Unresolved: disarming Hizbullah
Cease-fire took hold Monday as residents returned after five weeks of intense conflict.
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The four main claims, which Hizbullah often calls the "bleeding wounds" that spur its resistance, are barely addressed by the UN cease-fire deal. They include:Skip to next paragraph
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•the return of a strip of Israeli- occupied land called the Shebaa Farms, which UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is to address within a month;
•the return of three Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails;
•an end to Israeli overflights and naval incursions;
•a demand for maps of land mines left behind when Israel ended an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon in 2000.
"If you took care of these four 'bleeding wounds,' that alone won't disarm Hizbullah," says Mr. Noe. "But for the average person on the street, you have taken away the four reasons Hizbullah needs its arms."
"The only thing they could [then] rest on is that Israel is inherently aggressive, and the Lebanese Army can't stand up to them," adds Noe. Solving the four issues "can change the internal dynamic in the country, to pressure Hizbullah to work faster to give up these arms."
But such change may take time in the aftermath of a conflict that – while sparked by Hizbullah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers on July 12 – has proven the guerrilla's battlefield efficiency. In 34 days of fighting, Hizbullah fired more than 4,000 rockets into northern Israel – perhaps the most serious attacks absorbed by the Jewish state in its 58-year history.
Despite weeks of Israeli bombardment of Hizbullah positions, guerrillas on Sunday were still able to launch their largest single-day barrage – 250 rockets.
"Why disarm?" asks Ibrahim Mussawi, the head of foreign news at Hizbullah's Al-Manar television. "Hizbullah and the Lebanese people are even more convinced now that Hizbullah should not be disarmed."
"Nobody believes anymore that this war was revenge for taking two soldiers," says Mr. Mussawi. "Israel is the enemy for Lebanon, and Hizbullah wants to make sure there is a deterrent for Israel, so it can't kill our people."
But that issue has proven divisive in sectarian Lebanese politics and raises questions about the role of Lebanon's weak military forces. Many Shiite soldiers, who constitute more than one-third of the force, are also loyal to Hizbullah.
"Unfortunately, I see that Hizbullah will never accept to be disarmed," says a retired Lebanese Army general, who asked not to be named. "If Hizbullah is not disarmed, I see certain civil war."
"There is big tension between the Shiites and Sunnis; the Sunnis think Nasrallah destroyed Lebanon," says the general. "What victory? What do I gain if I beat an Israeli brigade but I destroy my country?"
Sectarian militias that fought the 1975-1990 civil war here disarmed long ago, but that does not preclude a flare-up, this general says. "You don't need arms for that; you can use knives for civil war."
But such questions are not likely to be answered on the first day of a cease-fire. Fighting by both sides persisted until moments before the 8 a.m. deadline. Mr. Annan said Monday that the truce was "generally holding," though Israeli troops shot and killed six Hizbullah fighters after the truce went into effect.
Hizbullah fighters emerged in their destroyed Beirut stronghold of Haret Hreik, wearing black uniforms and ammunition vests for the first time since the conflict began. During the fighting, they had shifted to civilian clothes, with only the tell-tale Motorola radio giving them away.
"We are here. We are standing against the will of the Jews," says Hussein Kanaan, standing on top of 11 floors of rubble, above his buried supermarket.
"The Israelis lost more than 100 soldiers, saw the destruction of Haifa and the burning of northern Israel," says Ala Abdallah, the young owner of a pastry shop, now crushed, that stood next to the supermarket. "Was it worth it [for the Israelis], for two people?"
"Now they say they can exchange their prisoners for our prisoners," says Mr. Abdullah. "Why didn't they say that at the beginning?"