With the UN truce between Israel and Hizbollah holding and Israeli forces starting to pull back from some positions, thousands of refugees have been heading home to southern Lebanon. But as they went, Israeli warning leaflets fluttered down on them. The leaflets tell people not to return to the south as it is too dangerous and that they should wait until the Lebanese army has been deployed in the area, alongside UN forces.
Most of them ignored that advice and pushed ahead but the going was slow for the food aid lorries and refugees vehicles alike, as they had to inch their way around huge bomb craters. The majority of those travelling back home remain fiercely loyal to Hizbollah and see little hope of a lasting peace with their southern neighbours.
One woman summed it up when she said: “Israel has destroyed our homes and lands. It killed our children and our sons. It forced us to leave our homes. No, there is no peace with Israel. It cannot be our friend.” The villages the refugees were heading for mostly have no electricity, water or other basic services. Many returned to find their homes destroyed by Israeli airstrikes or artillery shells.
That was the case for Im Hamdi who lives near Tyre but she says something she found in the rubble sustained her faith in Hizbollah and its leader. She said: “Our home is in ruins. We can’t live here anymore. Everything in the house was destroyed except this picture of Hassan Nasrallah which shows that we are believers and strong.” And, like most of the refugees, she insisted that it is Hizbollah that emerged victorious from this conflict.