Av 25, 5766
BEIRUT - Hezbollah handed out
bundles of cash on Friday to people whose homes were wrecked
by Israel bombing, consolidating the Iranian-backed group's
support among Lebanon's Shi'ites and embarrassing the Beirut
"People already had faith in Hezbollah, this will strengthen their faith," said Ayman Jaber, 27, with a wad of $12,000 in banknotes Hezbollah had given him.
Israeli and U.S. officials have voiced concern that Hezbollah will entrench its popularity by moving fast - with Iranian money - to help people whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the 34-day conflict with Israel.
Hezbollah has not said
where the funds are coming from to compensate people for an
estimated 15,000 destroyed homes. The scheme appears likely to
cost at least $150 million. The Lebanese government has yet to
launch anything similar.
Many Lebanese say the conflict with Israel has enhanced Hezbollah's standing both in Lebanon and beyond.
An Egyptian opinion poll named the group's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, as the most popular figure in the Middle East, ahead of the leader of Hamas and the president of Iran.
Lebanon's reconstruction chief said Israeli bombardment had inflicted a "disastrous" $3.6 billion worth of physical damage on Lebanon from which it could take years to recover.
Al-Fadl Shalaq, head of the Council for Development and Reconstruction, said the devastation from the 34-day conflict exceeded that caused by Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.
"I have witnessed all the wars in Lebanon but I have never seen a war this fierce and I do not see a response to clearing the rubble of war to match it," he told Reuters in an interview.