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Hezbollah buys hearts - in cash

The group gives money to those who lost homes, while the Lebanese army spreads out in the south.

Published August 19, 2006

QANA, Lebanon - In an embarrassment to the Lebanese government, Hezbollah started handing out crisp $100 bills Friday to residents who lost their homes in the Israeli bombing campaign - $12,000 to each claimant at a school in southern Beirut.

There were no lines and no waiting. Applicants who had signed up for the aid this week simply showed up at the school, showed identification papers and only had to sign a receipt. Hezbollah workers handed residents stacks of bills from a suitcase. Hezbollah is financed by oil-rich Iran.

In a bid to prevent more arms from reaching Hezbollah fighters, the Lebanese government vowed to take over all border crossings nationwide, including 60 known smuggling routes from Syria. And to the southeast, the Lebanese army symbolically took control of a first border village from withdrawing Israeli forces, as two soldiers drove slowly through Kfar Kila in a jeep.

In southern Lebanon, funerals were held Friday, the Muslim holy day, for victims in the 34-day Israel-Hezbollah war.

Hard-hit Qana, about 6 miles southeast of the port city of Tyre, held the most elaborate of several funerals in southern Lebanon on Friday after residents decided it was finally safe and hospital morgues made sure all bodies could be claimed. A caravan of cars made its way from one service to the next.

In a televised speech, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud paid tribute to Hezbollah fighters, who he said "brought down the legend of the invincible (Israeli) army. I also salute the leader of the resistance, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who wanted this victory to be for all the Lebanese and Arab people."

President Bush acknowledged it could take time for the people of Lebanon and the world to view the war as a loss for the militant group. The State Department has designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

"The first reaction of course of Hezbollah and its supporters is to declare victory. I guess I would have done the same thing if I were them," Bush said.

Near Israel's Galilee panhandle, the Lebanese army's 10th brigade set up camps within a mile of the border - a key step toward taking control of the whole country for the first time since 1968 and a demand of the U.N. resolution that ended the war.

With Lebanon moving quickly to get 15,000 soldiers into the south as demanded by the U.N. cease-fire resolution, there was still no firm date for a deployment of an equal number of international peacekeepers. The United Nations had pledges of 3,500 troops for the force, with Bangladesh making the largest offer of up to 2,000 troops.

The United Nations appealed to European countries Friday to contribute troops to balance the commitments from Muslim countries so that both Israel and Lebanon will view it as legitimate.

The United States has said it will help with logistics and planning, but not ground troops.

[Last modified August 19, 2006, 01:29:32]

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