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Displaced Lebanese Flock Home
by IOL (reposted)
Monday Aug 14th, 2006 6:34 AM
SIDON, Lebanon — No sooner had the UN-brokered end of hostilities came into effect in the wee hours of Monday, August 14 , thousands of Lebanese civilians displaced by the savaged Israeli bombardment of the south started to flock home in droves.
"I'm going to make sure my house is okay," Adel Abbas, from a village near Tyre, told Reuters.

"If Israel sticks to its word and continues to stick to the ceasefire, I'll take my family back home later today."

Guns fell silent in Lebanon early Monday after a UN-brokered truce went into effect to end a five-week Israeli offensive on Lebanon.

A few hours later, hundreds of cars jammed a narrow road leading south from the port city of Sidon.

The mood among the convoys was joyful with many of returnees giving the victory sign.

"Since day one the resistance (Hizbullah) told us that it will get us back to our homes, and now it has delivered on its promise," said one jubilant woman, proudly showing the V sign.

"Thank you Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah," she added in reference to the chief of the Lebanese resistance group.

Up to1 , 109Lebanese civilians, a third of whom were children, have been killed since Israel launched a wide-scale offensive on July12 .

The savaged Israeli bombardment, which left Lebanon's hard-won infrastructure in tatters, has displaced nearly one million civilians.

National Duty

Many of the displaced said their return to their homes in the devastated south was a national duty.

"It does not matter whether our homes are still standing or not. We have to go back and defend our land," Leila Haidar,29 , told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"It is all part of the struggle," she said.

Leila's family fled the southern village of Sir al-Gharbiyeh two days after Israel launched its crushing offensive.

The mother of three now lives in a makeshift shelter in a school in the mainly Christian Beirut district of Ashrafiyeh.

"I don't care if we have to live in tents, but as long as it is on our land," Haidar said while gathering the few items she and her children now own in preparation for their journey home.

Like many southern Lebanese, she believes that her return is to demonstrate steadfastness in the face of Israel which robbed her of her land and tried to deter her unwavering support for Hizbullah, the only group which protects her interests.

With a red scarf tightly wrapped around her head and black eyeliner defining her stare, Haidar recalls her children's screams when the Israeli bombs started falling down.

"But we will go back. And if our children die, we will make some more. We are all Hizbullah's soldiers," she averred boldly.


The UN agency for refugees has said that it would begin organizing the return of the displaced people.

But many families said they will not wait.

"We are not going to wait for any organization to take us back," said Hassan Abdel Karim who lives with his wife and three children in a park in the Sanayeh district of central Beirut.

Squatting under a tree in the park, now a centre for the displaced, the 42 year-old is eager to go back to the flattened suburbs in the south.

"I have no idea what has happened to my house. I do know that the supermarket I worked in doesn't exist anymore," he said tearing a piece of Lebanese flat bread just handed to him by the park's volunteers.

His eight-year-old daughter is hiding in a blue tent he pitched in the middle of the garden's grounds as she waits for her only clothes to dry.

Hassan is broke. He has no job to go back to and is unsure of how to rebuild his life.

But in a conservative society where a family's privacy is near sacred, living like this, waiting for food donations in cramped conditions is simply not an option.

"It is humiliating. It is degrading to live like this, in the middle of a park," he said.

"I have daughters who need their privacy.

"We need to go back home. We need to rebuild our lives. We need to show that we have not been crushed."

The Israeli offensive has hit the southern part of the country the hardest, destroying entire villages and forcing many, who had already fled previous Israeli offensives in 1982 and1996 , to flee once more.

"My family has been through this all before," said Bilal Hamed,30 , who doesn't know what has become of his home or his precious crops of olives, citrus and grapes.

"If we don't have homes, we will rebuild them. If they burnt our crops, we will replant them," he said.

"Hizbullah is not a party, it is a people and if Israel wants to get rid of Hizbullah, they will have to get rid of all of us."
by UK Guardian (reposted)
Monday Aug 14th, 2006 6:34 AM
Thousands of refugees were returning to their homes and a Hizbullah fighter was reported to have been shot dead as a ceasefire took hold across southern Lebanon today.

Fighting has been replaced by a tense peace following a major Israeli push in the closing hours before the ceasefire deadline at 8am local time (0600 BST).

However, the truce's fragile nature was underlined when the Israeli military reported shooting a man they described as a Hizbullah guerrilla in the town of Hadatha, around a mile north of the Israeli border, today.

They said the man had been part of a group approaching an Israeli outpost "in a threatening way", and was only a few metres away when troops opened fire.

"The unit was under threat, so they fired in self-defence," an army statement said. "But the armed men didn't open fire first."

In northern Israel, families were beginning to emerge from the bunkers in which they have been sheltering from Hizbullah rocket fire for much of the past month.

Despite the late military push and political pressure within Israel for it to take control of all Lebanese territory south of the Litani River, 18 miles north of the border, Israeli troop positions halted around six miles south of the river.

Nevertheless, refugees streamed back to their homes, crowding roads despite Israel's insistence that a ban on road traffic south of the Litani would be enforced regardless of the ceasefire.

Reuters reported that thousands of cars were queuing on a bomb-damaged road leading south from the port city of Sidon. Drivers hooted their horns, gave victory salutes and showed pictures of the Hizbullah leader, Hassan Nasrallah.

"Since day one, the resistance [Hizbillah] told us that it will get us back our homes, and now it has delivered on its promise," one woman told Reuters. "Thank you, Hassan Nasrallah."

"I'm going to make sure my house is okay," Adel Abbas, from a village near Tyre, told Reuters. "If Israel sticks to its word and continues to stick to the ceasefire, I'll take my family back home later today."

by CNN (reposted)
Monday Aug 14th, 2006 6:36 AM
TYRE, Lebanon (CNN) -- Hours after a U.N.-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah took effect Monday morning, thousands of refugees poured back into southern Lebanon, trying to return home.

Highways were packed with displaced civilians returning to the area, which bore the brunt of the fighting over the past 34 days.

CNN's Ben Wedeman reported from Tyre, Lebanon, that people who had spent days or weeks in cramped, uncomfortable shelters in the mountains, with food and water running low, were anxious to get to their homes and find out what had happened to them.


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