Of Trapped Corpses
Testifies To Israel's Failure
By Robert Fisk
15 August 2006
made a desert and called it peace. Srifa - or what was once the village
of Srifa - is a place of pancaked homes, blasted walls, rubble, starving
cats and trapped corpses. But it is also a place of victory for the
Hizbollah, whose fighters walked amid the destruction yesterday with
the air of conquering heroes. So who is to blame for this desert? The
Shia militia which provoked this war - or the Israeli air force and
army which has laid waste to southern Lebanon and killed so many of
There was no doubt what the
village mukhtar thought. As three Hizbollah men - one wounded in the
arm, the other carrying two ammunition clips and a two-way radio - passed
us amid the piles of broken concrete, Hussein Kamel el-Din yelled to
them: "Hallo, heroes!" Then he turned to me. "You know
why they are angry? Because God didn't give them the opportunity of
You have to be down here
with the Hizbollah amid this terrifying destruction - way south of the
Litani river, in the territory from which Israel once vowed to expel
them - to realise the nature of the past month of war and of its enormous
political significance to the Middle East. Israel's mighty army has
already retreated from the neighbouring village of Ghandoutiya after
losing 40 men in just over 36 hours of fighting. It has not even managed
to penetrate the smashed town of Khiam where the Hizbollah were celebrating
yesterday afternoon. In Srifa, I stood with Hizbollah men looking at
the empty roads to the south and could see all the way to Israel and
the settlement of Mizgav Am on the other side of the frontier. This
is not the way the war was supposed to have ended for Israel.
Far from humiliating Iran
and Syria - which was the Israeli-American plan - these two supposedly
pariah states have been left untouched and the Hizbollah's reputation
lionised across the Arab world. The "opportunity" which President
George Bush and his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, apparently
saw in the Lebanon war has turned out to be an opportunity for America's
enemies to show the weakness of Israel's army. Indeed, last night, scarcely
any Israeli armour was to be seen inside Lebanon - just one solitary
tank could be glimpsed outside Bint Jbeil and the Israelis had retreated
even from the "safe" Christian town of Marjayoun. It is now
clear that the 30,000-strong Israeli army reported to be racing north
to the Litani river never existed. In fact, it is unlikely that there
were yesterday more than 1,000 Israeli soldiers left in all of southern
Lebanon, although they did become involved in two fire-fights during
the morning, hours after the UN-ceasefire went into effect.
Down the coast road from
Beirut, meanwhile, came a massive exodus of tens of thousands of Shia
families, bedding piled on the roofs of their cars , many of them sporting
Hizbollah flags and pictures of Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah's
chairman, on their windscreens. At the massive traffic jams around the
broken motorway bridges and craters which litter the landscape, the
Hizbollah was even handing out yellow and green "victory"
flags, along with official notices urging parents not to allow children
to play with the thousands of unexploded bombs that now lie across the
landscape. At least one Lebanese child was killed by unexploded ordnance
and another 15 were wounded yesterday.
But to what are these people
returning? Haj Ali Dakroub, a 42-year old construction manager, lost
part of his home in Israel's 1996 bombardment of Srifa. Now his entire
house has been flattened. "What is here that Israel should destroy
all this?" he asked. "We don't deny that the resistance was
in Srifa. It was here before and it will be here in the future. But
in this house lived only my family. So why would Israel bomb it?"
Well, I did happen to notice
what appeared to be the casing of a missile hanging from the balcony
of a much-damaged house facing the rubble of Ali Dakroub's home. And
a group of Hizbollah militiamen, one of them with a pistol tucked into
his trousers, walked past us nonchalantly and disappeared into an orchard.
Was this, perhaps, where they kept some of their rockets?
Mr Dakroub wasn't saying.
"I am going to rebuild my home with my two sons," he insisted.
"Israel may come back in 10 years and destroy it all over again
and then I'll just rebuild it all over again. This was a Hizbollah victory.
The Israelis were able to defeat all the Arab countries in six days
in 1967 but here they could not defeat the resistance in a month. These
resistance men would come out of the ground and shoot back. They are
"Come out of the ground"
is an expression I have heard several times these past four weeks and
I am beginning to suspect that many of the thousands of guerrillas did
indeed shelter in caves and basements and tunnels, only to emerge to
fire their missiles or to use their infra-red rockets on the Israeli
army once it made the mistake of sending troops into Lebanon on the
ground. And does anyone believe that the Hizbollah will submit to their
own disarmament by a new international force of UN and Lebanese troops
once - if - it arrives? There was a symbolic moment yesterday when Lebanese
soldiers already based in southern Lebanon joined Hizbollah men in Srifa
to clear the rubble of a house in which the bodies of an entire family
were believed buried. Lebanese Red Cross and civil defence personnel
- representatives of the civil power which is supposed to claw back
its sovereignty from the Hizbollah - joined in the search. The mukhtar,
who so blatantly regarded the Hizbollah as heroes, is also a government
representative. And at the entrance to this shattered village still
stands a poster of Nasrallah and the Iranian President Ali Khamenei.
Far from driving the Hizbollah
north across the Litani river, Israel has entrenched them in their Lebanese
villages as never before.
© 2006 Independent News
and Media Limited