Eita Al-Shaab, Lebanon
The destruction in southern Lebanon from thirty-four days fighting and Israeli air and artillery strikes is more severe than that inflicted by the Israeli military during eighteen years of occupation.
In this village of around 8,000 people near the Israeli border, the closest Lebanese village to where two Israeli soldiers were taken prisoner on July 12, Israeli armored bulldozers moved into the village and began destroying houses after the fighting began. There was house-to-house combat, and after thirty or forty houses were bulldozed, Hezbollah fighters managed to drive them off. The upended wreckage of one of the bulldozers sits over a small hill from the rubble of the houses it helped destroy.
“What could we do?” asked Nizar Said, a 35-year-old mechanic, as he gave a tour of the destruction. “If we hadn’t destroyed them, they would have destroyed the whole village.” As it is, air and artillery strikes have left the rest of the houses in the village unlivable if not totally destroyed.
As Umm Ali shoveled glass and other debris from her living room floor into a bucket, she explained that her family moved from room to room as different parts of the house were struck. The living room is now more of a porch, with one wall missing. Her family are tobacco farmers, and they also lost their crop.
“It’s the same with every house. All houses are destroyed, every house. If not totally destroyed, they are…damaged,” she said. “We can’t find a house to stay in. It is impossible to live in them. People are staying with their neighbors whenever there is a spot in a house.”
It is estimated that 15,000 houses or apartments–more than half of those in the south–were destroyed across Lebanon during the thirty-four days of fighting; an estimated 30,000 homes and businesses were damaged. The scene in Eita Al-Shaab repeats itself as one drives across the south from east to west. Nonetheless, Umm Ali remained undaunted.
“We will continue to sacrifice for the Sayyed,” she said, referring to Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah using his religious title.
The smell of death is strong across the south, from the bodies still under houses in Eita Al-Shaab to the hospital in Sour, (Tyre) where Abed Naim had come to claim the body of his father, stored with dozens of others in a refrigerated truck.