Hizbullah recruits S. Lebanese Sunnis

'Post' learns new draft is an attempt by Shi'ite group to gain ground in battle for political dominance.

Hizbullah  gunmen 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Hizbullah gunmen 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hizbullah is recruiting members for "resistance battalions" in the Southern Lebanese Sunni villages of Chebaa, Kfar Chouba and Hebbariye opposite the Shaba Farms (Mount Dov), a Beirut-based Western journalist has told The Jerusalem Post. In recent years, support for the Shi'ite militant group has wavered in the South-eastern Arkoub region and the recruits are an attempt to gain ground in the ongoing battle for political dominance between Hizbullah and Sunni groups. "There is a real tussle for control of this area between Hizbullah and the Future Movement, Lebanon's main Sunni political party," the journalist said. "The Future Movement got the upper hand after the 2006 war, and Hizbullah is trying to make inroads again into the area. Part of the way they are doing that is by recruiting people in this very poor area of the country with the incentive of a monthly salary." Hizbullah has also recently donated cash to politicians in these Sunni villages in an effort to win them over. The group gained significant ground in the Arkoub region between 2000 and 2006, by waging a grassroots "hearts and mind operation" that included donating ambulances and clearing snowy roads with bulldozers. After the Second Lebanon War, the Future Movement responded by pouring money into the villages in an attempt to lure them away from Hizbullah, the journalist said. The support of the three villages is of particular significance to Hizbullah, he continued, because it gives them a potential platform from which to launch attacks in the Israeli-controlled Shaba farms. "It doesn't mean necessarily that Hizbullah is going to start launching operations in the Shaba Farms again, though one can't rule out the possibility, but it makes life easier for them if they know they are operating from a friendly environment," he said. The resistance battalions were first formed in 1997 after Israeli forces killed Hassan Nasrallah's son in South Lebanon. Their goal was to offer anyone who sought it the chance to fight the Jewish state. They were folded, however, after Israel's withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000. Hizbullah re-established them following the Second Lebanon War and, according to the journalist, "has been very busy recruiting people into them." "This has raised tensions to quite a strong level in these (Arkoub) villages between those who support Hizbullah and those who support the Future Movement," he said. Some claim that Hizbullah is becoming increasingly concerned about the influence of Sunni radicals - a growing political force in Lebanon.