Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Israel Massacres over 3,000 Refugees at Sabra & Shatila, in 1982

About the Israeli Massacre of Sabra and Shatila.

Click on image to enlarge it.


Israel has murdered tens of thousands in Lebanon.

One famous example was at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.It only took the Israeli military, and their Phalangist allies, two days to massacre over 3,000 people in those camps, after first making sure to either kill or exile all resistance fighters from Beirut:

"Between 3,000-3,500 men, women and children were massacred within 48 hours between September 16 and 18, 1982", writes journalist Amnon Kapeliouk, one of the first reporters who arrived on the scene.

Kapeliouk's book is on the Web, as a single Microsoft Word document, at:


by Amnon Kapeliouk

Translated and edited by Khalil Jehshan

FOREWORD by Abdeen Jabara

The unprecedented crimes against humanity committed by Nazi leaders before and during World War II raised the question as to how world society might impose punishment for acts that were so heinous as to shock the collective conscience of the world.

Contemporary international law of war developed by the War Crimes Tribunals at Nuremberg at the end of the Second World War established at least three categories of crimes against the world community, and, therefore, punishable offenses.

These crimes are: crimes against the peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

War crimes and crimes against humanity have included mass murder of civilians (now termed genocide), and are regarded as crimes both in times of peace and war.

The specific language contained in the Charter of the International Military Tribunal that sat at Nuremberg provides that crimes against humanity consist of "murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

The International Tribunal was established through the London Agreement of the four principal Allied powers and adhered to by twenty-three states. The establishment of the Tribunal in Europe and the Far East was a major development in establishing basic international criminal law precepts and the right of the international community to exact penalties for their violation.

The Nuremberg Principles, as they have come to be called, have established that:

A. War crimes and crimes against humanity are committed against the world community and not just the victims of the crime(s) and therefore the world community has the right to prosecute and punish, regardless of the identity of the victims.

B. International law provides the authority to try those charged with such crimes in municipal courts.

C. Acts which are lawful or even required by domestic law are nevertheless criminal if they violate the law of war; that is, the claim of superior orders is no defense.

These Nuremberg Principles have been reflected in the adoption of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 for the Protection of War Victims. These acts are termed "grave breaches" of the Convention. The Conventions further provide that the national states which are parties to the Convention shall enact legislation to provide effective penal sanctions for persons who commit the "grave breaches."

Each state is also obliged to search for such persons, apprehend them, and to either bring them to trial or turn them over to the other Party to the Convention for prosecution.

The provisions of the four Conventions have been expanded in a Protocol of July 1977, to extend to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts.Geneva Convention No.IV of August 12, 1949, Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, provides generally that "protected persons" are to be treated humanely under all circumstances without any distinctions based on race, religion, sex, or political opinion. It states that the signatory states:"... specifically agree that each of them is prohibited from taking any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering of protected persons in their hands.

This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishment, mutilation, and medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of a protected person, but also to any other measure of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.

"These crimes against humanity have been incorporated in a more enduring form in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the United Nations on December 9, 1948, and ratified by a number of states, including Israel.

This Convention provides that genocide is a crime under international law.

Genocide is defined in the Convention as including any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, such as:

A. killing members of the group
B. causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.

Genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempt to commit genocide or complicity in genocide are, under the Convention, punishable.

Thus, the Convention incorporates the traditional requisites in criminal law that there must be both an act, or an omission to act where a legal duty exists, and the intent by the actor or non-actor that the result occur. Enforcement of the Convention involves the incorporation of genocide into domestic law by the signatory states and the trial of violators by competent domestic tribunals, since there does not exist an international criminal court with jurisdiction over such crimes and recognized by the signatory states.

The attention given to "crimes against humanity" by the Nuremberg principles, ''grave breaches'' by the Geneva Conventions and genocide by the Genocide Convention reflects the demand of the world community that the behavior of peoples and governments be made to conform to fundamental standards of human rights as a matter of state policy.

It is against this demand that the massacres of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians in Sabra and Shatilla camps in September 1982, must be examined.* * *

The evidence presented here by Amnon Kapeliouk, the testimony given at the Kahan Commission, and the independent news reports about the massacres raise serious questions regarding the legal culpability of the principal Israel and Lebanese actors in the slaughter in Sabra and Shatilla camps.

These questions of Criminal, as opposed to political culpability, remain to be dealt with. The Palestinian people are the most aggrieved party, but have no ability to initiate criminal prosecution proceedings. They have no state which can become a party to the several Conventions relating to crimes against humanity.

International law placed Israel under a direct, unequivocal duty to protect the civilian population in the refugee camps.

Israel not only failed to carry out this responsibility, but actively facilitated the arming and provisioning of the armed militia groups which entered the camp.

Israel prevented the flight of the civilian population from the camps.

Furthermore, it was the Israeli occupation of West Beirut which secured the approaches to the Sabra and Shatilla camps. Even if there was no coordinated plan between Israeli military officers and Lebanese Forces leadership, Israel remains culpable for its failure to provide even a modicum of protection to the civilian population.

These factors, together with the numerous anti-Palestinian statements such as Prime Minister Begin's remark in the Knesset that Palestinians were "two-legged beasts,'' must be seen as direct and public incitement to commit genocide, complicity in genocide or conspiracy to commit genocide.

