Published August 18, 2006
BEIRUT, Lebanon – At a school in south Beirut's Bourj el-Barajneh neighborhood, Hezbollah on Friday started handing out crisp one hundred dollar bills to residents who lost their homes in the Israeli bombing campaign — $12,000 to each claimant.
There were no lines and no waiting at the Shahed School. In an efficient and organized operation, applicants who had signed up for the aid earlier in the week showed up at the school, showed identification papers and only had to sign a receipt. Hezbollah workers promptly handed residents stacks of bills from a suitcase.
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, in a television speech on Monday shortly after the cease-fire with Israel took hold, pledged to help rebuild Lebanon and said the organization would provide money for civilians who had lost their homes to pay rent and buy furniture.
Nasrallah did not say where the money would come from, but Iran historically has been the militant group's primary source of finance and weapons. The Iranians were widely believed to have opened their treasury for the rebuilding program.
Nasrallah, and the government's Higher Relief Council which deals with catastrophic events, said 15,000 housing units were hit during the war.
Hundreds of residents of the southern suburbs, known as Dahiyeh, turned out at makeshift registration centers on Wednesday and Thursday to sign up for the aid. As of Thursday afternoon, they began collecting. Hezbollah members called people by phone to come and collect their money.
At the Shahed school, pictures of Nasrallah and those of Iranian leaders, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, adorned the walls of one classroom along with one poster of Israel's Star of David broken in half. The words "Congratulations on the victory" were printed on Khamenei's picture.
A Hezbollah official said a total of 900 people had been compensated so far, adding that he expected thousands to come forth in the next few days.
There were some complaints from those whose homes were demolished that the money is not sufficient.
Of the $12,000, some $4,000 was to pay for rent one year to those whose apartments were completely devastated, and $8,000 was for furniture.
That money may not be enough for those who own apartments, but for those who lived in rent-controlled apartment, it could be fair compensation.
In one instance, a couple of beneficiaries showed up to return some of the money after one official had mistakenly handed over $120,000 in cash to an applicant, instead of the $12,000. Those who had taken the big payment were asked to return it when the error was discovered.
Meanwhile, government and international aid continued to be delivered to south Lebanon Friday. The United Nations World Food Program organized several convoys below the Litani River. A 20-truck convoy carrying food and medicine left Beirut for the southern Christian town of Marjayoun while another convoy of 17 trucks headed to the coastal town of Naqoura carrying food supplies and other relief materials.