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Hussein Atwe: ‘It is my dream to see rockets falling on Israel’

Sheikh Hussein Atwe serves coffee at his house in Hebbarieh.(The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

HEBBARIEH, Lebanon: Hussein Atwe carries a pitcher of coffee to serve the guests who have come to wish him well following his release from the military hospital, where he insists he was receiving treatment and not under arrest. Last month, Atwe, a member of Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, was investigated for firing rockets into Israel. He was eventually released after being treated for severe burns sustained during his lone wolf operation.

“I was inspired to fire rockets by the massacres against the people of Gaza, as well as what happened to the Palestinian boy Mohammad Abu Khudair,” who was burned to death by Israelis, he said. He admitted, however, that due to a tactical error he did not manage to strike the Israeli military target he was aiming for.

Atwe has received a hero’s welcome since his release, with photos of him adorning the entrance to the village and along the streets leading to his house.

His elderly father, smiling at his son’s visitors, says he approves of his son’s action.

“I am proud that he is a resister and fights the enemy, Israel.”

Atwe’s father, in his 80s, says resistance is a family tradition. His own father, Mohammad Atwe, was killed when he fell from his horse while fighting the French troops in Marjayoun in 1925, he says.

“There is a deep wound in my heart,” the older man adds sadly. “My wife died a martyr in the ’70s during the Israeli attacks on the village.”

Nearby, Atwe’s youngest son, Mohammad, holds a toy rocket-propelled grenade.

“I want to shoot Israel,” he says, as his brother Ahmad busies himself erecting a large plastic machine gun.

“I want to replace this machine gun with a real machine gun,” the boy tells his father.

Atwe is an experienced fighter, reminding his guests: “It was not the first time I fired rockets toward the occupying usurper.”

“I know the geography of the area because I’ve lived here since I was a kid,” he continued. In 1987, Atwe fought with Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya and later in the ’90s trained with Hezbollah, he says. During the 2006 July War, he conducted joint operations with Hezbollah and was among those placed in charge of the rocket warehouse, he says.

He also claims to have helped secure ammunition and supplies for the resistance.

The day of his most recent, lone wolf operation, he prepared the launch site and, after iftar, went to pray at the village mosque. Afterward, he and a companion, who he refuses to identify both in the official investigation and in interviews with journalists, headed to Al-Mari area where they had prepared the rockets to launch automatically between 6 and 6:05 a.m.

“I noticed that there was something wrong with one of the wires, and when I came closer, there was an explosion and fire shot out and burned me, and then I lost consciousness,” he says.

His companion carried him home, and from there he was to the nearby field hospital that cares for Syrian refugees. Due to the severity of his burns, he was moved to a hospital in the Western Bekaa.

“I could have run away from the hospital before Army Intelligence showed up, but I didn’t because I maintain the legitimacy of resistance provided by the Cabinet’s policy statement. “The military policemen who conducted the investigation gave me the choice to stay there or go to a specialized hospital, and the military hospital is where I underwent several surgeries and treatment for burns across most of the right side of my body.”

Atwe insists that the investigators were cordial with him and the doctors attentive to his medical needs. In total, he remained in hospital about 20 days and was allowed to receive his brother and family.

Atwe says he was released thanks to the intervention of Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya and representatives from Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and the Lebanese security services.

“We do not disagree with the resistance, and we will never disagree with them,” Atwe says of his group’s relationship with Hezbollah. “But I’m afraid for the resistance because of its involvement in the war in Syria.”

He concludes by reiterating his right to resist.

“I would not hesitate for one moment to fight Israel,” he says. “My dream will always be to see rockets falling on Israel.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 08, 2014, on page 4.

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