The Genocide Convention demands proof of intent. This is sufficiently established by several facts. Reports to Israeli generals that a massacre was transpiring were not checked. They were not transmitted to superiors, nor were any steps taken to stop the killing until a considerable period of time had elapsed.

The most telling piece of evidence is that none of the perpetrators have been apprehended either for trial by Israeli courts or to be handed over to Lebanese authorities.

Israeli military and intelligence officials obviously knew the identities of the armed men who entered the camps between September 16 and 18.
Indeed, one of the Phalangists who participated in the massacres traveled to Israel for an interview on Israeli television.
Israeli cameramen in West Beirut filmed the Phalangists. Some of their pictures were published and others shown on Israeli television.

Many of these militiamen continued to operate in that portion of Lebanon occupied by Israeli soldiers.As a signatory to both the Geneva Conventions and the Genocide Convention, Israel was legally bound to arrest and try those persons who were both directly and indirectly involved in the wanton slaughter in Sabra and Shatilla.

In addition to these international provisions, Israeli domestic precedent established in the trial of Adolph Eichmann provided a legal framework in which these provisions could have been carried out. Israel has not done so, and one might ask why if the Begin government were not directly involved ... The Kahan Commission was the result of domestic and international protest. Despite the positive aspect of its work, the Commission had limited powers. It was further constrained by the political considerations involved in Israel's invasion of Lebanon, Israel's unrelenting negation of Palestinian national rights, and the unwillingness to recognize that horrible crimes against civilians were committed by Israel during the invasion of Lebanon in the name of Israeli security.

If a court does not sit in judgment of those who committed those crimes, perhaps history will.

FOREWORD by the Author

The inquiry presented in this book is the product of a task initiated the day after the massacre of Sabra and Shatila. It is based on testimony by dozens of Israelis (both civilian and military), Palestinians, Lebanese, and foreign journalists. We have relied heavily on the Israeli, Lebanese, and international press; the depositions made before the Israeli judiciary commission of inquiry; the official proceedings of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament); the monitoring services of Middle East radio stations; the dispatches of international press agencies; and documents of Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese origin.

We have scrutinized the collected information, voluntarily discarding all data that could not be confirmed beyond the shadow of a doubt. -- A.K.
November, 1982



Tuesday, September 14, 1982


At 4:00 P.M., a massive bomb blast rocked East Beirut. A charge of 50 kg of TNT, equipped with a Japanese remote-controlled explosive device, totally demolished the headquarters of the Kata'ib Party (the Christian Phalange).

The charge was placed on the second floor of the building which is located in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood. Bashir Gemayel, the new president of Lebanon, elected three weeks earlier (August 23, 1982), was chairing a meeting of senior Phalange Party officials in Beirut.
The meeting, regularly held every Tuesday, was meant this time as a farewell to his comrades, eight days prior to his inauguration.The three-story yellow building on Sasseen Street was situated on a hill overlooking the Museum Crossing which has separated the two sectors of the Lebanese capital since the beginning of the civil war. Other apartments in the surrounding area were also heavily damaged. Immediately, rescue teams rushed to the scene.

The Israeli Army also dispatched two helicopters carrying medics and specialized teams to clear the debris. Quickly, the Israelis arrived on the site in large numbers. Several armored troop carriers (M-113s), which pushed their way through the narrow streets of the neighborhood tearing up parked cars on both sides, took position around the area of the explosion. They were soon joined by half-tracks and many jeeps.

Helmeted Israeli soldiers, equipped with bulletproof vests, filled the streets of Ashrafiyeh.The first news reports concerning the fate of the young president were contradictory. The Phalanges radio announced that Bashir, 34 years of age, was not unharmed but "personally directed the rescue operations." This information immediately evoked cries of relief throughout the neighborhood, accompanied by traditional volleys of bullets fired in the air as a sign of joy. Another ratio station reported that ''Bashir is only slightly wounded in the leg and has come out of the rubble." At 7:30 P.M., the voice of Lebanon, the official broadcasting organ of the Phalangist Party, announced that the fate of Bashir Gemayel was still uncertain.

However, when the radio station replaced its usual programming with classical music, as did the Lebanese state radio, there was no doubt that "Sheikh Bashir" was dead.As in the case of the attack that took the life of the Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, on October 6, 1981, American television networks were the first to broadcast the news. Bashir Gemayel, president-elect of Lebanon, was assassinated.

At 10:30 P.M., the Lebanese Forces (the "unified Christian militias," of which the Phalangists are the backbone) confirmed through a telephoned communiqué that the body of Bashir Gemayel had been retrieved from the ruins of the building. It was an Israeli officer who identified the mutilated corpse. The rescue teams found twenty-four other bodies, including those of three high-ranking officials of the Kata'ib Party led by Pierre Gemayel, father of the slain president-elect. Sixty other people were injured.Lebanon was in a state of shock. Speculation began as everyone tried to guess the identity of those behind the assassination attempt.

Phalangist officials whispered that "there were accomplices on the inside.'' One party official affirmed to an Israeli journalist that, ''Many stand to benefit from the assassination of the president-elect, from the PLO and the Syrians to the other extreme...."

The assassination of Bashir Gemayel was a painful blow to Israel. The slain president was the sworn enemy of the Palestinians. He did not hesitate to declare in an interview published in Le Nouvel Observateur (June 19-25, 1982) that, in the Middle East, "there is one people too many: the Palestinian people." His adversaries called him, "the president supported by Israeli bayonets."

