HARET HREIK, Lebanon: Residents and shopowners in Ruwaiss in Beirut’s southern suburb inspected damage incurred to their properties Friday after the neighborhood was jolted by a car bomb the day before, vowing never to backtrack on their support for Hezbollah.
Some cleared their shops of debris and others began to repair their damaged homes, as politicians flocked to the site of the explosion to express their solidarity.
“I want to work, I want to live,” Ali Faour said, as he instructed workers to clear the shattered glass from his shop.
Faour was inside his shop when the explosion went off.
“It was a strong shock, a psychological shock,” he said, before pointing at a BMW parked nearby. “There was a mutilated body over there, it traumatized me.”
The blast, which targeted a stronghold of Hezbollah, killed 24 people and wounded more than 300. It came over a month after an explosion rocked the nearby neighborhood of Bir al-Abed, wounding over 50 people.
The facades of many buildings at the site were burned, their balconies collapsed, while the windows of some other buildings were shattered.
The site was cordoned off by the authorities after the explosion.
One of the leveled buildings had been reconstructed after Israel’s 2006 war against Lebanon.
A banner reading, “Made in U.S.A.” hung on one of the devastated buildings, expressing local sentiment over responsibility for the attack.
Hezbollah flags fluttered on some balconies, while the party’s anthem played on loudspeakers in the neighborhood.
The owner of a shop located at the blast site argued that the attacks targeting the suburbs were the price the residents must pay for supporting Hezbollah, particularly the party’s decision to fight in Syria alongside the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“I don’t hold Hezbollah responsible for what happened ... they ask, why did Hezbollah fight in [the Syrian town of] Qusair? What should it have done instead? Wait for [takfiri groups] to come?” said the man, who requested to remain anonymous.
Hezbollah announced its involvement in Syria’s war in May, saying it was defending the resistance and Lebanon against takfiri groups which it said had been dominating the ranks of the Syrian opposition.
“What is happening here is a price we have to pay, we are used to this ... if we didn’t go to fight them, they would come and fight us. We have to endure the martyrdom of some people,” the shop owner said.
The blast, he said, had shattered his shop windows.
“The windows cost $10,000. Hezbollah might pay us compensation, but we need to resume working hours now,” he said.
Asked whether he would consider leaving the suburbs in light of the security situation, the man acknowledged that “everyone in the suburbs considers the option of leaving.”
“But where will I go? I have my shop here [which is how] I earn a living. I have kids,” he said.
“At the same time, if I stay here, I’m able to make a living, but my kids could lose me if something bad happens ... this is a phase that has to pass; I hope I will endure it without getting harmed,” he added.
Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan, the deputy head of the Higher Shiite Council, arrived at the scene and was greeted enthusiastically by the locals.
“We are resistance people, we never flee the suburbs,” said a local female resident, who refused to be named. “Kill us, for this will make our people more and more aware,” she said, referring to a saying by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
MPs Emile Rahmeh, Alain Aoun and Fadi Awar, from Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, also inspected the blast scene. Other visitors were MPs Ali Moqdad and Nawar Saheli, from Hezbollah, along with Sejaan Qazzi, the deputy head of the Kataeb Party.
Very few people who were wounded from the explosion remain in hospital. Among those was Mohammad Fakih. Having lunch in Bahman Hospital, Fakih detailed to The Daily Star the series of events after the car bomb exploded.
“A huge explosion shook our building,” Fakih said, with a bandaged eye, hand and leg.
“I was sitting in the living room when the explosion went off, and I realized that my eye was bleeding.”
Fakih added that his mother managed to get him downstairs, where an ambulance had arrived to transfer him to a hospital.
“I tell the takfiris and terrorists: ‘These terrorist and criminal policies will make us more determined to support the resistance’s arms and the path of Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah,” he said.
For Issa Omeirat, who was receiving treatment at the same hospital, the events of Thursday remained a blur.
“I can’t focus. I just can’t remember what happened to me,” said Omeirat, with a bandaged eye. “I just woke up and found myself here.”