BEIRUT â€” Shoes, photo albums, teddy bears and a cash register poke through the debris. What were once eight-storey residential blocks are now rubble. The devastation in Beirut’s southern suburbs is complete, and disturbing.
It’s an apocalyptic scene of a once densely-packed neighbourhood gutted as if by earthquake.
The detritus lying on the dust and smashed concrete is that of ordinary people’s possessions, now nothing more than the grit of war to be trod underfoot. Israeli bombs and missiles caused the destruction, launched by pilots ordered to strike at what was once the stronghold of Hizbollah, the Shiite Lebanese group whose headquarters were nestled in the middle of the Haret Hreik district. Now, that building, and many of the others in streets and blocks around are flattened. The ones left standing have been stripped of walls and roofs, exposing modest apartments inside.
“What the Israelis are doing has nothing to do with the two Israel soldiers,” says Hizbollah’s spokesman, Hussein Nabulsi, showing journalists the area.
“This is a kind of a revenge against not only Hizbollah but against Lebanon as a whole, because only Lebanon was able to defeat the Israelis,” he says, referring to the groupâ€™s boast that its actions forced Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon six years ago. “This was a supermarket,” he says, pointing to a mound of broken blocks.
“And this building we see, this is where we worked â€” the Hizbollah media offices.” A satellite dish is visible in the rubble. The southern suburbs, along with the area along the southern border with Israel, have borne the brunt of the Jewish state’s offensive. Hizbollah targets and civilian homes alike have been wiped out. Israel has said such widespread attacks are necessary because Hizbollah hid weapons in homes and sought to protect its positions by using civilian areas.
But Nabulsi contests that.
“Do you see any military targets? It’s just houses, the homes of civilians. It’s just our families, our relatives.” An overnight bombardment against what the Israelis claimed was a Hizbollah command bunker “was a building for clerics, it’s just a mosque,” he adds.
The scale and intensity of the devastation makes it impossible to verify the claims of either the group or Israel, but journalists saw no signs of weapons or military equipment in the zone. Nor were there any bodies.
Hizbollah’s spokesman said Israel was failing in its mission to uproot the Lebanese movement.
“They say they have destroyed 60 per cent of our rockets. But now we are launching more rockets into Israel. That means our military capabilities are getting stronger.â€