Gemayel, in fact, collaborated with Israel throughout the civil war in Lebanon. This collaboration became manifest at the outset of the Israeli-Palestinian war on June 4, 1982.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Sharon considered him the man who would sign a peace treaty with them, based on his previous promises. Begin made this public on July 17, 1982. Addressing a massive Likud demonstration held in Tel Aviv, the prime minister announced before the 250,000 people in attendance: "Before the end of this year, we shall have a peace treaty with Lebanon."

Indeed, the election of Bashir Gemayel as president of Lebanon was the first clear political victory for General Sharon in this war. Until then, adversaries continued to remind him of his failure to achieve his declared objective in Lebanon, that is, the destruction of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and its leadership. Some added that, to the contrary, this organization had emerged politically stronger on the international scene by virtue of the ordeal it had undergone. Several weeks of deadly war, during which the destruction and civilian losses were considerable (18,000 dead and 30,000 injured according to Lebanese statistics), have resulted in decreasing public support for Israel around the world, including the United States.

Even the Jewish communities were torn apart, particularly over the massive bombardment of West Beirut. Detractors of the Begin policies ascertained that the announcement of the "Reagan Plan" on September 1 had put an end’s to Begin's dreams of annexing the West Bank and Gaza. Furthermore, the state of Israel was itself deeply divided perhaps as never before with many Israelis perceiving this war as an ill-matched battle between a Palestinian David and an Israeli Goliath.

This time Israel was no longer with its back to the wall. Instead, this was actually the status of its adversary, the Palestinians. In short, the invasion of Lebanon was an unpopular war, with large numbers of opponents who did not wait for its end to begin demonstrating against it -an unprecedented phenomenon in the history of the Jewish state.

Up to that time, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, the true architect of the Israeli offensive, had responded to these criticisms with one word: patience. "Patience, gentlemen," he repeated often, "and we shall witness the fruits of this war." By mid-August, the time was ripe for him to lay down his trump card; Bashir Gemayel, his candidate, was elected president of Lebanon on August 23, 1982.

Thus within the framework of his overall strategy for the Middle East, the new order which General Sharon aspired to impose on Lebanon began to take shape. Bashir Gemayel, whose chances of assuming the presidency of Lebanon were nil in the absence of Israeli tanks, was elected despite everyone. Thus, Ariel Sharon was able to legitimately celebrate his victory, and he did not deny himself the pleasure of doing so.

The prime minister of Israel was the first to send a telegram of enthusiastic congratulations to the new president immediately after his election. The message read:

"All my congratulations from the bottom of my heart on your election. May God protect you, dear friend, in carrying out your important historic task for the freedom of Lebanon and its independence. Your friend, Menachem Begin."

The election of Gemayel crowned Israeli activity in Lebanon, an activity carried out covertly but ceaselessly since 1976 to make the Phalangists and their young military leader, Bashir Gemayel, the rulers of the country. The Israelis used everything to achieve this goal; military assistance, training Phalangist troops in special camps inside Israel, coordination of operations and intelligence services, and finally meetings between Phalangist commanders and Israeli leaders.

At first, this meant Labor party leaders. However, since May 1977, it has involved members of the Likud government. This collaboration between the two parties grew constantly.

Therefore it was not accidental that the Israeli chief of staff, General Raphael Eitan, declared after the assassination of Bashir Gemayel that: "He was one of our own.” Despite this history of collaboration, the first signs of uneasiness began to surface in Israel the day after "Sheikh Bashir" was elected. The new president did not seem very enthusiastic about what interested Begin and Sharon in the highest degree, namely, the prompt signing of a peace treaty. Initial Israeli pressure to hasten progress on this decision was exerted very quickly, but Bashir Gemayel explained that such a treaty would alienate Lebanon from the Arab world whose assistance was necessary for the reconstruction of his devastated country. To the Israelis, who persistently demanded that he begin to honor his debts, Bashir Gemayel responded that the time had not yet arrived, and that he must achieve national consensus and reconciliation before he could sign a peace treaty.

On the night of September 1, fifteen days prior to his assassination, Bashir Gemayel met secretly in Nahariyya, a coastal town in northern Israel, with his three principal interlocutors: Prime Minister Begin, General Sharon, and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The conflict then entered its acute phase. Begin, who had initiated the meeting, thought that the new president was reneging on his commitments. He demanded the signing of a peace treaty which, in his view, would assume a major importance in the Middle East.

Bashir answered: "Signing a peace treaty with Israel today is like placing an explosive charge in the heart of the Middle East." He urged Begin to show patience by waiting until he (Gemayel) succeeded in stabilizing his power. "A de facto peace, agreed, but a peace duly signed, not until later," Gemayel said, without specifying any time framework. Ariel Sharon, who displayed his impatience throughout the encounter, peremptorily told Bashir Gemayel: "I am a man who likes to settle matters quickly. I am afraid that you might slip through our fingers." At this stage, tension reached its highest point.

According to sources close to Gemayel, the latter put his wrists up saying: "If you want to arrest me, all you have to do is handcuff me. Remember that you are talking to the president of Lebanon, and not to an Israeli vassal. We have our reasons." The discussion, which began at 11:00 P.M., continued in this manner until 3:00 A.M. The first news of the meeting was leaked less than twenty-four hours later.

