Hizbullah's social network torn to shreds
As war rages on in Lebanon, Israel has been targeting not only Hizbullah's fighters, but also, the social network that prior to the current clashes had served Lebanon's Shiite community with its basic needs. Massive damage to Hizbullah's social facilities along with the huge outflow of refugees from southern Lebanon has weighed heavily on the Shiite group's welfare capabilities. As a result, promises of Hizbullah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah to help the nation's poor Shiite population are being put to the test.
Shiites remain the poorest community among Lebanon's religious groups, while many manage to escape dire poverty only through emigration. Those who do decide to remain in Lebanon have been supported until now by a host of services provided by the Iranian-backed movement, including free education and health care.
According to the AP, the most significant damages, however, were inflicted on the offices of Beit Al Mal—Hizbullah's unofficial treasury. The Israeli attacks on Beit Al Mal have disrupted Hizbullah's ability to continue channeling funds to support various party activities, as well as payments for its activists.
In addition to physical damage to Hizbullah facilities, many Hizbullah operatives, including those in charge of social affairs, have been forced to flee. Consequently, almost all of Hizbullah's welfare activities have come to halt.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees - most of whom Shiites - are currently in need of huge amounts of humanitarian aid. These refugees, flooding Beirut and other major cities in Lebanon, struggle to find food, water and medicine; many have even been forced to sleep in city parks, abandoned cellars or in schools throughout the capital. The amount of aid required to help such refugees is estimated at billions of dollars, a sum far beyond Hizbullah's budget, which ranges between US$150 - US$ 200 million per year. Thus, in a bid to raise funds, Hizbullah's Al Manar television station recently began calling for donations from its viewers.
Additionally, Hizbullah will need billions of dollars to rebuild the infrastructure of its Dahiya stronghold in southern Beirut, as what has been termed the "Hizbullah capital," has been reduced to ruins by intensive Israeli air raids.
According to Lebanese sources monitoring the current situation, the small amount of aid distributed by the Imam Khomeini Relief Committees and the emergency welfare committees of Hizbullah is but "a drop in the sea". Thus, according to such sources, Hizbullah best bet for easing the crisis is international humanitarian assistance. Only through such assistance will Hizbullah be able to avoid potential criticism within the Shiite sect.
Even now, despite the united front exhibited by Lebanon's political parties following the Qana carnage, concerns are being voiced by Lebanese Shiites over Hizbullah's foresight regarding ensuing economic and social consequences when it decided to capture two Israeli soldiers. These voices have also expressed concern over how Nasrallah is to fulfill his vow to refugees for a quick return to their homes.
In sum, after the current Lebanon war has ended, a long period of rehabilitation will be required to get Lebanon back on its feet. The effort will require significant international action, whereas Hizbullah may be left with a relatively negligible role in the process.