Beirut and South Lebanon: Sumud visits memorials of martyrdom and victory, Part II

South Lebanon: on the footsteps of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance
Mohammad Aburous
Martyrdom and victory are the two faces of the same coin, mostly. The rather sad visits to the martyrs memorials in Beirut were necessary to understand the historical process the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance had to pass through, until a victory could be realised in 2000 by the Israeli unconditional withdrawal from South Lebanon. The war of 2006 was a second victory of the resistance, who was able to humiliate the Israeli army and survive its fierce offensive. In this spirit, the delegation moved on to the South on Friday morning 30th July.
Hezbollah victory exposition in Mlita

First stop was the village Maghdusheh up the hill above the camp. In 1986, the village had witnessed one of the most crucial battles of the Palestinian resistance against the then pro-Syrien Amal militia. The Palestinian counter-attack to take over the hill put an end to months of a starvation siege imposed by Amal, forcing a cease-fire and free access to the camp.

After this short stop, the group moved on to Mlita, which was an important starting point of the Hezbollah guerilla actions during the fights to liberate South Lebanon. There, a war exposition is established in a formal mountain military base of Hezbollah. Destroyed and abandoned tanks, canons, armored cars and weapons of the Israeli army and the collaborator South Lebanese army are exposed. Resistance weapons, tunnel systems inside the mountain, life size models of Guerilleros in action… etc.. The exposition is a very popular target of school visits. The guides explained the weapons and the way they were used. An important achievment of the resistance is that the new generation has learned the vencibility of the Israeli army. It was the resistance who could break through the walls of fear and recreate the self-conciousness of the people.

Afterwards, the delegation moved further to the South. Another highlight of the visit was the crusader castle “Le Beaufort”, or in Arabic “Shqeif”. Errected on an impressive position in the mountains, the castle provides a good sight over occupied Palestine. Therefore, it was one of the most important bases of the Palestinian resistance in the 70ies. Israeli attempts to storm the castle remaind unsuccessful until the total invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The heroic defence of the castle by a small group of Palestinian fighters, who were able to maintain the castle for weeks and to cause high casualties on the Israeli side, made the “Shqeif” castle an important part of the Palestinian narrative. Today, the building is empty and abandoned. Although 40% of the castle was destroyed during the fights, the building is still impressive. The Hezbollah flag above the remaining tower is a brief statement on the final outcome.

Lunch was taken down the hills in Nabatiyyeh. The Shiite village has always been supportive of the resistance, the Palestinian and the Lebanese. The group visited the emty field where the Palestinian refugee camp Nabatiyyeh used to be located until 1974. The camp, which was the only camp with sight to Palestine, was then totally destroyed following intensive Israeli air raids using even Napalm. At least 800 Palestinian civilians were killed as a bomb hit the civil shelter. The survivers lived a second Nakba, having to leave to other refugee camps in the nort th.

The tour ended some kilometers ahead at the borders to North Palestine. After a short stop at the check point of the Lebanse army beside the Wazan river, the delegation could proceed to the borders. For the Palestinian youth who accompanied the delegation this was not just a visit. Having their own occupied country and the Israeli settlements and plants thereon in sight, it was difficult to hinder them from throwing stones over the borders at a passing Israeli patrouille. The walk beside the fence provoked both Lebanese army and Unifil troups, who kept close to the delegation. The borders are a popular site to visit for all Lebanese. The planned meeting with Hezbollah representants at the borders could not take place.
This time, the Hezbollah flags at the fence were mostly replaced by the flags of the state of Qatar: the prince of Qatar was supposed to visit the border villages the next day. Qatar financed the reconstruction and rennovation works after the massive destruction due to the Israeli attack in 2006.

A further stop was Bint Jbeil, which became known during the occupation and also during the 2006 war. The stop was due to a mechanical defect on the bus, whose engin suffered from the mountain route. Bint Jbeil, which was totally destroyed 2006, has been almost completely rennovated. The only thing which reminds of the war are the posters and the memorials of the village martyrs as well as the characteristic white colour of the recently rebuilt houses.

After reparing the bus the delegation headed to the north, back to Ein-El Hilweh. Village names on the way looked very familiar, being the stage of heavy fights during the war of 2006 and the earlier years.

Back home, the Palestinian and Italian participants were singing Arab resistance and Italian anti-fashist partisan songs. Commemorating martyrs, victims and victory, the group headed back to the camp where work was waiting: works on the SUMUD documentation film are to go on.