The official Israeli radio itself confirmed the meeting. Bashir Gemayel fumed with anger. He was certain that the publicity surrounding this encounter was meant to compromise him. No one took his instant denial seriously. From that moment on, he refused to meet with the Israelis, except for once, on September 12, two days before his assassination, when he joined General Sharon at Bikfaya, Gemayel's hometown. Gemayel expressed his anger at the news leaks regarding their preceding meeting. He then reiterated his demand for a time extension sufficient to stabilize his situation in Lebanon, and to rebuild his relations with the Arab world, which accepted his election with caution.

In a meeting with Muslim leader Sa'eb Salam, Bashir openly complained of the pressures brought to bear upon him by the Israelis to conclude a peace treaty. In addition, Bashir directly contacted the editor-in-chief of a large Lebanese daily, L'Orient-le-Jour, admitting to him that he had gone to Nahariyya to meet with Begin.

He asked the newspaper to help him convince Israel that a peace treaty at this precise time was tantamount to partitioning the country. As a result, the ice was broken between the new president and the Muslims. At the same time, his relations with Israel continued to deteriorate.

However, Sharon was not prepared to give up. A week after the secret encounter in Nahariyya, he announced at a public meeting in Kiryat Shmonah, that if Lebanon failed to sign a peace treaty with Israel, he would establish a "security belt" extending 40 to 50 kilometers into southern Lebanon.

The area, said Sharon, would be given a legal status different from the rest of Lebanon. Quite often, sources close to General Sharon would state that without a peace treaty,
"We shall remain in south Lebanon. And since Syria will stay in the Bekaa Valley, then Gemayel will find himself president of the Beirut area."

The independent Israeli daily, Ha'aretz, reacted furiously. In an editorial published two days after the Sharon statement, the newspaper reproached him about "his edicts and threats," comparing him with "a Roman proconsul trying to dictate foreign policy to Lebanon."These remarks did not seem to impress the defense minister.

On the contrary, to clearly demonstrate his resolve, he expanded the zone in south Lebanon controlled by Major Sa’ad Haddad, a dissident Lebanese officer, unconditionally allied with and totally dependent on Israel.

Sharon also ordered the Israeli Army to prevent Phalangist forces from entering south Lebanon. During the early days of September, Israeli forces went so far as to forbid the Phalangists from holding a meeting in Sidon because they refused to display signs calling for a peace treaty between Lebanon and Israel.

On September 13, Bashir Gemayel granted Time Magazine an interview, his last, which was published on September 20. In it, he affirmed anew that peace with Israel would "come in due time." He identified his top priority objective as the restoration of the Lebanese government's authority, and its responsibility "for security on all Lebanese soil."

In Israel, this declaration was understood as the willingness to exclude Sa'ad Haddad from the enclaves he occupied in south Lebanon, and perhaps to bring him before a military tribunal for desertion. Still, Menachem Begin had warned Gemayel at their Nahariyya meeting not to take any improper action against his protégé, declaring in a threatening tone: "We defend our friends•" Thus, in view of the attitude which the president-elect of Lebanon seemed to adopt, the mood among Israeli leaders became rather morose.

Some were beginning to say plainly:
We have brought Gemayel to power with our might, and now he wants to build a career at our expense. Indeed, up to this time, there were two obvious tendencies among Israeli leaders: the first, traditionally mistrustful of Bashir accused him of knowing only how to receive but never giving anything in return.
The second, to the contrary, claimed that he was unable to "deliver" until he achieved his aim, i.e., assuming power, with Israeli assistance. Indisputably, this last tendency had begun to weaken by the hour.The debate was abruptly ended by the explosion that rocked Ashrafiyeh, creating a completely new situation. The news of the attack against Gemayel reached General Sharon shortly after it was executed.

Sharon immediately decided to benefit from the situation by entering West Beirut. He had wanted to conquer the western part of the Lebanese capital since the beginning of the war. According to the plan originally forecast, the Phalangist forces were to enter West Beirut at the end of the first week of the war, upon the arrival of Israeli forces at the outskirts of the city.

Yet, the "Phalangist allies" never fulfilled their part of the agreement, owing to weakness or for political reasons. Meanwhile, the Palestinian and progressive Lebanese forces were organized and well braced inside West Beirut, thus creating a risk of high casualties on the Israeli side in case of an assault. Nevertheless, this did not dissuade General Sharon.

Important Israeli officers who participated in the siege of Beirut -including Eli Geva, who resigned at the end of July to protest the inevitable attack on West Beirut- have since revealed that preparations for the assault were well under way during the long siege. The only thing lacking was the order to execute the plan. Each unit was assigned the task of laying siege to a neighborhood or a particular bloc of the city, and was specifically trained for that purpose.

According to those same officers, Sharon was pressuring the politicians to give him a green light to proceed with the operation.During this time, the international community intervened and reached a solution for the withdrawal of PLO forces and Palestinian leaders from Beirut, under the protection of a multinational force made up of American, French, and Italian troops. On August 21, the first French elements disembarked at the port of Beirut.

Thereafter, the entry of Israeli forces into West Beirut became impossible, at least as long as units of the international force remained in town. Israel then interceded with the United States for the latter to abide by its promise to withdraw the Marines as soon as possible after the PLO departure from Beirut on September 1. On the other hand, Lebanese leaders undertook futile efforts to convince the French authorities to maintain their troops in the city and help the Lebanese Army assume control of West Beirut.

