Nervously eyeing the skies for Israeli warplanes, Hussein Naboulsi, a spokesman for Hizballah, took quick strides as he accompanied foreign journalists through the bombed-out neighborhoods of Beirut's southern suburbs. "Listen to me!" he shouted. "We have to move very fast!" He paused amid the devastation to point out the pulverized office blocks in the Harat Hreik district where Hizballah's headquarters had stood only a week earlier. "Now I have no place to work," said Naboulsi, the son of a prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric.
But the primary work Hizballah does these days is not in office buildings but on the battlefield, and despite an Israeli onslaught that has targeted the group's top brass and top guns, the organization has proved more resilient than many expected. Across southern Lebanon, Hizballah fighters have manned batteries firing as many as 350 rockets a day at Israeli cities and towns, from an arsenal estimated at 13,000 projectiles. At least 100 of the more than 900 missiles fired at Israel have hit Haifa, the nation's third-largest city, while one radar-guided antiship missile (the C-802), a gift to Hizballah from its Iranian sponsors, struck an Israeli gunboat off the coast of Lebanon. Other Hizballah militants, operating in bands of as many as 50 fighters, have battled Israeli troops at close range, knocking out tanks and even crossing into the Israeli town of Metulla.
After several days of fighting, the familiar assumption that Israel could militarily crush any enemy in the region seemed less certain. Could Hizballah survive the onslaught and remain a potent force in the region? Operating from caves or fortified bunkers are some 600 active-duty Hizballah members joined by many more of the several thousand reserves from around the country ready to fight. A military source in Lebanon told TIME that the fighters are apparently communicating via encrypted short-burst-transmission sets to overcome Israeli jamming and eavesdropping capabilities, enabling Hizballah to maintain an effective chain of command. In the Dahiya, the Shi'ite suburbs of Beirut, Hizballah gunmen wearing vests jammed with ammunition patrol the streets. When not engaged in conflict, they assist some of the 500,000 refugees in Lebanon displaced by the fighting and Israel's bombs.