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SCOTT JAGOW: A historic moment for Lebanon today: Lebanese soldiers fanned out along the southern border with Israel. This deployment helps Lebanon seize control of its entire country for the first time since 1968. Hezbollah had been controlling the southern region. Many Lebanese business owners in that area were hit hard by the recent fighting. And some of them are turning to Hezbollah to help them rebuild. Ben Gilbert has our story.
BEN GILBERT: The Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil is only a few miles away from the Israeli border. It was the site of one of the most intense battles in the war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Three days ago, the city was a ghost town. but now people who fled the fighting have returned. What they’ve found is not pretty. The entire city center is demolished. Banks built in the last few years are shredded with shrapnel. Entire four- and five-story buildings have collapsed into themselves.
Nearby, 50 year old Sami Dagher surveys the devastation from his grocery store.
“My entire building is damaged,” he says.
The front windows of Dagher’s store are knocked out. The frames are twisted. But the shelves are still stocked with laundry detergent, Pepsi and Colgate toothpaste. It’s the rest of the building that poses the problem.
“That’s the warehouse, and that’s the house. The home is a total loss,” he says.
Dagher points to a second floor balcony of a villa above his store. It’s missing part of its roof. The stairs leading up to Dagher’s home are still intact.
Upstairs a tree shaded compound houses his mother, his brother and his brother’s family.
“The house, with the shop and warehouse will cost no less than $450,000 to rebuild,” he says.”Dagher’s unsure how he’ll put the money together, but he’s expecting from help Hezbollah soon.
Here in Jwoyah, a few miles away from Bint Jbeil, residents barely got a chance to start sweeping up broken glass before Hezbollah engineers arrive to do a site survey.
55-year-old gas station owner Muslin Soree says that after the fighting, by the time he got back to his station, Hezbollah members had already left a flag on his pumps.
The flag indicated that the team had done a preliminary assessment of damages, and would soon return with an estimate, and maybe even cash.
“I have complete faith in Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, will take care of all the damages,” Soree says.
Soree estimates the damages to his gas station, which was hit by two Israeli missiles, to be around $110,000.
Hezbollah has been making similar visits to residents around southern Lebanon. One Lebanese official in the south says each village has a five-man Hezbollah reconstruction assessment team.
No residents in several southern towns reported visits by a Lebanese government team with a similar mission.
In South Lebanon, I’m Ben Gilbert for Marketplace.