AP NEWS
Related topics

Southerners Caught In Cross-fire Fear Worst

March 22, 1992

HARISS, Lebanon (AP) _ Leslie Dakik, the American wife of a Shiite Muslim, sat in her bullet- chipped house with her three children huddled around her.

She had just returned to her southern village after fleeing last month during fighting between Shiite Muslim guerrillas and Israeli troops who occupy a self-proclaimed ″security zone″ along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

Since she came to Hariss with her husband, Ali, nearly seven years ago, Mrs. Dakik and thousands of other villagers in the region have run away a dozen times because of the endless cycle of violence.

″Every time I hear an explosion I’m afraid,″ said the former Leslie Ainsworth of Meadville, Pa., as she held her 18-month-old son, Ahmed, while daughters, Leanna, 7, and Lillian, 4, scurried around her.

″I don’t want to lose my children. I run away every time I hear trouble coming,″ she said.

Still, she will not abandon her husband, who refuses to be driven out of his home or the booming video business he’s built up.

Mrs. Dakik, 33, said she expects more violence, for the Israelis to come storming out of the security zone to avenge guerrilla attacks, as they did in mid-February, or to send in their fighter-bombers and gunships.

As sporadic gunfire crackled in the distance, Mrs. Dakik cuddled and kissed her children to comfort them.

″Once we get enough money together, we’ll go to America and start a little business,″ she said.

For 20 years, the predominantly Shiite south has been trapped in the cross- fire between Palestinians and the Israelis, and now Hezbollah guerrillas and the Israelis.

The rest of Lebanon has been pacified since the civil war ended in October 1990 with an Arab League-brokered peace treaty.

But the south, even with the presence of more than 5,000 U.N. peacekeepers, remains a powder keg as Hezbollah battles to drive the Israelis out of the ″security zone.″

Most southern Shiites hate the Hezbollah guerrillas, who sneak in with their mobile rocket launchers, or carry out roadside bomb ambushes and hit- and-run raids, bringing retaliation down on the villagers’ heads.

The Lebanese army has shown a reluctance to intervene in the volative region.

The Dakiks met in the West African nation of Sierra Leone nine years ago when Mrs. Dakik was in the Peace Corps. They married and came to Hariss in 1985, just before Israel ended a three-year occupation of Lebanon and withdrew.

But the Israelis held onto a 440-square-mile area in the south and proclaimed it their security zone, to serve as a buffer against guerrilla attacks.

Hariss, a village of 7,000 ringed by olive groves, is just a few hundred yards north of the Israeli-occupied sector.

Mrs. Dakik recalls the day six years ago when Israeli troops and their militia allies of the South Lebanon Army raided Hariss after two Israeli soldiers were captured in a guerrilla ambush.

″I hid all my money and jewelry under my clothes and pretended to be pregnant,″ she said.

The militiamen, who are mainly Christians, frequently loot Shiite houses during raids, she and other villagers said. They said the Israelis are more disciplined.

In the nearby village of Kafra, Hasan Sbeiti, his wife and five young children sleep in the parlor of their shell-wrecked apartment. Even with its leaking roof, was the only room remotely fit to live in.

The 46-year-old mechanic’s home was hit by at least three tank shells in the recent fighting. Everywhere there are mounds of masonry, splintered furniture and broken glass.

Most buildings in Kafra and nearby Yater, the main targets of the Israeli strike, were destroyed or damaged. Bad weather, including snowstorms, have added to the villagers’ misery.

Rainwater dripped through the shrapnel holes in the ceiling of Sbeiti’s sitting room, soaking mattresses, and the wind howled through the broken windows.

″It’s like living under a waterfall,″ he said.

AP RADIO
Update hourly