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War Looms Large in Lebanon

Omayma Abdel-Latif writes in Al-Ahram:

The 62-year old Haj Tawfiq Saad sits in the courtyard of his house in Bint Jbeil facing Maroun Araas mountain, the scene of some of the fiercest battles during Israel’s onslaught on Lebanon last summer. He recalls vividly the 22 days he spent with his family — 25 people, most of them women and children, besieged in Bint Jbeil under heavy Israeli bombardment. “They were right above us occupying a house in Talet Massoud and shelling us,” he said. One of his three sons joined the resistance, and his house was destroyed. “We never feared death ourselves. Our greatest worry was what we would do if something happened to any of the children. We read the Quran and prayers all the time.”

Haj Saad managed to flee the town with his family during the two-day ceasefire. But since returning with his wife Um Ali he has been able to leave only twice. With rumours of another attack in the air, Saad does not intend to leave Bint Jbeil. “If the Israelis think they can launch another war to make their army look better, they are committing an even greater mistake than last year. This time Bint Jbeil will put up much more effective resistance,” said Saad.

While talk of a coming war overshadows almost everything here in Bint Jbeil, it did not take away from a strange sense of calm in this town only 13km from the border with Israel whose resistance proved a turning point in the war. Bint Jbeil seemed worlds apart from the ongoing political crisis that has gripped the country for the past year. And yet just like other southern towns, it is affected by the political wrangling between Lebanon’s opposition commonly known as the March 8th forces and the government’s March 14th forces. The Lebanese government received $6 billion in aid but it has been very slow in handing out compensation to war victims. Only six per cent of those whose houses were destroyed during the war have received compensation. The cause of the delay, many of the residents in southern villages believe, has to do with the political conflict with the Lebanese opposition spearheaded by Hizbullah.

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