Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Monday, July 31, 2006
Thousands of Lebanese reportedly were fleeing their homes in the south on Monday, taking advantage of a two-day lull in Israeli air strikes.
Some Christians have stayed in their southern Lebanese villages despite Israeli warnings to leave. Some believe they are safe from Israeli bombardment as long as they are not in areas where Hizballah is entrenched, said one Lebanese woman who asked not to be named.
But Hizballah has tried to enter those areas with portable rocket launchers and fire missiles from among the homes, hoping to provoke an Israeli response against the Christian villages, said the source who has relatives in southern Lebanon.
The Christians have chased the terrorists away, she said. Nevertheless, the Christians are reluctant to speak against Hizballah, fearing they'll be accused of siding with Israel.
About 40 percent of the Lebanese population is Christian and another 40 percent is Shiite Muslim - the latter, likely supporters of Hizballah. The other 20 percent is Druze and Sunni Muslim, who are generally allied with the Christian community, taking an anti-Syrian and anti-Hizballah stand.
Christian, Druze and Sunni Muslim political leaders in Lebanon have spoken out against Hizballah and its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.
Lebanon and the international community strongly condemned Israel on Sunday for an attack on a building in the southern Lebanese village of Qana, in which at least 57 people were killed, many of them children.
While it apologized for the civilian deaths, Israel said it was attack a village from which Hizballah had repeatedly launched rockets toward Israel. It also said it had warned residents there to leave the area or they would be considered sympathetic to Hizballah.
Israel and the U.S. have accused Hizballah using Lebanese civilians of as human shields launching rocket attacks against Israel from within civilian areas, knowing that an Israeli military response will bring more Lebanese casualties and condemnation on Israel.
"A picture is worth a million words," said the source. "[Hizballah] knows how to use pictures." The major television networks don't show the background. They don't show the people saying that they would rather die with Hizballah than flee the area, she said.
Therefore, when children are killed in attacks like the one on Sunday, it is the parents [and Hizballah] who are guilty, not Israel," said the source.
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