On May 25th Lebanon, at least that part of Lebanon which cares about its freedom, marks “Liberation and Resistance Day”: the day when Hezbollah defeated Israel after a brutal 22 year long occupation and expelled the Zionists out of Lebanon.
This day, however, should be celebrated by all those who believe “that resistance is life and life is resistance” because what happened 8 years ago was the first (post-Cold War) victory by a popular resistance movement against the Empire. Not only did May 25th, 2000, mark a huge imperial defeat, but it proved to be the opening battle in a long war for the liberation of the entire Middle-East and, hopefully, the rest of the planet from the oppression and exploitation of the USraelian Empire.
In a narrow sense, May 25th, 2000, was a victory for Hezbollah of course, but in a broader sense this was a victory of the destitute, poor, and oppressed against the powerful, rich and enslaving, it was the victory of courage against hi-tech hardware, of the human spirit against the Machine, of freedom against slavery. In the broader sense, May 25th belongs to all of us, regardless of nationality or religion (or lack thereof): all those who resist are Hezbollah, at least in spirit.
At a time when the Empire is preparing to strike at Iran, when resisting countries such as Venezuela are slowly but surely being subverted, when all of Europe is being transformed into a voiceless pawn for the USraelians, it is important to keep our hearts and minds focused on the fact that, as the Russian poet and singer Vladimir Vyssotsky wrote, “boots cannot trample upon souls“.
Here below is the story of May 25 as told by Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV.
Happy Liberation and Resistance Day!
CIRCUMSTANCES AHEAD OF ISRAEL’S HUMILIATING PULLOUT IN 2000
Shortly after the harsh Israeli defeat in Operation Grapes of Wrath on Lebanon in April 1996, Likud Party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu was elected as Prime Minister. He surprised many by beating the Labor Party represented by his rival Shimon Peres. But Netanyahu was facing a hard task; he wanted to bring back the pride of Israel’s army that was melting in the furnace of Hezbollah’s Katyusha rockets.
As a result, Netanyahu came up with the slogan: Lebanon First. Through his slogan, the Israeli Prime Minister, sought to deal a severe blow to Hezbollah’s arms, then extract security guarantees from Syria and Lebanon as a preliminary step toward the complete withdrawal from the “security zone” in south Lebanon. Netanyahu was seeking to put direct pressure on Hezbollah instead of pressuring Syria to demand Hezbollah stops it war of attrition in the South.
Netanyahu was for a ground operation to penetrate areas where Hezbollah’s resistance fighters are located. Ironically, this confrontation killed and injured more Israeli soldiers from the elite brigades Givati and Golani. Even the highly trained Egoz unit couldn’t hold on for more than a year.
When he failed on the ground, Netanyahu resorted to helicopters to drop his Special Forces in Hezbollah areas. In February 1997, seventy-three Israel Special Forces soldiers were killed when two helicopters collided near the Lebanese borders. The sea became Netanyahu’s only option left. He chose his top elites soldiers for a major security operation that would begin from the renowned coastal southern town of Ansariyyeh. But Islamic resistance bombs were enough to end the Israeli operation before it even started. Full of frustration and disappointment, the conquered elite unit delivered Netanyahu a message that Israel’s presence in Lebanon was doomed to end.
Netanyahu who succeeded a defeated Prime Minister now became a defeated successor, who would clear the seat for another Prime Minister, who will be defeated as well. Labor took the rule in Israel following the 1999 elections. On Premier Ehud Barak’s agenda was the “withdrawal from Lebanon” on the 7th of July 2000.
But for any pullout to take place there should be either a unilateral withdrawal without guarantees – and this is the very defeat – or a pullout in the framework of an agreement that secures northern settlements on the one hand and realizes a good deal of political gains.
Barak set his eyes on the second possibility.
As usual, the US diplomacy got busy on the Washington – Damascus course what resulted in a tripartite summit including Syria, Israel and US in the Shepherdstown farm, West Virginia. But ambitious Barak was frustrated. Syrian President Hafez el-Assad’s insisted that any Israeli pullout should extend from the Golan in the north to the 4th of June line. The price was too expensive for Barak to pay. Indeed, Barak’s pledge to withdraw became his own nightmare. With everything lost, and in a moment of deep contemplation, Barak found that his long-desired objective in fact lies in his experienced ally: Collaborator Antoine Lahd’s army
PRO-ISRAEL LAHD MILITIA FALLS APART
At the beginning of 2000, officers of Antoine Lahd’s pro-Israel army started to sense some changes in the way the Israeli military command was treating them.
The so-called “South Lebanon Army” which had served as a tool to implement Israel’s military and security schemes became authorized to take part – as partners – in the meetings of Israeli officers to put strategies to protect Israel’s northern flank.
SLA officers became suspicious.
After a series of meetings, the collaborators got the point: The Israeli army is going to withdraw and they will replace them until a deal was clinched to secure the northern border. In other words, they are to confront Hezbollah fighters until further notice.
