BEIRUT, Lebanon, AP – Hundreds of people shifted from room to room in a makeshift registration center at a high school here Wednesday to report damage to their homes from Israel’s bombing attacks. Hezbollah agents with pens and notebooks promised to help them rebuild.
Tens of thousands of Lebanese have returned to their shattered villages in eastern and southern Lebanon and in Dahiyeh, Beirut’s southern suburbs. They have arrived to find their homes either damaged or destroyed from the monthlong war.
The cost of rebuilding homes is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars and Hezbollah — whose social support network is a main reason for the loyalty it commands — was quick to offer help.
Hours after a cease-fire went into effect Monday, the leader of the Shiite Muslim group, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, appeared on television and promised to help Lebanese rebuild, pledging money for civilians to pay rent and buy furniture.
Nasrallah said 15,000 housing units were hit during the war, and his group’s bid to play a central role in reconstruction could further boost its standing after it declared victory over Israel.
Salim Kenaan entered a room at Haret Hreik Public High School and looked at signs on the wall. The one on the left read “Damaged” and the one on the right read “Destroyed.”
He gave his name, address and telephone number to the man sitting under the sign on the right.
“My house was totally destroyed,” Kanaan said. “After I heard Sheik Nasrallah’s speech, I started looking for an apartment.”
The Hezbollah official in charge of the center in Haret Hreik — one of the worst bombed areas in Beirut’s southern suburbs where Hezbollah headquarters is located — said he does not have an exact number of how many people have registered for help.
The man, who asked that his name not be used for security reasons, said some 190 buildings were destroyed and about 90 heavily damaged in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
He said people whose homes were totally destroyed will get money for one year of rent as well as for new furniture. Those whose homes were damaged will either fix it themselves and then collect money, or Hezbollah will send workers to do the job.
In the southern city of Tyre, Hezbollah’s commander in south Lebanon, Nabil Kaouk, promised to rebuild the war-devastated region and compensate those whose homes had been destroyed.
“We want to bring south Lebanon back to its real life and to rebuild it better than it was before the war,” said Kaouk, a cleric. He stood in front of the demolished building that used to house his office. It was destroyed in the war.
Kaouk said Hezbollah estimates it will take one year for people to rebuild their homes. In the meantime, the organization will cover their rental costs. Hezbollah assistance will not be funneled through the federal government, he said.
Hundreds of workers were in the streets of Dahiyeh on Wednesday, clearing streets and removing rubble. Some areas were completely closed by Hezbollah members for fear of theft and only residents were allowed to enter after getting special passes.
Ahmed al-Mileeji, a 67-year-old Palestinian who has lived in Haret Hreik since 1979, registered to get compensation for what used to be his house near Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station.
“They will give me money to pay rent and to buy furniture. I will also get my flat back after one year,” he said as he carried documents proving he owned the flat.
The bearded Hezbollah official in charge said all destroyed buildings will be reconstructed exactly as they were.
“We will use the same maps,” he said. “We will give their flats back but they will be new flats.”