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Returning to the Rubble of their Homes
Cat : Axe of Evil
Date : 2006-08-17 17:17:07                      Reader : 459
Bush shameless poor guy considered Israel assault on civilians as victory achieved by Nazists. What a paradox for a president of a country claiming democracy, freedom, and human rights?!
Associated France Press 17/8/2006
Returning to the Rubble of their Homes
By Matthias Gebauer in Zibqin, Lebanon
The Bezia family fled their home as soon as the Israel-Hezbollah war started a month ago. Like many other refugees, they returned to southern Lebanon on the first day of the cease-fire. They returned to nothing - their house had been bombed. The life they led lies buried under a mountain of rubble.
This is the first day without bombs, but Roykahay Bezia can't stop crying. Slowly, the small white truck that is carrying the very last of her family's belongings makes its way over the mountain roads near the port city of Tyre. The 67-year-old uses all of her weight to push down mattresses and a few blankets so that they won't fall out of the truck. She won't look left or right and she keeps closing her eyes -- she doesn't want to see. "Everything is lost," she sobs, "how can we carry on with our lives here?"
The journey of the many convoys of refugees making their way back to the small village of Zibqin in the mountains above Tyre is slow and arduous. Weeks of Israeli attacks have transformed the road into a dangerous slalom course pitted with meter-deep bomb craters every few hundred meters. Bulldozers draped with the green flags of the al-Alam Group, which cooperates with Hezbollah, have been filling in the deepest craters. Bezia suspects that this is exactly what her village is going to look like. But she's not ready to accept it -- at least not yet.
The war in southern Lebanon lasted a month. And on the road to Zibqin, there's hardly a house left standing. The villages and settlements that stretched across the hills right right up to the Israeli border have been reduced to mountains of rubble. There is hardly anyone around. Every now and then motorcycles speed by with young men carrying machine guns. The road is jammed with hundreds of civilian cars.
Southern Lebanon took the brunt of the bombing. It was from here that the Hezbollah fired the thousands of Katyusha rockets that struck Israel just seconds later. Sympathy here for Hezbollah is widespread, as evidenced by the countless posters bearing the image of leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and dozens of martyrs who died in battle. The omnipresent Hezbollah minders prevent us from taking photos of boxes of weapons and munitions that can be see in the ruins of some houses.
The few houses left standing have steel garage doors bent outwards as if made of rubber. Clothing, shoes and toys are strewn all across the road. Burned-out cars with impact holes in their roofs line the roads. And there are torched scooters everywhere -- Israeli jets had targeted them in the final days of the war.
On July 12, the first day of the war, the Bezia family fled their village. Bombs began hitting the village in the early morning hours and the artillery fire from nearby Israel shook the ground. On that day alone, 15 people were killed in Zibqin when the mayor's house was bombed. Roykahay Bezia uses her fingers to count the number of relatives she has lost. In the end, she counts 16, but she's not certain.
When the war broke out, Roykahay and Ahmed Bezia were just happy that someone was willing to take them to the relative safety of Tyre, where they found shelter in a school. Each night, as the bombs and artillery shook the city, they huddled in the cellar. They were afraid, but happy that they had managed to escape.
As the family began to make its way back on the first day of the long-delayed cease-fire, they were still filled with hope. Now, on the cumbersome way back home, it is fast becoming clear to the mother of four that their lives will never be the same again.
By early morning on Monday, there was no way out of southern Beirut. Thousands of cars were stuck in kilometers-long traffic jams. But the people waited patiently at the bombed-out bridges and bomb craters -- they were just happy at the prospect of being able to return to their homes. Together, they cleared the giant stones out of the way and built makeshift bridges so they could get across the river.
Heading south, honking and laughter could be heard on the roads leading to southern Lebanon. The war that had so deeply shaken Lebanon and had likely caused over a thousand deaths and displaced hundreds of thousands suddenly appeared to have ended as quickly as it came.
But for the Bezias and thousands of other Lebanese from the South, Monday was the day of truth. The hometown they had hoped to return to no longer exists. The first day after the war also confronted them with a reality they had tried to suppress in their minds in recent weeks. In the hills around Tyre, they saw the scale of the destruction for the first time. Television footage had only shown the smoke columns the bombs created.
The truck carrying the Bezias couldn't get further than the edge of Zibqin. The road is cut by two huge craters. Next to it is a pile of rubble that used to be two or maybe three homes. Their two sons, Hassan and Yussef, schlep the few things they have across the gravel of the pulverized street. Ahmed Bezia and his wife support each other. They're just a few steps away from their small, two-story home. The heavy smell of decaying corpses fills the air.
Roykahay's hope was in vain. The house has been badly damaged -- the ceiling caved in after being struck by a bomb. She slumps down in the dust and cries. Ahmed doesn't say a word, he just sits down on one of the remaining plastic chairs. He sets the radio he brought with him next to the chair and rests his head on a wooden stick. He cries too, quietly.
Roykahay gets up and searches the house. Everything is covered in a blanket of dust -- and the tobacco that was hanging to dry in the garden has been blown inside. The fridge door is open and it emits the putrid stench of rotting food. "Can I offer you some tea," she suddenly asks? "Just take a seat outside." Of course, there's neither electricity nor gas here. But she still fiddles with a teapot.
Roykahay Bezia is desperately seeking the normalcy that she has lost. It will take days for her and the many others who lost everything in this war to grasp what has happened.
The Bezias sit in their ruined house as we say goodbye. "Come back and visit us again," Roykahay says, "things will eventually get better." For the first time, she smiles for a second.

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