AITA ECH CHAAB, Lebanon - People in this southern Lebanese village are rebuilding
their destroyed houses with renewed vigor. And, with renewed loyalties to a
combination of Hezbollah, Qatar and Iran.
This village of about 3,000 less than a kilometer from the heavily guarded
border with Israel was one of the first places bombed by Israeli warplanes during
the war last summer. Residents here grow tobacco and work on their small farms.
The Hezbollah raid in which two Israeli soldiers were detained took place nearby.
The village was hammered by incessant bombings by Israeli warplanes throughout
But rather than turn people away from Hezbollah, the attacks seem to have made
residents fierce supporters of the political group, now providing some of the
only reconstruction assistance.
"The sound of the bombs, the warplanes, the drones was relentless for
us," Fatima Ridda, a mother of 11 whose husband was killed in an Israeli
rocket attack told IPS, as UN helicopters buzzed overhead. "Now Hezbollah,
Iran, and Qatar are the only people helping us try to rebuild our lives. Our
own government will do nothing."
Hezbollah members distributed 12,000 dollars to each family whose houses suffered
damage during the war, to help them with reconstruction.
Further undercutting the Israeli-U.S. hopes that the war would turn Lebanese
people against Hezbollah, the political gridlock between Hezbollah and the U.S.-backed
Lebanese government led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has motivated people
to support those helping them which means Hezbollah, Iran and Qatar.
To that extent people are also turning against the government. And this further
strengthens Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the others seen as helping
"I love Iran for helping us so much. Our own state has done nothing for
us," Abed Ridda, a businessman who works in Saudi Arabia but lives in the
town told IPS. "Qatar is also helping us rebuild, so of course we love
the people who are helping us."
Qatar, a Sunni Gulf state that maintains trade relations with Israel, and Iran,
have both been financing reconstruction projects across much of southern Lebanon.
Immediately after the war last July, Qatar took responsibility for rebuilding
four largely Hezbollah-supporting towns in southern Lebanon Khiam, Ait Ech
Chaab, Bint Jbail and Ainata.
By the end of January the Qataris had handed out more than 5,000 compensation
cheques averaging about 6,000 dollars each in the four towns. That is as much
as the total U.S. aid offer of 30 million dollars. At least two further instalments
from Qatar are planned.
Qatar has also repaired hospitals, schools and nearly 400 religious buildings
Iranian money and expertise has overseen the repair or reconstruction of 60
schools across Lebanon, with work planned on another 100. Iran has pledged more
than 112 million dollars to help the south rebuild.
Hussam Khoshnevis, head of the Iranian mission to aid reconstruction of Lebanon,
told reporters recently that four hospitals in a list of 22, and 30 places of
worship including 10 churches and some Sunni mosques have been repaired.
Electricity has been restored to 60 villages in the south with Iranian aid,
and ten major bridges have been rebuilt. Iranian engineers are also overseeing
the repair of all of Lebanon's damaged roads.
The relief work has strengthened allegiances to these opponents of Israel and
"Was it reasonable to see (Prime Minister Fouad) Siniora sitting with
Condoleeza Rice when Israel is bombing us with U.S. bombs?" Abed Ridda
said to IPS, referring to the visit the U.S. Secretary of State made to Beirut
during the war. The move infuriated most Lebanese across the south.
"We rely on Hezbollah and these other countries who are helping us now
because it's all we have," Said Abu Khalil, an unemployed construction
worker injured by bomb shrapnel during the war told IPS. "And we rely on
Hezbollah to protect us again from the next Israeli aggression, because our
own government can't and won't do that job."
(Inter Press Service)