In 2006, I travelled through Lebanon just weeks after the 34 day ‘July War’ between Hezbollah and Israel. Hezbollah – led by Hassan Nasrallah (picture, on top of tank) had kidnapped an Israeli soldier, kickstarting the war.
Southern Lebanon was controlled by Hezbollah soldiers, and mosques in the area displayed the faces of martyrs killed in battle. Fighters patrolled the country on scooters, yet the streets were eerily deserted, as many residents had fled during the war and had yet to return.
The Beirut suburb of Al Dahia – home to predominantly Shi’ite Muslim people and thus supposed supporters of Hezbollah, was bombed by Israeli warplanes. The clean up had begun, but the resultant destruction of the sustained air campaign against civilian homes was severe.
Many unexploded bombs littered the landscape. I accompanied an international bomb disposal team as they cleared bombs such as these from Southern Lebanese villages. This one was cleared from a primary school which had been already been destroyed by the first of three bombs, the last of which did not detonate.
Anti-American sentiment was high, and flags such as these were seen throughout Lebanon. One Lebanese man described the ‘July War’ as being between the US and Iran, with Hezbollah and Israel the proxy combatants.
In the last 72 hours of the war, Israel fired thousands of ‘cluster bombs’ into Southern Lebanon. Many of these did not explode, yet the aim was to render the landscape dangerous deny Hezbollah access to orchards and agriculture. Sadly, many children would step on the cluster bombs which are around the size of a mobile phone. This picture is of a mine clearance training team, going through the drill in case of detonation and thus injury or death.
Due to the oil refinery being targeted by Israeli warplanes, the waters off the coast of Beirut were polluted. These fishermen were never-the-less braving the oil-soaked waters to fish from the rocks on a Beirut beach.
This picture was taken in Aitaa al-Chaab, where the Israeli solider was taken to when kidnapped. The village lies about 1 kilometre from the Israeli border, and was demolished during the war. These residents had returned to what was left of their homes in an attempt to restore normality to their lives.
A young Hezbollah fighter sporting the name of his hero. In Southern Lebanon, Hezbollah are seen by many to be heroes, defending their country and way of life from Israeli aggression. Sadly, though, the kidnapping and subsequent war only brought suffering to Southern Lebanon, in yet another round of bloodletting in a volatile part of the world.