Baby refugee named after Hizbollah offensive

DAMASCUS (AFP) — When Hizbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah launched “Operation Kept Promise” the day after his fighters captured two Israeli soldiers to use in a prisoner swap, little did he know the same name would be bestowed on a newborn refugee girl two weeks later in Damascus.

“I wanted to call her Al Waad Al Sadek (‘Kept Promise’ or ‘Sincere Pledge’ in Arabic) because Sayyed Hassan made it happen — he took on Israel to win, and he has done it,” says 20-year-old Ahlam Bazzi, her baby at her breast.

Ahlam wanted the name as a gesture of defiance after the child in her womb managed to cling on to a life nearly lost on the flight to Syria from Lebanon.

“We walked for a long time, such a long time,” she says.

The young mother’s journey began in Bint Jbeil, the Hizbollah bastion town in south Lebanon devastated by bombardment and the scene of fierce fighting between Israeli soldiers and Shiite fighters, where she left behind her ambulance driver husband and her parents.

With a one-year-old son in her arms and her belly weighing heavily, she left Bint Jbeil and began to make her way towards Sidon, the main city in south Lebanon.

“We fled from a dirty shelter in a rundown school before the bombs until we got to Syria,” she says, her large chestnut eyes misting over.

Ahlam and her children, along with her brother and his family and his cousin and her sons, are all staying in a school classroom in a suburb of the Syrian capital.

More than 450 Lebanese refugees have found lodging in schools there.

Drained of all strength, Ahlam gave birth to her daughter after arriving in Damascus.

“My parents don’t know they have a grand-daughter,” she sniffs.

And her husband does not know either.

“I don’t even know where they all are,” she says.

Ahlam was one of five pregnant Lebanese women preparing to give birth when they arrived at the schools three weeks ago. Three have had their babies, and two others are about to do so.

“Most of the refugees are women and children, although there are also some old people,” says a Syrian woman volunteer helping to look after the Lebanese. “The younger ones stayed in Lebanon to fight.” Suzanne Al Ali is just 17 and still looks like a child. Her confinement was difficult.

“I fled bare-footed,” she says. I fell down several times on the road, and my baby was no longer moving in my belly.” Married for one year, Suzanne was expecting her first child when Israel attacked Lebanon in retaliation after two of its soldiers were seized by Hizbollah on July 12.

“My husband was wounded by shards of glass,” she says. “It was a miracle we got here safe and sound.” Her baby was to have been named Nouhad, after her aunt. But Suzanne decided otherwise.

“I called her Sourya (Syria), after the land which welcomed her.” Another pregnant refugee, 35-year-old Wissam Awad, walked for four hours with her husband and their three children to get to the frontier with Syria.

“The taxi driver wanted to charge $100  each to take us to the border. But we had no money, and no other choice than to walk,” she says.

During her pregnancy she bought many clothes for the baby.

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