On September 13, the eve of Bashir Gemayel's assassination and the Israeli entry into West Beirut, the last 850 French paratroopers and infantrymen of the Multinational Force left town, ten days prior to the expiration of their mandate.

The Israeli Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Moshe Levi, stated in a radio interview broadcast on the Jewish New Year, two days after the entry of Israeli troops into West Beirut: "It was totally clear to us that sooner or later we would have to verify for ourselves, on the scene, whether all the terrorists had really left West Beirut."

Ze'ev Schiff, the authoritative military correspondent of Ha'aretz, revealed that, even prior to the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the Israeli Army anticipated reaching the PLO headquarters to capture Palestinian leaders who might be found there, and, more important, to seize the documents left on the premises.

However, the Palestinians had anticipated this eventuality and took the necessary precaution of putting their most important documents on microfilm, which they carried out with them.In an interview granted to Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci two weeks before the Israeli Army entered West Beirut, Sharon denied having even envisioned an assault. However, he added: "Had I been convinced that we had to enter Beirut, nobody in the world would have stopped me. Democracy or not, I would have entered even if my government didn't like [it]."

In Israel, his declaration came as a bombshell, to the point that he had to deny making these statements and insist that he was misquoted. However, Sharon did in fact make these statements on September 14.

After the attack against the Lebanese president-elect was announced, Sharon undertook preparations to enter the western section of the city. He dispatched his chief of staff to East Beirut. An officer in the Lebanese Internal Security, who was present in the area of the Beirut International Airport, has since revealed to the French News Agency that an Israeli airlift began on September 14 at 6:00 P.M.

Tanks and soldiers were unloaded from that time on. When the official announcement of the death of Bashir Gemayel was made, Sharon contacted Prime Minister Begin. Together, the two men decided to enter West Beirut without prior consultation with the government. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir was the only minister informed of this decision, which he endorsed. This marks the second time since the launching of the war whereby a decision of great importance was made without having been submitted to the government, and without prior deliberation.

The first time the government was faced with a fait accompli was when the Israeli Army entered East Beirut. Sharon later described the entry into West Beirut as "one of the most important decisions made during the Lebanon war."

At the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, an ordnance survey map was hung at the office of General Sharon. The entire operation for the occupation of West Beirut had been previously drawn on the map. The name of the operation "IRON BRAIN," appeared in the upper margin. The top general staff finally received the long-awaited order.

Members of the government, like the rest of the Israeli public, did not learn that the decision to enter West Beirut had been made or carried out until the following day, when it was announced on the waves of Kol Yisrael (The Voice of Israel).

In an interview with the daily Ma'ariv, published two days after the entry into West Beirut, General Raphael Eitan (Raffoul) declared unhesitatingly:

"Now we are inside. We are going to mop-up West Beirut, gather all the weapons, arrest the terrorists, exactly like we did in Sidon and Tyre and in all other places in Lebanon. We will find all the terrorists and their leaders. "We will destroy whatever requires destruction. We will arrest those who need arrest. We will leave Beirut when an accord is reached and when our objectives in all of Lebanon are realized. When we withdraw from all Lebanese territory where our army is stationed today, then we will also withdraw from Beirut. But as long as all foreign forces have not been expelled from Lebanon, we shall not budge one inch, including Beirut."

Then, late at night on September 14, Israeli forces carried out their last preparations. At 11:00 P.M., Chief of Staff Eitan arrived at Israeli headquarters in Kafr-Sil, south of Beirut, and inspected the plan to occupy West Beirut with high-ranking officers...

* * *


Wednesday, September 15, 1982


Major General Amir Drori is a particularly important man within the Israeli General Staff. Commander of Israel's northern region, he was also responsible for the Golan Heights and the Lebanese territories occupied at the beginning of the war. This Wednesday, at 12:30 A.M., he received a new mission: to seize all key areas in West Beirut. The Israeli airlift intensified. One after the other, Israeli Hercules transport planes landed at the Israeli-occupied Beirut International Airport. Tons of arms and equipment were unloaded, and arriving paratrooper units were immediately transported by bus to advanced positions around West Beirut. Units of regular troops were used because there was no time to mobilize the reservists. Later, Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan declared: "Never in the history of Tzahal (Israeli Defense Forces) has an operation of such magnitude been executed with such speed."

At 3:30 A.M., even before the Israeli entry into West Beirut, a vital meeting took place at the headquarters of the Lebanese Forces -the unified militias of the Christian right, founded and previously headed by Bashir Gemayel. The meeting was attended by Israeli Generals Eitan and Drori. The Christian militias were represented by their top military commanders, headed by Fadi Frem, their commander in chief, and Elie Hobeika, chief of intelligence. Together they worked out the details of the Christian militiamen' s role in the takeover of West Beirut. On September 22, Ariel Sharon revealed to the Israeli Knesset that "the principle of Phalangist entry into the refugee camps of Beirut was discussed." At the end of the meeting, a Phalangist military commander admitted to the Israelis: "We have been waiting for this moment, for many years."

In his address to the Knesset on September 22, 1982, General Sharon declared that, the Israeli Northern Command constantly received the following instructions: "It was absolutely forbidden to go into the refugee camps. Search-and-destroy missions will be carried out by the Phalangists or the Lebanese Army." General Drori testified before the Commission of Inquiry that he had maintained "constant contacts" with the Phalangists throughout their stay in the camps.

