HASBAYA, Lebanon (Reuters) – Caught between Hizbollah rocket fire and Israeli air strikes, some residents of southern Lebanon are losing patience with the guerrilla group they blame for a war that is costing them lives.
Anger spilled over into open accusations at the funeral at the weekend of a Druze man killed in an Israeli air raid on the border village of Fardees.
The man was buried in Hasbaya, a neighboring Druze town a few miles further from the border, where residents are wary of any outside presence in their midst.
“We are all for resistance against Israel but they have no right to fire their rockets and then come and hide between our houses,” shouted Nazih Sliqa, a resident of Fardees, his face florid with anger and grief.
“Is Hassan Nasrallah standing here in the line of fire? We came here after the Israelis hit our village, after these people who claim they are resistance fired and hid in our village,” he said, referring to the leader of Shi’ite Muslim Hizbollah.
Israeli warplanes have pounded Lebanon in a 13-day-old war that has cost 369 lives in Lebanon, the vast majority civilians caught up in Israeli air strikes. Around 37 Israelis have been killed, almost half of them civilians hit by Hizbollah rockets.
Half a million people have been displaced by the fighting, the United Nations says, many of them residents of southern Lebanon who have streamed north in convoys waving white sheets from their car windows to stave off Israeli aerial attacks.
Many Shi’ites, the majority sect in southern Lebanon, stand firmly by Hizbollah, whose capture of two Israeli soldiers on July 12 sparked the crisis, often despite losing close family or seeing their homes destroyed.
But the feelings of Christian and Druze villagers toward Hizbollah range from grudging acceptance for its role in ending a 22-year Israeli occupation of the south to hostility to its Islamist identity.
Though people of all sects have opened up their schools and homes to the displaced, some are also angry that they are paying for a war that was not of their choosing.
“Look at them fleeing, is this their so-called resistance? They want to resist but they don’t want to stay on their land,” said a taxi driver from the Christian town of Marjayoun as convoys of Shi’ite refugees streamed north at the weekend.
Marjayoun, a pretty little town with commanding views of the fertile Khiam plateau, was headquarters to Israel’s proxy South Lebanon Army militia until the Israeli army withdrew in 2000.
With the Israelis went thousands of Lebanese, Shi’ites, Christians and Druze, who worked with the Israelis during the occupation and feared reprisals at the hands of Hizbollah.
Some privately say that the area was better off under the Israelis, who provided jobs, than under the Lebanese state which has long neglected it.
Others criticize Hizbollah for not organizing shelters for villagers if it is determined to continue its armed struggle to free Lebanese detainees in Israeli jails and expel the Jewish state from a disputed border area.
In the open, many only blame Israel for their misfortunes.