Prosperity eludes war-weary south Lebanon

Fri May 14, 2010 7:18am EDT
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By Yara Bayoumy

KFAR KILA, Lebanon (Reuters) - Old men yawn outside shuttered shops and empty restaurants in Lebanese villages near the border with Israel, where only the occasional car or U.N. peacekeeping patrol navigate the dusty, potholed roads.

Neglect still stalks the south, 10 years after Shi'ite Hezbollah guerrillas drove Israeli occupation troops out.

There are few jobs for villagers here. They complain of an uncaring government and fear that another war may be just around the corner. In such a climate, only the boldest would invest.

Some southerners say money was more plentiful during the 22-year Israeli occupation, when some Lebanese worked in Israel.

Abu Hussein's Shi'ite family has owned a restaurant in the frontier village of Kfar Kila since 1975, enduring successive upheavals, from struggles between Palestinian guerrillas and Christian militiamen to the Israeli occupation, the "liberation" in 2000 and most recently the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.

The restaurant's most lucrative era was between 1982 to 2000, Abu Hussein told Reuters in his empty dining hall decorated with Shi'ite religious symbols, a few meters (yards) from a border fence with an Israeli flag fluttering beyond.

Abu Hussein hangs a Spanish sign outside to try to attract customers from the Spanish peacekeeping unit in the area.

"After (the Israeli withdrawal in) 2000, business really slowed down. It's 80 percent down. On a good day, I might make about $130, whereas before we'd make $400," he said.   Continued...

<p>A general view shows the under construction Wazzani Fortress Tourist Village, along the U.N. "Blue Line" dividing Israel and Lebanon, in Wazzani, southern Lebanon, May 6, 2010. REUTERS/Karamallah Daher</p>