Indeed, throughout the day, preparations for the Phalangist entry into the camps accelerated. They painted reconnaissance signs on the sides of buildings, featuring the letters MP (Military Police) and a triangle inscribed inside a circle, which is the insignia of the Lebanese Forces. They also drew arrows to indicate the direction of their operation from Shweifat in southeastern Beirut to the Kuwaiti Embassy just outside the refugee camps. Many residents of West Beirut testified later that the Lebanese Forces carried out these preparations during the early hours of the Israeli invasion, in order to mark precisely the road to be followed by their forces who were not familiar with the city.

The Israeli assault began at 5:00 A.M. The troops received orders to avoid civilian casualties, and not to fire except in case of armed resistance. The infantrymen moving behind armored vehicles advanced slowly from one building to the other, occasionally encountering awakening civilians. The primary objective was to seize the crossroads and the highest buildings overlooking the neighborhoods.

Israeli fighter-bombers began shortly after daybreak to make repeated low altitude passes above Beirut in a deafening display of force, yet without participating in the fighting. In the southern part of West Beirut, the homeless victims of previous fighting evacuated their temporary shelters in what used to be PLO headquarters in Fakehani to take refuge in neighborhood mosques for fear of eventual bombings by Israeli jets.

Swiftly, Israeli troops seized certain key positions, once occupied by soldiers of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force, who at the end of their mission, handed them over to the Lebanese Army. The latter immediately retreated before the Israeli advance, taking refuge behind secure buildings or in more distant places to observe the operations. The Israeli forces advanced on five axes encircling West Beirut, from the southern suburbs up to the port, north of the city. In the morning, the Israelis advanced along three prongs from the airport in the south:

1. Along the length of the coastal road from Ouzai toward the north as far as Corniche el-Mazra'a, which crosses the city from east to west,
2. Along the road running west of Sabra and Shatila toward the Sports Stadium,
3. Along the road running east of the camps, in the direction of the race-track (the hippodrome).

Later in the afternoon, they proceeded along two new axes:

4. From the port westward as far as the hotel district,
5. Over the Museum Crossing, from east to west.

Resistance to the Israeli advance was very weak: a few rounds of light artillery and anti-tank rockets (RPG). As pockets of resistance were identified, the Israelis would immediately direct their tank fire at them. Similarly, their naval fleet began to pound targets close to the seashore. Orders were given to avoid, at all costs, human casualties among Israeli troops. Ariel Sharon feared, above all, that large losses would tarnish his victory. Indeed, the casualty figures on the first day were very limited: 2 dead and 50 injured. Throughout the whole operation of occupying West Beirut, Israel sustained only 7 dead and approximately one hundred injured.

Likewise, according to the Lebanese press, the number of civilian casualties was put at 100 dead and 300 injured -certainly an insignificant number in comparison with the thousands of fatalities suffered since the beginning of the war.

Ariel Sharon arrived in Beirut at 9:00 A.M. to personally direct the Israeli campaign. He set up operations at Israeli headquarters located on the roof of a large building at the Kuwaiti Embassy crossroads, overlooking the city and the Sabra and Shatila camps. In the presence of Generals Eitan and Drori, he called Menachem Begin and declared: "Our troops are advancing toward their targets, I can see it with my own eyes."

During the day, fresh troops were dispatched toward Beirut. Several regiments of the ''Golani Brigade" were transferred by helicopter from Israel to Beirut International Airport. They were followed by tanks from the armored regiments of the same brigade, commanded by Colonel Eli Geva until his resignation.

The resistance offered by some leftist Lebanese militiamen, who decided to challenge the entry of the Israeli Army without waiting for directions from their parties, was surely symbolic in the face of the awesome Israeli war machine. Not only did these militias no longer have the recently withdrawn 15,000 Palestinian fighters and Syrian soldiers on their side, but the dismantling of military installations along the demarcation line three weeks earlier, and the mine-clearing of this area had opened a convenient path for the passage of Israeli armor.

To the north of the refugee camps few clashes occurred with the militias of progressive and Muslim forces, now united under the banner of the "Lebanese National Forces." However, with rare exceptions, the Israeli advance proceeded without surprises according to the projected plan. At 11:00 A.M., General Sharon even found time to go to Bikfaya to express his condolences to the Gemayel family. In response to a question asked during this occasion he stated: "History is not determined by one man or another." According to witnesses, he was accorded a cold reception. Earlier, a special envoy delivered a telegram. In the telegram Begin described the slain president-elect as a "great patriot who fought for the freedom and independence of Lebanon."

Israeli troops were issued express orders to disarm, in their advance, all Muslim and leftist militias. Thus, after the Palestinian departure, no other organized military force would remain in Lebanon alongside the weak official army, except the Lebanese Forces of the Christian right. From then on, the Phalangists faced a new situation, which they had not dared envisage, even in their wildest dreams. Colonel Zvi Elpeleg, Orientalist and former Israeli governor of Nabatiyyeh, explained: "ln Lebanese society, paradoxically, the continuous presence of armed civilians has been an element of equilibrium and mutual deterrence.

