(photo credit: Associated Press)
Hundreds of people went from one room to another at a makeshift registration center in a high school Wednesday, reporting damage to their homes from Israeli bombing to Hizbullah agents with pen and notebooks. The officials promised to help them rebuild.
Tens of thousands of people have returned to their shattered villages in eastern and southern Lebanon as well as Beirut's southern suburbs, or Dahiyeh, to find their homes either damaged or totally destroyed in a month of fighting between Israel and Hizbullah.
Hours after a cease-fire went into effect Monday, the leader of the Shiite Muslim group, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, appeared on television and promised to help Lebanese rebuild, pledging money for civilians to pay rent and buy furniture.
Nasrallah said 15,000 housing units were hit during the war, and his group's bid to play a central role in reconstruction could further boost its standing after it declared victory over Israel.
The cost of rebuilding homes is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars. Hizbullah's social support network is a main reason for the loyalty it commands among Lebanon's Shiite Muslims.
The Hizbullah official in charge of the center in Haret Hreik said he does not have an exact number of how many people have registered for help. A man, who asked that his name not be used for security reasons, said some 190 buildings were destroyed and about 90 heavily damaged in Beirut's southern suburbs.
He said people whose homes were totally destroyed will get money for one year of rent as well as for new furniture. Those whose homes were damaged will either fix it themselves and then collect money, or Hizbullah will send workers to do the job.
Hundreds of workers were in the streets of Dahiyeh on Wednesday, clearing streets and removing rubble. Some areas were completely closed by Hizbullah members for fear of theft and only residents were allowed to enter after getting special passes.
Ahmed al-Mileeji, a 67-year-old Palestinian who has lived in Haret Hreik since 1979, registered to get compensation for what used to be his house near Hizbullah's Al-Manar television station.
"They will give me money to pay rent and to buy furniture. I will also get my flat back after one year," he said as he carried documents proving he owned the flat.
The Hizbullah official in charge said all destroyed buildings will be reconstructed exactly as they were.
"We will use the same maps," he said. "We will give their flats back but they will be new flats."