A Beirut Resident's Bittersweet Homecoming

The cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon has allowed thousands of Lebanese refugees to return to their homes — or what's left of them. Muhammed Shuker, whose home was one of the first in Beirut to be destroyed by Israeli bombings targeting Hezbollah-dominated neighborhoods, talks with Alex Chadwick about his own bittersweet homecoming.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

The Lebanese army patrolled the country's southern border with Israel for the first time in nearly 40 years today. A lone Jeep flying the Lebanese flag and carrying just two soldiers drove through the town of Kafar Kilah(ph), just a few yards from the border. Villagers throughout southern Lebanon have been throwing rice and waving banners to welcome the army. Many of those villages were severely damaged during the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

Earlier, my colleague, Alex Chadwick spoke with Mohammed Shuker. He and his family fled from their suburban Beirut home when the bombing started.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Mr. Shuker, you stayed in Beirut. Your parents moved north to the Beqaa Valley and then went to Jordan. You stayed in Beirut. Did you go back to...

Mr. MOHAMMED SHUKER (Refugee): Yes. I stayed in Beirut. I went there and took pictures of the building we owned houses in.

CHADWICK: And what happened to it?

Mr. SHUKER: It's destroyed. It's down on the floor.

CHADWICK: So it's completely collapsed.

Mr. SHUKER: Yes.

CHADWICK: What are your plans? Are you going to rebuild the house?

Mr. SHUKER: No, we're not, actually. Hezbollah promised to build all the houses that got bombed, and that's what they're working at right now.

CHADWICK: How big a home did you have?

Mr. SHUKER: A four room - a living a room and a kitchen, three bathrooms and an entrance.

CHADWICK: Have you gone to Hezbollah to tell them our home was destroyed? My parents aren't here, but look, this is where it was and...

Mr. SHUKER: No. They called us. Like he called me and said, okay, who can we talk to? My dad is still in Beqaa. The other part of my family is coming on the 20th from Jordan. So my dad is going to work it out with the Hezbollah guy.

CHADWICK: Was that a surprise to you? I mean that Hezbollah would call you rather than, say, someone from the government to offer some help?

Mr. SHUKER: Actually, the government is offering. It's not just Hezbollah that is going to pay for the houses. The government, too. And Hezbollah promised to pay for each house between 10 and $20,000, to buy furniture and to rent house, stuff like this. So...

CHADWICK: Were you - was your family a part of the Hezbollah party? Did you belong to Hezbollah?

Mr. SHUKER: Some of my cousins, yes, they do. They were fighting against Israel in the south of Lebanon.

CHADWICK: But your father wasn't a member of Hezbollah.

Mr. SHUKER: My father is not, but he supports them.

CHADWICK: Has your view of Hezbollah and of Hassan Nasrallah changed over the last month?

Mr. SHUKER: Actually, when Mr. Nasrallah started to control Hezbollah, I mean, Hezbollah before didn't seem anything to me, to be honest. I really trust them after I had heard him on TV and seen in bare eyes what he has been doing. He's been helping all these people and do whatever he promises. And he never lied to people. I've seen Mr. Nasrallah many times on TV. Whenever he promises something, he does it.

CHADWICK: Do you now have kind of more faith in Hezbollah than you do in the national government of Lebanon?

Mr. SHUKER: Yes. I do trust Hezbollah more.

CHADWICK: Well, why is that?

Mr. SHUKER: The government is not honest to the people as the Hezbollah guards. And not just Muslims trust Hezbollah, because they have seen what Hezbollah has done now. They know what they want Lebanon to be.

CHADWICK: So what do you see in the future for Lebanon and for your own role?

Mr. SHUKER: Well, every Lebanese has his dream. He wants to live in peace, you know. That's what every Lebanese wants.

CHADWICK: What about peace with Israel?

Mr. SHUKER: Peace with Israel? Well, from my side, I don't have any problem with that. I'm okay with it because I always wanted to go to Israel.

CHADWICK: You want to go to Israel?

Mr. SHUKER: Yeah. It's just a nice country. I have friends from Jordan who went to Israel. They said it's really nice. Every person should go and visit this country, you know. It just made me feel like I should go too.

CHADWICK: Mohammed Shuker speaking with us from outside Beirut in Lebanon. His home was destroyed by Israeli bombs in the war over the last month.

Mr. Shuker, thank you for speaking with us.

Mr. SHUKER: You're so welcome.

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