The entry of Israeli troops into West Beirut has subverted the existing facts. The Israelis have disarmed thousands of citizens, including members of the Shiite movement, Amal. Most of these were simple workers or peasants who bought these weapons with their meager savings for personal defense. These people, therefore, found themselves exposed, at the mercy of the Phalangists.'' (Ma'ariv, September 26, 1982).

Upon their entry into West Beirut, the Israelis immediately began searching for arms depots left in the area after the evacuation of Palestinian fighters. It is worth remembering that the Israelis prevented the guerrillas from transporting their heavy weapons with them, unlike the Syrian troop units who were permitted to leave town with all their equipment. During the withdrawal operations, a diplomatic incident actually occurred when departing Palestinians attempted to ship a few military vehicles. Eventually, these vehicles had to be unloaded in Cyprus to allow the Palestinians to proceed on their way.

According to the "Habib Agreements," the Palestinians had to transfer their weapons to the Lebanese Army as they withdrew. The latter, however, expressed little enthusiasm and was slow to enter West Beirut so that when Israeli troops took control of the city, they found numerous depots of heavy weapons, part of which were apparently handed to leftist militias by the PLO.

There were among the ranks of Israeli forces those who knew exactly where to find the arms depots. These were intelligence agents who had worked for years in West Beirut. The residents were stunned to see a peddler of cassette tapes (a vagrant named "Abu Rish" known to everyone as a harmless fool), a fireman and a door-keeper, good fatherly figures, leading Israeli units and pointing out caches of weapons and suspects for arrest.

The Israeli occupation of West Beirut provoked unanimous protest throughout the world. The Israelis were, above all, preoccupied with American reactions. At 9:00 A.M., on September 15, President Reagan's special envoy, Morris Draper, paid a visit to the prime minister in Jerusalem. He actually came to discuss the implementation of the second phase in the "Habib Agreement," namely, the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. According to Ma'ariv, before allowing Mr. Draper to utter a word, Menachem Begin welcomed him saying:

Mr. Ambassador, I am honored to inform you that since 5 o'clock this morning, our forces advanced and took positions inside West Beirut. Our objective is to maintain order in the city. With the situation created by the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, pogroms could occur.

Begin did not mention the Israeli intention of allowing the Phalangists into the Palestinian camps. Very diplomatically, Morris Draper asked Begin if this involved a completely limited objective. After listening to the prime minister's explanations, Draper repeated: "I am happy to hear that the operation is restricted and very limited." Furthermore, throughout the day, Israeli spokesmen stressed that "the operation is limited as to its objectives and duration."

Menachem Begin's initial argument that the Israeli Army intervened to prevent pogroms and general chaos in West Beirut was repeated in all the Israeli statements. The next day it was included in the official government communiqué.

It was not until much later that Ariel Sharon gave a different explanation. In a television interview on September 24, he stated that the Israeli Army had been forced to invade West Beirut "because the terrorists left behind thousands of men, very large quantities of arms, headquarters and leaders." In a similar interview with Ma'ariv, Rafael Eitan alluded to "the thousands of armed terrorists hiding in Beirut and the refugee camps." Yet, a few hours before the assassination of Bashir Gemayel and the entry of Israeli troops into West Beirut, the same Rafael Eitan confirmed before the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense that: "Only a few terrorists and a small PLO office remain in Beirut." (Ha'aretz, September 15, 1982)

Indeed, throughout their two-week occupation of West Beirut (September 15-29), Israelis arrested and identified only a handful of fighters despite their systematic combing of the city. A spokesman for the Israeli Army refused to offer an exact figure. However, military sources confirmed that the number of those detained after the occupation of West Beirut did not exceed a few dozen. According to Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Veliotes, Israel's claim that 2000 fighters remained in West Beirut after the evacuation of the PLO, was simply a pretext to seize that part of the city. Yet, the White House and the U.S. State Department refused to condemn the advance of Israeli troops, emphasizing the necessity of restoring quiet and stability.

Washington did in fact request the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Beirut, but within the context of a simultaneous withdrawal by Syrian and Palestinian forces stationed in Lebanon. The State Department conceded that the United States was not demanding immediate and unconditional pullback of Israeli troops from West Beirut, even though this constituted a violation of the "Habib Agreement."

Asked whether Washington sought an Israeli pullback, State Department spokesman John Hughes, declared: "Yes, but I am not giving you a scenario on how that will be done." Mr. Hughes added: "It would have been helpful if the Israelis had consulted Washington before making their move, but we accept the assurances given during the last few hours by the Israeli government."

Indeed, the State Department showed much understanding for the motive which had prompted Israel to enter West Beirut. An American diplomat in Washington told the French News Agency (AFP) that “the assassination of Bashir Gemayel created an extremely explosive situation in the city. The possibility that certain armed elements might take advantage of the situation had to be avoided at any price.”

Within a few hours, Israeli and international media began to reveal the enormity of the event. It was no longer a question of separating the feuding parties to prevent trouble and possible pogroms. It was a total takeover of the city. It was not until then that Secretary of State George Shultz summoned the Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arens in Washington. In a much less conciliatory tone he inquired about the true objectives of the Israeli government, and the anticipated deadline for the Israeli evacuation of Beirut.

