social services, to rebuild the area. 

"Come, look! This is where my shop was," Kassem Ghandour called to his friend, smiling as he stood on what was once a rooftop. "This is Israeli rage." 

Across the street, Youssef Kawtharani pulled a sewing machine from the debris of his apartment block and cursed U.S. President George W. Bush as he handed it to his wife, who was piling up the possessions that could be salvaged. 

Half of Dawoud Bizza's apartment block had been destroyed, but his flat had survived. He worked with pliers to connect an electrical cable to the building. 

"They are going to bring a generator. If so, great. If not, we'll use candles," he said. "The important thing is that our heads are held up high." 

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