Hezbollah Leads Work to Rebuild


Richard Moore


Hezbollah is clearly part of the grassroots infrastructure of Lebanon, and is 
not going away. What can it mean if Israel promises to continue attacks against 
Hezbollah? It can only mean continued strikes on Lebanon generally. Perhaps this
time the Iranians or Russians will give Lebanon up-to-date anti-aircraft 


Original source URL:

August 16, 2006
Hezbollah Leads Work to Rebuild, Gaining Stature

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 15 ‹ As stunned Lebanese returned Tuesday over broken 
roads to shattered apartments in the south, it increasingly seemed that the 
beneficiary of the destruction was most likely to be Hezbollah.

A major reason ‹ in addition to its hard-won reputation as the only Arab force 
that fought Israel to a standstill ‹ is that it is already dominating the 
efforts to rebuild with a torrent of money from oil-rich Iran.

Nehme Y. Tohme, a member of Parliament from the anti-Syrian reform bloc and the 
country¹s minister for the displaced, said he had been told by Hezbollah 
officials that when the shooting stopped, Iran would provide Hezbollah with an 
³unlimited budget² for reconstruction.

In his victory speech on Monday night, Hezbollah¹s leader, Sheik Hassan 
Nasrallah, offered money for ³decent and suitable furniture² and a year¹s rent 
on a house to any Lebanese who lost his home in the month-long war.

³Completing the victory,² he said, ³can come with reconstruction.²

On Tuesday, Israel began to pull many of its reserve troops out of southern 
Lebanon, and its military chief of staff said all of the soldiers could be back 
across the border within 10 days. Lebanese soldiers are expected to begin moving
in a couple of days, supported by the first of 15,000 foreign troops.

While the Israelis began their withdrawal, hundreds of Hezbollah members spread 
over dozens of villages across southern Lebanon began cleaning, organizing and 
surveying damage. Men on bulldozers were busy cutting lanes through giant piles 
of rubble. Roads blocked with the remnants of buildings are now, just a day 
after a cease-fire began, fully passable.

In Sreifa, a Hezbollah official said the group would offer an initial $10,000 to
residents to help pay for the year of rent, to buy new furniture and to help 
feed families.

In Taibe, a town of fighting so heavy that large chunks were missing from walls 
and buildings where they had been sprayed with bullets, the Audi family stood 
with two Hezbollah volunteers, looking woefully at their windowless, bullet- and
shrapnel-torn house.

In Bint Jbail, Hezbollah ambulances ‹ large, new cars with flashing lights on 
the top ‹ ferried bodies of fighters to graves out of mountains of rubble.

Hezbollah¹s reputation as an efficient grass-roots social service network ‹ as 
opposed to the Lebanese government, regarded by many here as sleek men in suits 
doing well ‹ was in evidence everywhere. Young men with walkie-talkies and 
clipboards were in the battered Shiite neighborhoods on the southern edge of 
Bint Jbail, taking notes on the extent of the damage.

³Hezbollah¹s strength,² said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese 
American University here, who has written extensively about the organization, in
large part derives from ³the gross vacuum left by the state.²

Hezbollah was not, she said, a state within a state, but rather ³a state within 
a nonstate, actually.²

Sheik Nasrallah said in his speech that ³the brothers in the towns and villages 
will turn to those whose homes are badly damaged and help rebuild them.

³Today is the day to keep up our promises,² he said. ³All our brothers will be 
in your service starting tomorrow.²

Some southern towns were so damaged that on Tuesday residents had not yet begun 
to return. A fighter for the Amal movement, another Shiite militia group, said 
he had been told that Hezbollah members would begin to catalog damages in his 
town, Kafr Kila, on the Israeli border.

Hezbollah men also traveled door to door checking on residents and asking them 
what help they needed.

Although Hezbollah is a Shiite organization, Sheik Nasrallah¹s message resounded
even with a Sunni Muslim, Ghaleb Jazi, 40, who works at the oil storage plant at
Jiyeh, 15 miles south of Beirut. It was bombed by the Israelis and spewed 
pollution northward into the Mediterranean.

³The government may do some work on bridges and roads, but when it comes to 
rebuilding houses, Hezbollah will have a big role to play,² he said. ³Nasrallah 
said yesterday he would rebuild, and he will come through.²

Sheik Nasrallah¹s speech was interpreted by some as a kind of watershed in 
Lebanese politics, establishing his group on an equal footing with the official 

³It was a coup d¹état,² said Jad al-Akjaoui, a political analyst aligned with 
the democratic reform bloc. He was among the organizers of the anti-Syrian 
demonstrations after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri two
years ago that led to international pressure to rid Lebanon of 15 years of 
Syrian control.

Rami G. Khouri, a columnist for The Daily Star in Beirut, wrote that Sheik 
Nasrallah ³seemed to take on the veneer of a national leader rather than the 
head of one group in Lebanon¹s rich mosaic of political parties.²

³In tone and content, his remarks seemed more like those of a president or a 
prime minister should be making while addressing the nation after a terrible 
month of destruction and human suffering,² Mr. Khouri wrote. ³His prominence is 
one of the important political repercussions of this war.²

Defense Minister Elias Murr said Tuesday that the government would not seek to 
disarm Hezbollah.

³The army is not going to the south to strip the Hezbollah of its weapons and do
the work that Israel did not,² he said, showing just how difficult reining in 
the militia will most likely be in the coming weeks and months. He added that 
³the resistance,² meaning Hezbollah, had been cooperating with the government 
and there was no need to confront it.

Sheik Nasrallah sounded much like a governor responding to a disaster when he 
said, ³So far, the initial count available to us on completely demolished houses
exceeds 15,000 residential units.

³We cannot of course wait for the government and its heavy vehicles and 
machinery because they could be a while,² he said. He also cautioned, ³No one 
should raise prices due to a surge in demand.²

Support for Hezbollah was likely to become stronger, Professor Saad-Ghorayeb 
said, because of the weakness of the central government.

³Hezbollah has two pillars of support,² she said, ³the resistance and the social
services. What this war has illustrated is that it is best at both.

Referring to Shiek Nasrallah, she said: ³He tells the people, ŒDon¹t worry, 
we¹re going to protect you. And we¹re going to reconstruct. This has happened 
before. We will deliver.¹ ²

Hassan M. Fattah contributed reporting from Sreifa, Lebanon, for this article, 
Sabrina Tavernise from Taibe and Robert F. Worth from Jiyeh.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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