Hezbollah Supporters Show Newfound Political Strength

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The New York Sun

NAQOURA, Lebanon — Hezbollah mourners on a funeral parade shoved aside anti-tank barriers at a U.N. base in Lebanon yesterday in a demonstration of their new political strength.

The party had been told that it would be allowed to bury three “martyrs” at the Naqoura town cemetery inside the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon compound, but only if no flag-waving or political sloganizing occurred.

When the chanting procession, several hundred strong, reached the gates, they found the way barred by cruciform steel tank traps. They argued with the French guards but failed to gain entry.

A mob of young men then dragged the barriers away and the United Nations opened the gates. “They will eat us alive,” a middle-aged official said as the throng surged in.

A column of black-shirted men carried the three coffins to the graveyard. They waved yellow Hezbollah banners and portraits of the movement’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and yelled anti-Israeli and anti-American slogans.

Among the mourners was Naqoura’s mayor, Hussein Darwish, a 59-year-old former teacher. “Israel is allowed to carry on raiding our country without Unifil doing anything,” he said, referring to an abortive raid by Israeli commandos in the Bekaa valley on the previous day. “Why do they try to stop us burying our dead the way we wish?”

The angry scenes were seen as a troubling portent of what may happen when a boosted U.N. force begins deploying to police the cease-fire.

“Until now, we’ve had good relations, but I don’t know what will happen after this,” Mr. Darwish said. “Everyone is waiting.”

Others among the mourners complained that when they sought shelter at the base during the bombardments of the conflict, they were placed in open ground without bedding or water.

Unifil’s hitherto easy dealings with the locals are partly due to its initial mandate, which only required it to observe and report. The new force will be expected to fill the space left by the departing Israelis and Hezbollah fighters and to police the border area.

No sign of the Lebanese army was seen in the border area Saturday. It has been warned by Israel it will not be allowed to deploy close to the frontier before the arrival of international troops.

By last night, Unifil’s force of 2,000 had been supplemented only by the arrival of 49 French military engineers.


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