SOLYMONE BLOG

LEBANESE STUDENTS ORGANISED A "DIGNITY TRIP" TO HEZBOLLAH STRONGHOLD


Lebanese university students, gather around an anti-aircraft gun as a Hezbollah fighter explain to them
SOJOD, Lebanon – Last Saturday, some 450 students both Christian and Muslim from the Lebanese American University took part in a visit dubbed "the dignity trip" to Hezbollah strongholds in south Lebanon.
The outing included a visit to the wooded hills of Sojod, an area just north of an enclave that was occupied by Israel for 18 years until it pulled out its troops on May 25, 2000.
At the site, the students were led through the rough, rocky terrain to a spot that Hezbollah officials said was where Hadi Nasrallah, the son of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, was killed while conducting a guerrilla raid on Israeli positions in 1997.
  • "This is the spot where he was martyred," explained a Hezbollah tour guide, pointing to a blue prayer mat on a mound of earth hidden amid trees. The students mingled and snapped photographs with Hezbollah fighters, who asked that no pictures of their faces be taken.
  • The students clapped and cheered as a Hezbollah fighter perched on a rocket launcher paraded past. Later, they snapped photographs with guerrila fighters, getting a firsthand account of the group's tactics against Israel on the battlefield.
  • The students cheered as an anti-aircraft gunner and a katyusha rocket launcher used to fight Israel were paraded past, while speakers belted out excerpts of Nasrallah speeches.
  • Excursions like the one more than 400 Lebanese university students took Saturday to a Hezbollah stronghold in south Lebanon are part of the militant group's push to promote itself through "jihadi tourism" to mark the 10th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon. The efforts also include a sprawling new war museum touting Hezbollah's history.
  • It's a way for the militant group to showcase its military prowess at a time when Israel and the U.S. say the Iranian-backed group is acquiring more sophisticated weaponry.
  • "We are bringing students to the area previously occupied by Israel, to show them how the resistance, with its meager capabilities, was able to defeat the strongest army in the world," said Jihad Hammoud, one of the organizers of the student tours.
  • Hezbollah guerrillas waged a war of attrition against Israeli forces occupying a strip of Lebanese territory along the Israeli border until May 2000, when, faced with rising casualties, Israel withdrew it troops, ending a 22-year military presence there.
  • The Israeli withdrawal crowned Hezbollah as a heroic organization viewed by many Lebanese and Arabs as a liberator that won back territory without negotiations or concessions. The group further burnished its reputation after its guerrilla fighters battled the Israelis to a draw during the month long 2006 war.
  • Hezbollah has not fired any rockets on Israel since then, but is widely believed to have replenished its weapons stockpile and says it can now strike deeper into Israel.
  • It has also consolidated its power in the domestic political arena, joining the Western-backed coalition in a national unity government that ensures it has veto power within the cabinet.
The weekly student tours are part of Hezbollah activities marking the anniversary of Israel's withdrawal. The anniversary comes amid U.S. and Israeli concerns that Hezbollah has acquired increasingly advanced weapons from backers Syria and Iran.
Hezbollah has neither confirmed nor denied the Israeli claims, but Nasrallah has said his group now has rockets that can strike deeper than ever inside Israel, including Tel Aviv.
Source: AP
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