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Unresolved: disarming Hizbullah

Cease-fire took hold Monday as residents returned after five weeks of intense conflict.

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Moments after a cease-fire calmed Israeli and Hizbullah guns Monday morning, loyalists of the Lebanese guerrillas were on the streets, handing out preprinted posters announcing a "divine victory."

Peace, however fragile, finally prevailed after a five-week war that has taken more than 1,250 lives. Lebanese Shiites – some celebrating Hizbullah's resistance, some tearful with grief – began flooding back to ruined homes.

But the conflict has not settled a key issue: the fate of Hizbullah's arms. Disputes over disarmament postponed a Lebanese cabinet meeting Sunday. How far Hizbullah can present the conflict as victory in a necessary war, to Lebanese and the wider Muslim world, may determine how it withstands pressure to disarm.

Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in a televised statement Monday night, said his fighters had won a "strategic and historic victory" over Israel, and that it is the "wrong time" to discuss disarming.

"Who will defend Lebanon in case of a new Israeli offensive?" Mr. Nasrallah asked, adding that the Lebanese Army and new UN force were "incapable of protecting Lebanon."

It is "immoral, incorrect, and inappropriate" to discuss disarming Hizbullah publicly now, Nasrallah said. "It is wrong timing on the psychological and moral level, particularly before the cease-fire."

Nasrallah promised that from Tuesday morning, Hizbullah teams would assess and repair damage to homes as well as pay a year's rent and the cost of furniture to every owner of some 15,000 destroyed homes.

In the hours after the cease-fire, yellow Hizbullah flags flew triumphantly, along with posters of Nasrallah and Katyusha rocket launchers, that read in Arabic: "Believe in God's Promise."

"It's no matter when we come back, we don't mind living in a tent," says Salina Maki, a mother of three who returned to her half-wrecked apartment to retrieve children's shoes and kitchenware. She says the war was worth it. "The destruction of Israel is the most important thing," insists the black-clad Mrs. Maki. "God help the resistance, and Sheikh Nasrallah."

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