Such a mission requires reconsideration of the formation of the aging Lahd militia leadership. Israeli and Lahdi suggestions intersected on a security veteran whose hallmarks extend to the Israeli invasion of 1982: Senior collaborator Akel Hashem.
Hezbollah’s leadership carefully followed the new developments and decided that it’s time to put the collaborators in the crosshairs. Those who would not lay down their arms willingly, would lay them down by force.
Senior collaborators like Jalbout, Hussein Abdul Nabi and Fawzi Saghir were dealt a severe blow after another. Then came the 31st of December 1999.
An explosion in the so called “security zone” shook the ground under Lahdi collaborators and caused this militia to fall apart. The Islamic Resistance liquidated top collaborator Akl Hashem. Hezbollah’s leadership postponed his execution several times because in most cases, Hashem had his wife and son near him. But when the time was right and Hashem was alone, he was killed.
The well planned and well executed operation stunned Israel which ordered its soldiers to hide inside their fortified garrisons until a solution was reached. But for the Islamic resistance, there was no time to waste. Hezbollah rockets showered Israeli barracks and the situation became unbearable.
On February 8, Israeli jets struck civilian infrastructure targets deep inside Lebanon in reprisals for their killed soldiers. It was a dangerous equation that Hezbollah grasped and decided to inflict more losses in the ranks of the occupation army. On April 4, Israel hit back but this time Hezbollah retaliated with launching improved Katyusha rockets into the Kiryat shmona settlement, reminding Israeli settlers of the April aggression nightmare.
Political maneuvers became futile. Barak, who was burdened with a pledge to withdraw from Lebanon by the 7th of July 2000, drew a reduced security line controlled by collaborator Robin Abboud. He also ordered his army officers to gather what they can and prepare to withdraw in a way that saves their faces.
The Islamic resistance assessed the situation in the security zone and put an unorthodox 3-point plan: The motto: Cause more panic will less blood; The weapon: High morale; the direction: The southern town of Ghandouriyyeh.
On the 21st of May, this town situated on the edge of the security zone found itself to be the starting point of a popular march into the occupied zone.
The nearby occupied town, Qantara was liberated. Other towns started to fall one after the other. The town of Taybe was next. Lahd militiamen were still in their fortified barrack with state of the art defensive weapons. The residents realized that they can start their march towards the town but they can’t know how it would end. Minutes later, a strong explosion was heard. The resistance had arrived and the fortified garrison was destroyed.
LAHD COLLABORATORS HUMILATED AT FATIMA GATE
On the 22nd of May 2000 southern villagers in the middle sector remained vigilant after news of destroying the fortified garrison of Taybe the previous day circulated. Hours later, residents of neighboring southern villages, namely Houla, Tallousa, Markaba, Mays el-Jabal and other towns, found themselves before two possibilities: First, resistance fighters and villagers attempt to force their way into the village; something that neither the Israelis nor their collaborators would allow, given the location of these villages near the border with occupied Palestine. Second, the liberation spree stops in Taybe and the rest of the villages would become part of a reduced security zone under the mercy of the Lahd collaborators until further notice.
The villagers were not alone weighing their decisions.
Collaborators were panicked by the scene of the Taybe garrison immense explosion and Hezbollah’s yellow flags flattering near its ruins, at a time Israeli soldiers were fleeing under the cover of night.
Every collaborator took his own decision to evacuate his garrison the next day and surrender to the resistance. The next morning, the Lahd militia was falling apart at a fast pace. The fast steep slump of the Lahd militia astonished its top officers. Panic-stricken collaborators sought refuge behind Lebanon’s border with occupied Palestine hoping the Israelis will acknowledge 25 year of SLA’s loyal service against its own people.
To the collaborators’ surprise, Israel refuses to allow them into occupied Palestine.
Humiliated as never before, SLA collaborators were begging Israeli soldiers to let them cross the Fatima Gate, but in vain. “Israel betrayed us. The IDF and SLA were one… and we thought it was possible to befriend Israel. We helped them in our land. For twenty-five years we were with Israel.” The nephew of ‘Akl Hashim, himself an SLA collaborator, shrieked. “We ate together, we fought together, we went to funerals together. We were your allies,” he continued.
How fast the peaceful march expanded to reach the towns in the middle sector and at the entrance of Odaiseh, panicked collaborators shot one resident as he was opening the way for the conquerors.
Cars waiting in the western sector were instructed to enter the middle sector and announce the liberation of the villages of Beit Hanoun, Kounin, Rshaf and Blat. In the midst of celebrations, the Islamic resistance announced the martyrdom of seven of its fighters who fell while securing residents into their towns after 20 years of coercive separation.
The next few days will undoubtedly be decisive.
VILLAGERS LIBERATE KHIAM AFTER BENT JBEIL
Bent Jbeil woke up at dawn on April 23, 2000 on the sounds of cheering and slogans that arouse from loudspeakers and minarets thus publicly announcing the entrance of Hezbollah into the village.
