In the aftermath of a six-day search through 16 southern Lebanese villages by Israeli troops and Israeli-allied militiamen looking for two missing Israeli soldiers, there is anger and division among the villagers.
In interviews conducted after Israel's three mechanized battalions pulled back into its self-proclaimed "security zone" just inside Lebanon, villagers charged that militiamen of the Israeli-sponsored South Lebanon Army had used torture in interrogating them. They also showed heightened concern over the danger to their lives and property posed by the presence among them of anti-Israeli guerrillas.
Here in the nearly deserted village of Shaqra, at the foot of a hill bordering the "security zone," the few remaining inhabitants charged to visiting journalists that SLA militiamen used broken chairs, hot iron utensils, cigarette butts, rope and electrical wires to injure them during questioning.
In Tel Aviv, an Israeli military spokesman stressed that Israeli forces "don't torture people" but would not extend the statement to the SLA, saying "that's another story," United Press International reported.
Hassan Dib, 33, led reporters to a cubicle in Shaqra's village school, where, he said, an SLA militiaman had tied a rope around his neck and pulled with each question.
"He never gave me the chance to respond or confess, if this was the aim, boxing me each time I tried to open my mouth," Dib, a restaurant and shop owner said. He displayed the bloodied tip of a wooden and metal classroom compass that he said was used to stab inside the ears of villagers during the interrogation sessions.
Seven young men from the village who were taken by the Irish U.N. forces to a hospital in Tibnine had badly bruised backs from batterings with broken chair legs. One had flesh burns from cigarette butts.
Fatimah Wainzali told journalists that she and her daughter, Salam, were tortured with stripped ends of electric wiring plugged into a socket.
Israeli troops detained 145 men and five women during the six-day sweep, which failed to locate the soldiers, missing since an ambush on Feb. 17. At least 59 were released after interrogation last weekend.
A tour of a cluster of seven villages -- Tibnine, Majdal Salem, Touline, Sultaniyeh, Jmeijmeh, Kharabet Salem and Shaqra -- also found residents charging that the SLA militiamen had looted their homes. A few villagers accused Israeli soldiers of joining in and stuffing money under their sleeves.
In Kharabet Salem, Mariam Majed, 40, a mother of eight, complained, "They took away my eldest son, snatched my gold bracelets and shot at my cows."
"Not one house was spared," declared Hussein Selim Salameh, 70, guiding reporters through the narrow, winding streets of the compact hilltop settlement.
"They took away 10,000 Lebanese pounds about $505 sent to me by my sons in Kuwait to finish building our summer house," he added.
Mahmoud Noureddine, owner of a pharmacy, could not conceal his anger. The SLA men, he charged, had robbed him of 39,000 pounds (about $2,000). "Who is going to compensate us for our losses, Shiite leader Nabih Berri, or Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini?" he grumbled.
The only smiling face in Kharabet Salem was that of a young woman who claimed that she had saved her money by stuffing it into her baby's diapers. Residents said that all of the town's men and youths had been forced to hand over their watches and valuables to the foraging SLA militiamen accompanying the Israelis.
The bakery of Ali Fayyad, the only one in town, was smashed. When a black-turbaned mullah, or Islamic priest, showed up to commiserate with the residents, tension began to build.
A member of the radical Shiite Moslem organization Hezbollah drew his pistol to silence a villager who had raised his voice to the mullah while complaining about the damage. An enraged crowd fell on the gunman, clawing him and tearing at his hair as the visiting journalists watched.
"Kill him, shoot him," shrieked the women huddled on the side of the square.
"We don't want any guns here, any outsiders. They want to fight Israel, let them go down to the border," shouted one resident as the angry mob chased the Hezbollah gunman around the square until a French photographer put himself in the way as a shield.
It was the Islamic Resistance Front, led by Hezbollah, that claimed to have captured the two missing Israelis, setting off the six-day search, and to have executed one of them in reprisal for the dragnet.
"Not one bullet was ever fired from here," shouted Mohammed Abed Dabbouq, 80. "When the Israelis attacked, all the heroes ran away, leaving behind honorable men to be humiliated. Where were they when we were kneeling down on the ground with our hands tied?"
As angry residents came onto the streets with sticks, five unarmed Hezbollah guerrillas in combat fatigues got into a white Peugeot and raced out of town.
Somewhat embarrassed by the melee, Seyyed Mohammed Hassan Amin, the religious sheik who had come from Sidon to inspect the damage, was rushed out of town in another car.
In the nearby village of Sultaniyeh, a funeral procession for Shiite Amal guerrilla Hassan Khalaf, 24, killed by an Israeli tank shell Feb. 21, gathered after midday prayers as the voice of the muezzin resonated through the valley, shaded with blossoming almond trees. Youths carried the body to the cemetery.
Declaring that he was ready for "martyrdom," one Amal fighter said that the next time he had to fight the Israelis, he would not "use machine guns, but would tie explosives to my waist and blow myself up in their tanks."
A house belonging to Hajj Hussein Qasfeh was dynamited after Israelis discovered a cache of 100 Katyusha rockets. U.N. sources confirmed that 50 rockets had been found in the deserted house.
The power of the blast and the explosions from the stored rockets had sent shrapnel flying across the village, shattered glass panes and damaged nearby cement dwellings.
Two collapsed cars had tank tracks on their roofs.
A village doctor said SLA militiamen put a gun to his head and ordered him to empty his pockets and hand over his watch and car keys. "They reached into women's brassieres to take their money," he said.
Salameh, a construction worker from Kharabet Salem, said Israelis had shot over his head as he cowered in the village school with other men awaiting interrogation.
"They told us this would happen again unless we made sure guerrillas never came back here to attack them," he said. "If they cannot defend themselves, why make us suffer? Do they want us to become their policemen here?"
In Shaqra, the restaurateur Dib, asked what he thought the attitude of residents would be toward the Lebanese guerrillas in the wake of the Israeli sweep, answered: "Our town is despairing. People want to live. They have no way of preventing the resistance guerrillas from coming here, and Amal fighters have to carry weapons to protect us at night."
At the Tibnine hospital, nurse Fatmeh Fawwaz said eight young women were brought in from Shaqra after being beaten. "They were delirious and on the verge of collapse," she said.
Fuad Ashour, a Shaqra resident who fled after the first of three interrogation sessions, said he risked getting shot as he left the town. "I preferred to die rather than be tortured again," he said.