Lebanon’s fear of the next war: “sitting on packed suitcases”

Lebanon’s fear of the next war: “sitting on packed suitcases”

A speech announced by Hezbollah boss Hassan Nasrallah is eagerly awaited in Lebanon. The militia leader wants to break his silence for the first time since the Gaza war broke out. Many young Lebanese are worried about another war.

The people of Lebanon are deeply fearful of another war with Israel. “We cannot endure another war,” says Fatima, a Lebanese woman who prefers not to have her last name published. She lives in southern Beirut, the part of Lebanon’s capital that is controlled by the Shiite organization Hezbollah. “I really don’t want to be evicted and lose everything like I did in 2006,” she says.

2006 is the key word that often whispers through the streets of Beirut these days as a warning reminder. 2006 was the year in which more than 1,500 civilians were killed in fierce fighting between Hezbollah and the Israeli military – a majority of them in Lebanon.

With the outbreak of the Gaza war, concerns are growing in the country every day that the conflict could spread to the cedar state. Because it was clear from the start: Hezbollah, which controls, among other things, the south of the country and thus also the border with Israel, sees itself on the side of the “Palestinian resistance”. There have been fighting at the border almost every day since October 7th. There were fatalities on both sides, the majority of whom were Hezbollah fighters.

Lebanon facing a turning point?

For the first time since the outbreak of the Gaza war, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah wants to address the public this Friday. A memorial ceremony has been announced for the killed Hezbollah fighters. But Nasrallah’s appearance could certainly have consequences for the future of the Mediterranean state. According to experts, the fighting between the Israeli military and the Hezbollah militia has so far been limited. There has been no major escalation so far. But that could change if Nasrallah’s speech includes orders on how to deal with the enemy in the south.

“We need Nasrallah’s appearance to get things moving,” said a Hezbollah supporter who wished to remain anonymous before the speech. Fans of the Shiite leader immediately composed their own song. It calls for an attack on Tel Aviv. In the Hezbollah district in the south of the capital, discounts are being offered in hookah cafes during the broadcast of the speech. Analysts close to Hezbollah provide only vague insights into the Shiite leader’s plans. “Hezbollah will stand firm as always and draw certain guidelines,” Salem Zahran, for example, told local media.

As part of the “Axis of Resistance” led by Iran, Hezbollah listens primarily to the words from Tehran. Iran’s leadership had repeatedly threatened the Jewish state in the weeks since the Gaza war began. This is a line that Hezbollah also follows. At the same time, Hezbollah has tens of thousands of followers with whom it controls primarily the south on the border with Israel, Shiite-inhabited districts of Beirut and the Bekaa Valley in the north of the country. At the same time, Hezbollah is considered a strong political power in Lebanon, which is on the verge of collapse.

“Nasrallah can speak for himself and his supporters and not for all Lebanese,” says Mohammed, a 30-year-old bank employee in Beirut. “If he wants to declare war, he can come out of hiding to fight with his fighters against Israel instead of using all Lebanese as shields.” Where the Hezbollah leader lives is unknown.

Young Lebanese want to have fun one last time

Lebanon is anything but capable of waging war. There is currently a lack of almost everything: a head of state, a government, a stable currency. Since the end of 2019, the Mediterranean state has been in the worst economic and financial crisis in its history. The country is running out of foreign currency. The Lebanese currency has lost a lot of value. The crisis is also attributed to decades of corruption in politics and business.

For over a year now, the election of a president has repeatedly failed due to power struggles within the political elite. The country is currently led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati. The government is only able to act to a limited extent. Added to this is the civil war in neighboring Syria. According to UNHCR, more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon. It is estimated that around a quarter of the population of more than five million people are Syrian refugees.

Middle East conflict: "We are sitting on packed suitcases": Lebanese fear another war

Watch the video: Fear of escalation on the border with Lebanon: Israeli soldier joins the Hibollah militia.

Lebanese across the country therefore fear that a possible declaration of war by Hezbollah could mean the end of Lebanon. “We are all still suffering from the massive explosion at Beirut port in 2020. Now Nasrallah will destroy the entire Lebanon over our heads,” says 45-year-old Georgette. “We’re sitting on packed suitcases,” she adds. Many Lebanese have rented houses in the mountains – outside the big cities – so that they can flee if war breaks out.

“Having fun for the last time” was the motto of young Lebanese on the eve of the speech. “We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so we’re all going out together again today,” said 26-year-old Haydar Dagher. He and his friends had arranged to meet at the amusement park: “Who knows what will happen after Friday.”

Source: Stern

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