MARJAYOUN/ BINT JBEIL, Lebanon: Abu Said Anzani isn’t enthusiastic about the outbreak of a regional conflict, as he believes that Israel will seize the opportunity to take revenge against Lebanon for what he called its defeat in the 2006 war.
“The war will reach us because we emerged victorious from the 2006 war,” the shepherd said.
“The war is difficult and I’m afraid that if we join it, we won’t know how to get out of it. I was displaced from here for around two decades, and I don’t wish to do that again,” he told The Daily Star, pointing with his amputated arm to his farm, which remains damaged from the Israeli assault back in 2006.
Anzani, in his 60s, lost some of his left arm and some fingers from his right hand during the 1973 war, launched by Syria and Egypt against Israel with the aim of liberating the occupied Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula, then under Israeli occupation.
Reports emerged this week that the U.S. and its allies would strike Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons against rebel-held suburbs of Damascus last week. The news sparked fears that the operation could inflame a regional war, involving Hezbollah, an ally of Syria.
Anzani, from the Sunni village of Ain Arab, said he neither supported Syrian President Bashar Assad nor the rebels: “I support [what’s] right, and I say the aggressor should be punished.”
Most residents of the south do not favor a military strike against Syria, although some said they wished the Syrian president would be toppled.
Mohammad Afara, from Sidon, said he opposed a U.S. military operation against Syria.
However, Afara wished rebels would deal a fatal blow to Assad, forcing him to leave power.
“Any strike by the U.S. or the West in general [against Syria] amounts to an aggression and an invasion of an Arab state,” he said.
Afara hoped that the military operation would not take place, saying Lebanon would pay the price of it since the fires of the conflict would reach Lebanese territory.
Imad Ghorabi, a university student, voiced hope that the war would erupt, as he was confident that the Western allies would be defeated.
“It is true that the war is costly in terms of casualties and psychological repercussions, but a victory of the 1973 war will be repeated, and the colonial powers will pay a high price for their aggression,” he said.
Ghorabi was certain that the war would reach Lebanon.
“It will be more violent than the July 2006 war, but we will win,” he said.
Palestinians in south Lebanon refugee camps, which have been swamped by waves of refugees from the conflict in Syria, said the important thing was for the Assad regime to collapse, irrespective of the side that accomplishes such a feat.
“Let Assad fall and the Syrian people be relieved and return home,” said Mustafa Jazmawi, from the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp on the outskirts of Sidon. “But I expect that Lebanon and refugee camps will be affected by what happens in Syria, and we’ll defend ourselves.”
Residents of the former Israeli-occupied area of Lebanon could clearly hear the sound of shells and machine guns from the occupied Golan Heights, where a number of Israeli tanks could be seen heading toward Israel and positioning at Amoud al-Arbieen which faces the Wazzani heights in Lebanon.
As he fixed his tractor at the entrance of his village Al-Mary, Wassim Batthish predicted war would be difficult if it reached Lebanon.
“I think Hezbollah won’t remain silent if Syria is hit. Hezbollah has fighters in Syria, so if the U.S. hits Syria, then let everybody know that Israeli settlements will be set ablaze and we will suffer again,” said Batthish, a Druze.
Residents of the Christian town of Marjayoun aren’t enthusiastic about speculating about further conflict.
“We’ve been suffering from [war] ever since 1976,” said Elie Hourani. “Let the Syrian people solve their problems by themselves. ... Do we have to pay the price again? We need to live.”
Abu Najib Halawi, from the Shiite border village of Kfar Kila, cursed Israel, saying that supporting Syria against foreign aggression was a must.
“We have to eradicate it [Israel], Syria is our backer and we should stand by its side,” said Halawi, in his 90s, as he walked in the field.
“Whoever plans to strike Syria will pay a very high price because the young men [ Hezbollah fighters] will not remain silent and I think we will join the war,” he said.
Mahmoud Bazzi, from the Shiite town of Bint Jbeil, said he was optimistic about the outcome of a new war between Hezbollah and Israel.
“I am comfortable. If Israel attacks us this time, I can say that we will pray in the [Israeli] settlements,” the 89-year-old said. “The war against Syria will be harsh and no one will be able to defeat it. Whether we like it or not, the war will reach us.”