Cautious relief greets ceasefire

Lebanese have given a cautious welcome to Monday’s ceasefire with hopes that life will return to normal after almost five weeks of war.

A woman waves a Hezbollah flag as she returns to her home
A woman waves a Hezbollah flag as she returns to her home

In Beirut businesses reopened and traffic jams formed on the city’s streets for the first time in weeks. Thousands of refugees who fled their homes in the south of the country left the schools and public parks where they had sought shelter.

In Sanayeh park in west Beirut many displaced had left and those who remained said they intended to return to their homes over the coming days.

Sarjoun Qantar, a volunteer who had been helping with the relief effort in the park, said: “People are impatient to go back to their normal life.”

But some were unsure if they had a home to go back to.

Loss of property

Hassan Yehia fled his house 5 metres from the border fence with Israel in the village of Kfar Kila.

Yehia said: “We don’t know what has happened to the house. We have heard different reports and someone said that it had been hit by an Israeli shell.”

But Yehia said the loss of property did not bother him.

Referring to the previous Israeli offensives in Lebanon, he said: “We are used to this. This happened to me in 1978, 1982 and 1996.

“The first time it happened to me it was a shock, but now I have got used to it.”

Mountains of rubble

Yehia’s stoic attitude was echoed by many.

In the Haret Hreik area of Beirut’s southern suburbs residents were returning to the area to see if their house had survived the intense Israeli bombardment that had pounded the neighbourhood.

The area is home to Hezbollah’s headquarters and armed men dressed in black fatigues were everywhere. Many wore surgical masks to protect themselves from the noxious smoke that was still rising from some of the buildings.

In some places whole streets had disappeared and were replaced with mountains of rubble and nothing remained untouched by the destruction.

A foul smell hung over the area but Hezbollah fighters in the area denied there were dead bodies still lying in the ruins.

Despite the destruction many in the area were in a buoyant mood and youths carried pictures of Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.

Khaled Barakat, a Haret Hreik resident, said: “We won because Israel didn’t win.”

Barakat said he remained in the area throughout the bombardment.

Others struggled to be so positive.

One man said: “I think that my building has been destroyed. There are no winners in war.”

Fragile ceasefire

Despite relief that the conflict appeared to be over many in Lebanon are concerned over the future prospects of the country.

The ceasefire with Israel is fragile and the blockade on the country remains.

Lebanon’s political balance looks increasingly fragile and there is a divide between those who accuse Hezbollah of unilaterally starting a war with Israel and those who say the party had a right to resist Israeli aggression.

Hassan Nasrallah’s TV address on Monday evening was met with an eruption of celebratory gunfire and fireworks in Beirut after he said his party had defeated Israel.

Hezbollah supporters say the party proved it was possible to stand up against a country that had inflicted a series of crushing defeats over Arabs.

Others are less convinced and point to the death of more than 1100 Lebanese civilians and a massive material damage that has cost the country as much as $5billion.

Michael Karam, the editor of Executive, an English language business magazine, said: “The impact has been monumental. In one month the country was systematically dismantled.

“In terms of confidence there has been a huge effect in many of the country’s different sectors. In the tourism industry for example, who is going to come on holiday here now?”

Source : Al Jazeera

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