VOX POPULI: What the Lebanese really think of Hezbollah , but are afraid to say 6 August 06


ı“Hezbollah came to Ain Ebel to shoot its rockets,” said Fayad Hanna Amar. “They are ıshooting from between our houses.” “Please,’’ he added, “write that in your newspaper.” ıMr. Amar said Hezbollah fighters in groups of two and three had come into Ain Ebel, ıless than a mile from Bint Jbail, where most of the fighting has occurred. They were ıusing it as a base to shoot rockets, he said, and the Israelis fired back.ı
One woman, who would not give her name because she had a government job and feared ıretribution, said Hezbollah fighters had killed a man who was trying to leave Bint Jbail. ı
ı“This is what’s happening, but no one wants to say it” for fear of Hezbollah, she said. ıı(New York Times, July ış27şı, ış2006şı). ı

ı“A younger man came up to me and, when we were out of earshot of others, said that ıHezbollah had kept bombs in the basement of the mosque, but that two days earlier a ıtruck had taken the cache away. It was common knowledge in Sidon, he said, and ıeveryone was expecting the mosque to be hit. When, the previous evening, displaced ıpeople from the south had gathered on the grounds, they had been warned away. ı
ı“Everybody wants to end this Hezbollah regime, but nobody can say anything,” the ıyoung man said. He told me that he had been to the United States. “I know how the ıpeople are there, what they eat and how they live and think, and we don’t have anything ılike that here. We would like to live like that, without all this” - he waved toward the ıruined mosque - “normally, the way you do.” He hoped that the Israelis would be ısuccessful. When another Lebanese man came up and joined us, he stopped talking. ıBefore we parted, I asked him if he was a Christian. He looked surprised. “No,” he said. ıı“I am Muslim. Sunni.” ı
ı(The New Yorker Magazine – July ış8şı, ış2006şı. Letter from Beirut: The Battle for Lebanon.ıby Jon Lee Anderson)ı

The Melbourne man who smuggled the shots out of Beirut and did not wish to be named ısaid he was less than ış400şm from the block when it was obliterated. "Hezbollah came in ıto launch their rockets, then within minutes the area was blasted by Israeli jets," he said. ı
ı"Until the Hezbollah fighters arrived, it had not been touched by the Israelis. Then it was ıtotally devastated. "It was carnage. Two innocent people died in that incident, but it was ıso lucky it was not more." The release of the images [of Hezbollah firing its Katyushas ıfrom under a residential apartment building in Wadi Shahrour] comes as Hezbollah faces ıcriticism for allegedly using innocent civilians as "human shields". [UN humanitarian ıchief] Mr. Egeland blasted Hezbollah as "cowards" for operating among civilians. ıı"When I was in Lebanon, in the Hezbollah heartland, I said Hezbollah must stop this ıcowardly blending in among women and children," he said. ı
ı(Photos that Damn Hezbollah. Chris Link, Herald Sun, July ış31şı, ış2006şı)ı

The surgeon led a group of journalists over what remained [of his hospital in Tyre]: ımangled debris, shredded walls and a roof punched through by an Israeli shell. "Look ıwhat they did to this place," Dr. Fouad Fatah said, shaking his head. "Why in the world ıwould the Israelis target a hospital?" The probable answer was found a few hours later in ıa field nearby. Hidden in the tall grass were the burned remnants of a rocket-launcher. ıConfronted with the evidence, Dr. Fatah admitted his hospital could have been used as a ısite from which to fire rockets into Israel. "What choice do we have? We need to fight ıback from somewhere," he said, tapping his foot on the ground. "This is Hezbollah's ıheartland." (Sonia Verma, National Post, Canada. Saturday, August ış05şı, ış2006şı)ı

ı"We've been preparing ourselves for this fight for the last five years. We can fight this for ımuch longer," said Abu Ismail, a local Hezbollah leader near the village of Bint Jbeil ıwho uses a nom de guerre, like most of his fellow fighters. Residents of the cluster of ıvillages closest to the Israeli border, Hezbollah's most loyal supporters, helped stow the ıweapons away. But as the conflict continues, there is an undercurrent of anger among ısome residents. "Hezbollah are using [us] as human shields," said Rima Khouri, gesturing ıoverhead as Israeli warplanes sliced through the sky. The Lebanese Christian woman fled ıfrom her village of Ain Abel to one of the swelling refugee shelters in the city of Tyre. ıShe was one of few people to speak freely about her anger at Hezbollah and their strategy ıof firing rockets into Israel from civilian areas." Their protection comes with a heavy ıprice. We want nothing to do with them," she said. (Sonia Verma, National Post, ıCanada. Saturday, August ış05şı, ış2006şı)ı

Nasser Kareem shared her sentiments. During a pitched battle in his village of Bint Jbeil ılast Thursday, the ış48şı-year-old dentist watched from his kitchen window as Hezbollah ıfighters dragged a rocket launcher across the torn street in front of his house. A few ıminutes later, he heard four successive blasts. Kareem barely managed to cover his four-ıyear-old son's ears before the rockets were fired. His own ears are still ringing. "Five ıminutes after they fired the rockets, the Israelis started bombing," he recalled from the ısafety of a shelter in Beirut. "They are making us magnets for the Israelis," he said. ıı(Sonia Verma, National Post, Canada. Saturday, August ış05şı, ış2006şı)ı

Most villagers bristle at the suggestion that Israel has been targeting anybody but ıcivilians. Anger boiled over last week when a shelter in Qana was hit, killing ış29şı people, ımost of them children." What have they done to deserve this? Is this a military target?" ıwept Mohamad Chalhoub, clutching the lifeless body of his daughter. Local officials said ıthere were no weapons or rockets in the house where the children slept in Qana, no ıwarning before the bomb fell. But the next day, the same Lebanese Red Cross team that ıdug out the children's bodies stumbled across the shreds of more rocket launchers in a ıvillage nearby. One was found deep inside a fruit orchard. Another was found wedged ıbetween two houses. In this part of Lebanon, Hezbollah still rules the streets. (Sonia ıVerma, National Post, Canada. Saturday, August ış05şı, ış2006şı)ı