Lebanon is a beautiful country, and Beirut is a beautiful city. (If you don’t believe me, see here and here.) Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon, though, isn’t so great — especially now.
Last year I took dozens of photos of Hezbollah’s miniature state-within-a-state, along the border with Israel and in the suburbs, the dahiyeh, south of Beirut.
The photos of Beirut’s southern suburbs are not very good quality. Taking pictures in the dahiyeh is absolutely forbidden. I did not dare raise my camera and click the shutter except through the windshield from inside a moving car. Even then I had to be careful.
Here is what Hezbollahland looked like before the war. Much of what you see here has since been destroyed.
The portrait of a “martyr” killed in battle with Israel above the sidewalk can be seen in the upper left corner. Off-center is a portrait of the cleric Moussa Sadr, who came to Lebanon from Iran in the 1960s and brought the Shia out of political isolation. He later vanished forever in Libya.
Another “martyr” portait above the sidewalk on the left.
The Ayatollah Khomeini makes an appearance.
Notice that Hezbollah does not require women to wear the hijab, the modest Islamic headscarf. They are, to an extent, “moderate” compared with the regime in Iran.
Syria’s Bashar al-Assad makes an appearance.
More “martyrdom” posters.
The “martyrs” are everywhere in the dahiyeh.
Most of the dahiyeh consists of apartment blocks, many of which have since been destroyed.
More apartment blocks in the Hezbollahland suburbs.
And still more…
Beaufort castle sits at the top of a small mountain in South Lebanon where you can see into Israel. Hezbollah uses it as one of their border watch posts.
A Hezbollah observation post on top of Beaufort.
A few tourists did actually visit this castle before it was engulfed in a war zone. Hezbollah put up this banner for them.
They do like to fashion themselves as media savvy.
Further south from Beaufort…you can walk right up to Israeli houses without leaving Lebanon. This town pictured above, Metulla, is inside Israel. Look closely at the bottom of the picture and you can see the fence that demarcates the border.
That house is inside Israel. Hezbollah controlled the territory I stood on when I snapped the picture.
Everything you see in this picture is inside Israel, taken from a Lebanese road along the fence.
Here’s how crazy the border is. The town in the foreground, Metulla, is inside Israel. The town in the background, Kafr Kila, is in Lebanon. You might think you would have to stand inside Israel to take a picture such as this one. How else would you get a picture of a Lebanese town behind an Israeli town? But you can, because I did. That Israeli town is inside a “penninsula,” or a finger, that juts into Lebanon. It is surrounded by Hezbollah-controlled territory on three sides.
Iran’s dead tyrant Ayatollah Khomeini makes repeated appearances in the south.
On the road beneath Beaufort Castle the story of suicide bomber Haitham Dbouq is told next to his portrait. “Haitham stormed into the convoy — that had 30 occupation troops in its ranks — blowing up his car amidst the vehicles that turned into fireballs and scattered bodies on the ground. Thirty Zionist casualties was the size of the material shock that hit the occupation army; the morale shock was much larger and more dangerous.”
Portraits of “martyrs” killed in battle with Israel line the streets and the roads.
Hezbollah says they love peace. Yet they erect billboards like this one all over the south.
The border. Israel is on the left side. Lebanon is on the right side.
The road pictured above is inside Lebanon. The scenery in the background is all inside Israel.
Walking toward Fatima’s Gate, the place where tourists from all across the Middle East go and throw rocks into Israel.
The old Israeli custom’s house at Fatima’s Gate. It was open six years ago when Israel still occupied South Lebanon. Lebanese commuted to jobs inside Israel through the gate. It has been closed since 2000.
Israel through the fence near Fatima’s Gate.
“Monuments” of sorts to the two Satans. The United States is the Great Satan. Israel is the Little Satan.
Here is where you donate money to Hezbollah’s charity operations.
Here is where you donate money to Hezbollah’s military operations.
Near the entrance to Khiam prison. Until the year 2000, the prison was run by the South Lebanese Army, a Lebanese Christian ally of Israel, inside the occupation zone. Earlier reports from the war said the prison is now destroyed.
Khiam was a “tourist” destination of sorts. But it was no place to go if you weren’t in a grim mood already. It wasn’t Disneyland.
A lovely exercise yard at Khiam.
This ought to be self-explanatory.
The Alawite village of Al-Ghajar. This is where last November’s round of fighting erupted. The left side of the village is in Israel. The right side of the village is in Lebanon. Both sides of the village formerly belonged to Syria.
The Israeli side of Al-Ghajar. The Lebanese side is a wreck. I mistakenly neglected to take pictures of it.
The tomb of the disputed dead man. Lebanon says Sheik Abbad is buried there. Israel says, no, Rabbi Ashi is buried there. The border runs right down the center of his tomb. That’s an Isareli military compound just on the other side of it
On the right side is an Israeli listening and watch post. On the left side is Hezbollah’s feeble imitation.
This billboard was erected by Hezbollah three feet from the border. The text is in Hebrew, and it faces directly into Israel. It says: “Sharon Don’t Forget. Your Soldiers Are Still in Lebanon.”
Look closely. That’s a severed Israeli head held up by its hair.
Hezbollah placed military museum pieces all over the towns in the south just to show them off.
Children play on one of the tanks.
A blasted truck placed ten feet from the border.
The Hezbollah logo and flag on the front of the truck.
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All photos copyright Michael J. Totten