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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Apr 15th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Analysis arrow Militia rebuilds Beirut district in own image
Militia rebuilds Beirut district in own image PDF Print E-mail
Written by W. Thomas Smith, Jr. The Washington Times   
Wednesday, 10 October 2007

W. Thomas Smith, Jr.
W. Thomas Smith, Jr.

By W. Thomas Smith Jr - BEIRUT - Here in Al Dahiyeh, an impoverished Shi'ite district in southwestern Beirut, Hezbollah militia-men are reconstructing buildings destroyed by the Israeli air force during the summer war last year in Lebanon. This time, however, they are rebuilding homes and shops in much the same way they had constructed their prewar villages in areas in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley. 

"Hezbollah is rebuilding underground positions [inside the city of Beirut] from which they can store weapons and defend and attack whomever they choose," said Toni Nissi, head of the International Lebanese Committee for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, a pro-democracy United Nations-affiliated nongovernmental organization (NGO) that frequently monitors activities in Al Dahiyeh. "UNSCR 1559 specifically calls for the disarming of the militias."

But Hezbollah, deemed a "resistance force" — not a "militia" — in many circles here in Lebanon, has received a pass from the government.

One of four Hezbollah-controlled "security zones" not patrolled by the Lebanese police or the army, Al Dahiyeh is a mixed commercial-residential district with a high population density, and lots of buildings covering multiple blocks crisscrossed by many narrow streets and alleyways. The specific Al-Dahiyeh zone in Beirut is known as a "security square," and its inhabitants are heavily armed.

"In the squares, they have weapons," said Gen. Michel Sleiman, commander in chief of the Lebanese armed forces. "But they have no authority to conduct military activities."

Nationwide, the four Hezbollah zones do not include the many Palestinian refugee camps such as Nahr al-Bared on Lebanon's northern coast near Tripoli. There, Lebanese troops recently fought a fierce three-month battle against al Qaeda-inspired Fatah Islam. The Lebanese army crushed the Fatah Islam terrorists, but not before losing 168 soldiers.

Though not cut from the same cloth, Fatah Islam and Hezbollah have had similar goals: primarily to spread fear throughout the country and to prevent Lebanon from freely electing a president.

Downtown between the parliament and government building, Hezbollah has set up a sprawling "tent city" in defiance of the electoral process, and many Lebanese parliamentarians are holed up in the nearby Phoenicia Hotel under heavy security.

Friday evening, Hezbollah militiamen were firing AK-47 assault rifles from their positions in Al Dahiyeh. Automatic weapons fire crackled and red and white tracers arced into the sky for miles in every direction.

The militiamen were firing in celebration of Jerusalem Day, an anti-Israel day recognized on the last Friday of Ramadan.

Inside Al Dahiyeh, Hezbollah militiamen dressed in khaki uniforms and carrying Kalashnikovs freely roam the streets. Their lookouts, dressed in civilian clothes and carrying walkie-talkies, are positioned at intersections and riding throughout the district on motor scooters.

Construction continues, contracted through the Lebanese government with Hezbollah-owned Wa'ad, a company based in Lebanon. The UNSCR 1559 committee officials contend that Wa'ad was established as a branch of Iranian-based Jihad Al-Bina, a company on the U.S. terrorist watch list.

Wa'ad — translated "the promise" — is rebuilding homes and commercial buildings in Al Dahiyeh with hidden "battle corridors" linked point by point above and below the ground with other buildings and adjacent neighborhoods. The construction includes subterranean command posts, and hollow walls capable of concealing large stockpiles of weapons and ammunition, similar to tunnels and hiding places Israeli soldiers discovered in the south during their offensive last year against Hezbollah.

Henry Dauod, a security consultant with the 1559 committee and a former combat infantryman in the Lebanese army, said there are rockets and light and heavy machine guns in Al Dahiyeh.

"We know for a fact Hezbollah has Katyusha rockets in Dahiyeh right now," said Mr. Daoud. "Also, mortars, AK-47s, RPK light machine guns, Doshka machine guns, [rocket-propelled grenades] and American M-16s."

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 — a postwar resolution aimed at implementing UNSCR 1559 — directs that "all armed groups in Lebanon" be disarmed "so that, pursuant to the Lebanese Cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state."

The resolution clearly is not being implemented at Al Dahiyeh.

 October 10, 2007, The Washington Times




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