Winning hearts and minds. Tiny Minority of Extremists Update: the Hizballah jihadists seem to have support in south Lebanon that is so considerable that it has been able to amass a sizable amount in international donor funds.
“Hezbollah rebuilds south Beirut,” by Bassem Mroue for Associated Press:
BEIRUT, Lebanon – The Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah has launched a massive project to rebuild south Beirut, devastated in last year’s war with Israel “” and it’s paying for much of the construction with international donor funds that were meant to strengthen its top rival, the Lebanese government.
Western-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora’s government has been distributing the funds as compensation to families whose homes were destroyed by Israeli bombardment so they can build anew.
But in south Beirut, long a Hezbollah stronghold, most of the families have promised to give their compensation “” about $53,000 each “” to the militant group to redevelop the devastated area in an ambitious plan likely to bolster Hezbollah’s standing.
The money going into the government’s family compensation program comes mainly from Islamic and Arab nations, chief among them Saudi Arabia “” a strong supporter of Saniora and opponent of Hezbollah “” which has given $570 million, said Sanaa al-Jack, government spokeswoman for relief and reconstruction projects.
It does not appear money from the United States and the European Union was ending up in the hands of Hezbollah, an ally of Iran and Syria which is considered a terrorist organization by Washington. Al-Jack said the American and EU donations “” about $140 million and $110 million promised, respectively “” were not earmarked for family compensation but for infrastructure and technical help.
Asked if U.S. money could be going to Hezbollah’s rebuilding project, a U.S. Embassy official in Beirut said, “I would doubt it.” The official, who insisted on anonymity under embassy rules, said U.S. funds were given for specific projects and would be carefully monitored.