Israeli tanks lie smashed and upturned on a remote mountaintop in south Lebanon, while Hezbollah fighters, wearing camouflaged uniforms and carrying rifles, crouch near by in the dense undergrowth.
The scene could be the latest battle between the militant Shia group and Israeli troops, but while the tanks are real, the fighters are plastic dummies and the display is part of a newly opened tourist project to mark the tenth anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from south Lebanon.
That historic event – the first time Israel unilaterally abandoned occupied Arab land – comes at a time of heightened tension in the region amid fears that another war is brewing between Hezbollah and the Jewish state.
One of Israel’s near-guaranteed targets if another war breaks out is the sprawling Mlita tourist site devoted to Hezbollah’s military struggle against Israel’s occupation of Lebanon. Hezbollah officials cheerfully admit that the site will be flattened in the next war, but say that they will rebuild it.
The project, which opened to the public on Tuesday, covers a mountaintop smothered in dense bushes and stubby oak trees. It was a secret frontline base for the guerrillas during the Israeli occupation. On the other side of a gaping valley, Israeli outposts once stood, often the target of Hezbollah fighters based in Mlita. The bulldozed earth ramparts of the hilltop Israeli positions have since disappeared, washed away by the rains of ten winters.
Hundreds of visitors were staring at the symbolic displays of smashed Israeli tanks, artillery cannon and piles of old army helmets. Children scrambled over upturned armored personnel carriers watched by neatly dressed and polite Hezbollah attendants wearing black baseball caps.