On streets of Damascus, a defiant stand toward Israel
DAMASCUS, SYRIA — The Syrian capital of Damascus remained defiant on Sunday as Hizbullah flags fluttered from cars and Syrian Arab-nationalist and resistance songs blared from taxis and on Syrian television throughout the city. Tired of US pressure on their country, Syrians have been expressing their full support for Hizbullah and its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah – many saying they hope a real resistance may finally be in the making.
"If things don't get worse, they can't get better," said Rabie Jisru, a businessman from Damascus, referring to the outbreak of violence in Lebanon. "For how long are we going to live on their terms? Peace is not going to happen and they are focusing on disarming Hizbullah. Hizbullah is not going to stay quiet, and that is good because they can't stay the way they are. Hassan Nasrallah is the only leader left."
Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal on Sunday said that any attack against Syria will "provoke an unlimited, direct, and firm response using all means necessary," according to SANA, the official Syrian news agency.
Syria, which has been under intense international pressure over the past few years, felt humiliated last year when it was forced to exit Lebanon after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Hizbullah's bold statements and attacks on Israel seem to have somewhat lifted the wounded pride of Syrians, many of whom believed that their country's presence in Lebanon helped maintain stability between various factions within the country.
"This resistance is the only thing that is raising our heads," said Ziad Nasr, a grocery-store owner. "There will be nobody left to make us proud. Only Syria is supporting this. This is the way the US and Israelis are trying to get rid of the resistance. But there is a point that they will not be able to reach. It's a greater plan. They started in Iraq, then Palestine, and now Lebanon. They are coming to Syria slowly."
While thousands of Lebanese, tourists, and laborers have been making their way to Syria, the Masnaa border crossing that connects Beirut to Damascus was relatively quiet Sunday. With the cost of taxis from Lebanon reaching up to $500 from the usual $60, many Syrian laborers began heading home on foot. Government estimates indicate that nearly 17,000 Lebanese have crossed into Syria recently.
The Damascus airport remained packed with tourists trying to find flights home on Sunday.