Despite Being Homeless, Refugees Vow Allegiance to Hezbollah

ByKATE SNOW via via logo

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 2, 2006 — -- In Sanayaa Park, the largest city park here, about 450 people -- mostly women and children -- sit in the hot midday sun.

They are refugees, some from as near as 15 minutes away in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

Others are from villages a couple of hours away, but all of them are from areas considered Hezbollah strongholds.

Batool, 3, celebrated her birthday in the park. It's her home now -- her family has nowhere else to go.

It's a small sliver of normalcy for a toddler after weeks of uncertainty. Her family left its home in the southern suburbs of Beirut when Israeli raids blew out all the windows.

There are a lot of scared kids here, but they are making the best of a grim situation.

Zahra and her 9-year-old daughter, Ghada, lived with the shelling for 17 days before they fled to the park.

"There was lots of bombing, and my girl was terrified," Zahra said. "She would fall down on the ground."

Ghada added: "We don't want war."

Relief is only slowly making its way to southern Lebanon, where rescue workers search for hidden survivors and bodies.

Ainai Saad and her five children fled the region 10 days ago. She's staying in a school shelter, where they sleep on the floor on top of paper-thin sheets.

"Everyone's nerves are shot," she said. "We don't know what's going to happen."

Ainai and the others freely say they lived among Hezbollah militants. The fighters, they say, are their brothers, fathers and sons.

They are angry at Israel and America but do not blame Hezbollah for any of their hardship.

"We will not say Hezbollah is responsible," Nariman Samir Baddah said. "They protect us, and we will stay with them forever."

Their allegiance comes at a price.

They're sleeping in the open now, jumping when Israeli planes fly overhead, wondering how long they will be refugees.

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