Beirut struggling to rebuild after ‘July War’

Two months after the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Southern Lebanon came to an end, the situation on the ground is far from stable.

The conflict in some ways seems only to have enabled Hezbollah to strengthen their hold on much of the population of Southern Lebanon, while Israel has come under criticism from both internal and external bodies about its conduct during the war.
In Lebanon itself there is much reconstruction to be done.

Unexploded cluster bombs have been discovered in close to 750 separate locations in the South, which will prevent more than 200,000 displaced people returning to their homes.

Cluster bombs are still legal to use when directed against military targets. Israel has claimed that Hezbollah militants have been hiding out in civilian areas, which has made it ever more difficult to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate targeting. Their use, however, has been criticised jointly by Amnesty International, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.

The United Nations predicts that it may take up to two years to fully sweep the area for unexploded ordinances. Bombs can be found on rooftops, mixed in with rubble and litter, across fields, roads and driveways. Over a hundred people have so far been wounded by these unexploded devices.

Politically the situation also remains volatile. The leadership of Hezbollah have rejected calls by the UN to disarm, and there is still a very significant de facto Hezbollah presence in the south. Lebanese troops have now been able to move into the region though, supported by a UN peacekeeping force numbering around 6,000.

There are many who also worry that the destabilisation of the Lebanese government during war could result in the return of the only recently departed Syrian forces back into the country. Syria has been accused by the United States of financing and backing Hezbollah.

For years prior to the conflict, Hezbollah acted almost as a “state within a state” in Southern Lebanon, setting up schools and providing services for the local population. Many argue that it has been the failure of the Lebanese government in allowing this kind of situation to continue that allowed Hezbollah to become so powerful.

Israel and the United States both view Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The position of the UK is a little cloudier, recognising the militant wing as a terrorist organisation, but not its political side.

By Adam Sloan and Claire Yeo