War-Weary Lebanese Back Hezbollah

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

ABASIYEH, Lebanon — For nearly four hours yesterday, the ruined buildings of Abasiyeh echoed to the sound of metal striking stone.

Then, with a single soft thud, the din ceased suddenly as the spades of the municipal workers hit flesh.

A Hezbollah fighter placed his arm around the shoulder of Hussein Yasin, watching in horror from the rim of a 12-foot crater as the workers frantically cleared the rubble covering his dead father’s legs.

“Be strong,” the fighter whispered. “The resistance will help you.”

For five weeks of conflict, the fighters of Hezbollah had been a virtually invisible presence, phantoms surfacing briefly to fire their rockets before retreating again into the network of human warrens beneath the ground of southern Lebanon.

Since Monday’s cease-fire, though, they are everywhere.

Some have swapped their guns for shovels and brooms, sweeping the rubble from bombed-out homes and cratered streets. Others pass through devastated villages, consoling the bereaved or promising compensation as they take down the names of those whose houses have been destroyed.

Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, has launched a slick campaign to ensure that the essential support of Lebanon’s Shiites does not erode as they return to their homes.

Flush with what has been described as an “unlimited budget” from his sponsors in Iran, Sheik Nasrallah pledged to give every family with a damaged home $10,000 to cover the rent of alternative accommodation for the next 12 months, the period Hezbollah says it will take to rebuild Lebanon.

Arab countries have also promised more than $948 million in reconstruction aid, compared with just $28 million from America and $23 million from Britain.

Even before the war, Hezbollah was the main distributor of charity to the Shiites, the poorest of Lebanon’s communities.

For many like Samira and Bassam Hussein, a brother and sister from the village of Srifa, the movement is now their sole champion. They had heard that their suburb of Jamia had been badly bombed but little prepared them for the devastation as they drove home. Not a single house had been left standing. Samira Hussein burst into tears and reached for her cell phone. “Turn around, drive back to Beirut,” she told her sister. “Your heart will break forever if you see what they have done to our home.”

Grim-faced, her brother walked through the ruins, shaking his head as he pointed out the former homes of his neighbors. “How can I be angry with anyone but the Israelis? ” he said. “We know the West will not help us.Who can we trust except Nasrallah?”

The New York Sun

© 2023 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  Create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use