The night before, resistance fighters were engaged in a gunbattle with Lahd militiamen positioned in the so called “17 Center,” which until that particular moment was still the backbone of the SLA security. The downfall of the center initiated a domino effect cascade that saw the remainder of the SLA positions fall one after the other.
The resistance proceeded its military deployment in both western and middle sectors starting from Naqoura to as far as the outskirts of Khiam. In this town lied the Khiam detention center where some 140 detainees were held and tortured by the Israeli and their collaborators. The resistance postponed taking the town by storm fearing the lives of detainees would be threatened.
Everyone realized that the military power of Antoine Lahd’s collaborating militia had tumbled down. Only small pockets remained in some mainly Christian villages where they took off their uniforms and put on civilian clothes.
Hezbollah’s plan to take the collaborators by surprise without shedding one drop of blood was met with rumors in towns like the Christian towns of Debel, Ain Ebel and Rmeish, that the resistance is coming to commit massacres there. Due the sensitivity of the matter, Hezbollah’s leadership decided to handle the situation in a special way. Reassuring messages were relayed to the dignitaries of those towns that Hezbollah’s resistance fighters will not hurt anyone and urged them to persuade the collaborators who wish to surrender to gather in churches so that the Lebanese army would deal with them.
Church bells rang.
During the whole process, not one collaborator was slapped on the face, not one broken hearted father avenged his son’s killing, even if the killer were standing right next to him.
The Islamic resistance acted in an unprecedented humane way in the history of resistance vs. traitors; unlike the French resistance, Hezbollah did not even shave off the heads of the collaborators.
Israel failed to fulfill any of its goals including the distortion of Hezbollah’s picture in the eyes of the international public opinion.
French newspapers praised the Islamic resistance’s graceful method adopted in the south.
This new type of victory constituted an additional impetus to look forward towards liberating more garrisons even if the Khiam detention center was one of them.
The decision was taken to liberate the town.
The panic stricken collaborators heard the unpleasant news of more than 500 villagers forcing their way into Khiam. Some fled and others surrendered leaving the detainees in their cells unaware of what is going on. Bit by bit, the shouts of the triumphant villagers was getting clearer and closer to the prisoners. They responded with stronger shouts until their voices merged together as they praised God for a glorious day, when 144 prisoners streamed out of their cells to rejoice with their families and resistance fighters; a day that would later be known as The Lebanese Detainee Day.
FIRST ISRAELI DEFEAT SINCE START OF ARAB ISRAELI CONFLICT
On the fourth day of liberation, the released detainees from the Khiam detention center headed to the capital Beirut, precisely to Haret Hreik in its southern suburb. A very big celebration was held in the Shoura square where Hezbollah Secretary General praised the first glorious victory of its kind since the beginning of the Arab – Israeli conflict. “We are gathered here celebrating the freedom that we took by ourselves; it was not a present from anybody, neither from Israel, the coward fleeing collaborator Antoine Lahd, the United Nations, the Security Council, nor the international community, while the Israeli have gathered journalists to photograph their last humiliated soldier getting out of our land and closing the gate behind him,” Sayyed Nasrallah Said. “What happened today was not a complete pullout. Part of our land is still occupied (Shebaa Farms) and Lebanese men are still in Israeli jails,” he added.
The enemy acknowledged before the friend that what Lebanon had witnessed in May 2000, was an historic and unprecedented event in the decades long Arab conflict with Israel.
Like every historic event, the day of Resistance and liberation had left its impact on political and social levels in Lebanon, the region and the world.
In Lebanon, the frustration of the people, due to 22 years of Israeli occupation and disregarded international resolutions, changed into belief that they have enough power to thwart any scheme against Lebanon, even if they were as big as Israeli and US schemes.
On the other hand, the liberation of most of south Lebanon reformed political trends as the conception of resisting the occupation proved efficient after it was doubted that it could ever accomplish such results.
Analysts believe that the liberation was the impetus behind the second Palestinian Intifada in September 2000, at a time Israeli Palestinian negotiations over Palestinian rights were ruled by Israeli dictations.
Six year later, Israel will acknowledge its first defeat in a 33-day war that exhausted both military and political commands, in their war on Hezbollah to crush it militarily.
Today, on the eighth anniversary of this historic day, the resistance and with it all the honest Lebanese, has thwarted another attempt to target its arms that liberated the land, freed the detainees and continues to deter Israel as it did in August 2006; a date that marked the beginning of the countdown to Israel’s imminent and undoubted end.
On the eighth anniversary, we say to Sayyed Nasrallah, to the martyrs, to their leader Imad Moghniyeh, to the long suffering injured fighters and civilians, to Hezbollah’s community, to the steadfast people in Lebanon, to the raised hands across the world praying for the resistance, to all resistance movements in the world: ((And how many cities, with more power than thy city which has driven thee out, have We destroyed? And there was none to aid them)) Muhammad V13