Hezbollah's urban nerve center is a shattered shell. Its most loyal followers trudged homeward to a heartland laid to waste. And yet the Shiite organization lighted up the night sky with fireworks Monday and declared itself triumphant over Israel.
Israel meant to break Hezbollah with its monthlong offensive, but instead the militant organization has been strengthened politically in Lebanon, analysts say. The movement has a fresh boost of popularity, at least for now, and a renewed sense that it is entitled to keep its armed militia outside the control of the Lebanese army, they say.
Hezbollah's newfound clout has come at a staggering cost to Lebanon's infrastructure, economy and civilians, hundreds of whom died under the rubble of Israeli bombs. The fragile central government, which the U.S. administration strove to present as an example of democracy taking root in the Arab world, also has suffered from the month of fighting.
"The reality is, they have weakened the government significantly," said Charles Ayoub, editor of Ad Diyar newspaper. "What room do [officials] have to maneuver? If Nasrallah says he won't give up the weapons, what are they going to do?"
The U.N. resolution that paved the way for the truce calls for Hezbollah's disarmament. So, for that matter, does an earlier, long-ignored resolution. But the terms for giving up the weaponry are vague. And as a prominent party in the Lebanese government, Hezbollah will have a hand in deciding how and whether the language translates into fact.
If anything, analysts say, the war has worsened Lebanon's underlying instability, bolstering Hezbollah at the expense of more moderate, secular figures in government.
"Most of the government really thought that Hezbollah could be trimmed by the Israelis, and that would give them less of a problem," said Judith Palmer Harik, a Hezbollah expert. "But it didn't work out that way, and now there's nothing they can do, in my opinion, to get Hezbollah away from doing what it wants.