Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hizbollah's reconstruction of Lebanon is winning the loyalty of disaffected Shia

By Robert Fisk

"Hizbollah has trumped both the UN army and the Lebanese government by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars - most of it almost certainly from Iran - into the wreckage of southern Lebanon and Beirut's destroyed southern suburbs. Its massive new reconstruction effort - free of charge to all those Lebanese whose homes were destroyed or damaged in Israel's ferocious five-week assault on the country - has won the loyalty of even the most disaffected members of the Shia community in Lebanon.

A frightening side to this long-term promise for believers in the UN ceasefire is that Hizbollah has encouraged its Shia population to rent homes in Khalde, south of Beirut, since it intends to delay its entire city construction project for a year - because of its conviction that the ceasefire will break down and that another Israeli-Hizbollah war will only wreck newly built homes.

Driving more than 100 miles across the south of the country yesterday, the sheer enormity of Hizbollah's task - and of the Lebanese government's failure - becomes evident. Looking across thegreen countryside of southern Lebanon, the villages appear undamaged as they bask in thesun. But the closer you get, the more you notice vast grey fields of rubble that were once homes. Some villages - Bint Jbeil, for example, and Zibqin - have been half-destroyed."

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