In Israel, the Labor opposition appeared far more disturbed than the Americans over the operation waged by General Sharon. This was also the case of certain cabinet ministers who learned of the Israeli invasion of West Beirut on radio, and reacted vigorously. One minister, who preferred to remain anonymous, denounced, before the diplomatic editor of Ha'aretz, this "unprecedented scandal." (Ha'aretz, September 16, 1982), According to another minister, the defense minister seized this opportunity to accomplish what he had wanted for a long time, without obtaining approval from the government. Other ministers pointed out that Menachem Begin had undertaken to let the government ratify every decision pertaining to entering West Beirut, pointing out his failure to do so.

Davar, the daily of Israel's Labor Party, stated in its editorial that "Tzahal's (Israeli Army) place is outside Beirut." Labor Party leader Shimon Peres denounced this as "an adventurous operation." He demanded the withdrawal of Israeli troops from West Beirut and their replacement by a new international force. The proposals of the Labor leader were dismissed by Begin's advisers as "Nonsense."

PLO leaders were petrified by the news of the Israeli occupation of West Beirut. They had however, secured duly signed assurances from American envoy Philip Habib guaranteeing the safety of Palestinian civilians after the departure of all fighters from Beirut. Immediately, Farouq Qaddoumi, head of the PLO political department, declared: "We have been given a word of honor that Israel would not enter West Beirut, this promise was broken." Former Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'eb Salam, who for weeks had played the role of intermediary to conclude the "Habib Agreements" and to allow for an honorable departure of Palestinian fighters from Beirut, declared that the Israeli entry into the western part of the city was a violation of the signed accords. Senior State Department officials confirmed the view expressed by Sa'eb Salam. "Israel betrayed our trust," asserted Shafiq el-Wazzan, the prime minister of Lebanon.

In the field, the Israeli Army tried unsuccessfully to pressure the Lebanese Army to participate in the operations. Lebanese military leaders refused to collaborate, particularly in the Israeli suggestion to enter the refugee camps of south Beirut. In the evening, Major General Drori met with the Lebanese operations chief in the area, Colonel Michel Awn. The latter informed him that Prime Minister Shafiq el-Wazzan had ordered him not to collaborate in any way with the Israeli Army. The Lebanese officer was under orders to open fire on Israeli troops entering West Beirut. He stated that if he refused to do so he would be subject to trial by court-martial.

Colonel Awn proceeded to explain that since the Lebanese Army was "just then reconstituting itself as an organization. . .and just beginning to win the confidence of Moslem militiamen, Moslem residents and Palestinians of West Beirut," it could not allow itself to be compromised by collaborating with Israeli troops invading West Beirut. (New York Times, September 26, 1982). The Lebanese Army had its own agenda for taking control of the city and the Palestinian camps, according to Colonel Awn. A week earlier, for example, it had taken control of Burj el-Barajneh without any clashes or disturbances. According to this schedule, the takeover of the camps of Sabra and Shatila, situated to the north, would not be carried out until later.

The Israeli Army decided otherwise. As early as noon on Wednesday, the camps of Sabra and Shatila, which were not separated by any exact boundary, were surrounded by Israeli tanks pointing their guns at the camps. A little later, Israeli soldiers set up check-points around the camps, allowing them to control all entrances and exits. Anxiety began to mount inside the camps. The great majority of the inhabitants locked themselves inside their homes.

The PLO fighters -who had always defended the camps and resisted the siege of Beirut for weeks- were no longer there. No visible sign of their presence remained except for old posters glued to the walls of shattered homes.

The Palestinian refugees of both camps -mostly elderly, women, and children- had avoided any confrontation with the Israeli Army for fear of reprisals. In anticipation of the rainy season, they had just begun to rebuild their homes shelled during the Israeli siege. Since the departure of the Palestinian fighters, all traces of armed presence in the camps had disappeared.

During the late afternoon and early evening, a few shells were fired by the Israeli Army in the direction of Sabra and Shatila. Norwegian Doctor Per Maehlumshagen, an orthopedic surgeon at Gaza Hospital situated to the west of Sabra, testified that the first wounded, about fifteen persons, started to be brought in that Wednesday evening. Others, generally victims of sniper fire, arrived the same evening at Akka Hospital, across the road that marks the southern edge of Shatila.

Zaki, an electrician from Sabra, recounted that he had accompanied other camp residents to an Israeli military post to express their fear of being captured by armed Lebanese groups. The Israeli soldiers reassured them, claiming that nothing would happen to them, "because they were civilians, not terrorists." Then, they ordered them to return to their homes.

A little after nightfall, electric power was abruptly cut off in all of West Beirut. The city was left in total darkness. A young Israeli soldier described how, at 10:00 P.M., his unit received an order to fire illumination flares above Sabra and Shatila starting at midnight. At the appointed time, the silence was broken with sporadic firing inside the camps. For the camp residents, this marked the end of another day, the 104th day of the Israeli-Palestinian war.

* * *


Thursday, September 16, 1982


The Israeli Army accomplished its mission by occupying all of West Beirut in thirty hours. At dawn on Thursday, the business district of Hamra was captured. Israeli tanks left great havoc in their path. They gutted residential buildings, destroyed shops and crushed vehicles. Hamra, which had recently recovered some of its pre-war appearance, suffered anew. Many businesses, just renovated after the August bombings, were once again damaged. At each intersection, the same tactic was repeated: tanks would point their guns at the axis of a large thoroughfare, then fire to open the way for the infantry. The soldiers would then advance in force, avoiding any entry into small alleys.

The residents spent the entire morning in shelters to protect themselves from Israeli guns, as well as from the rocket-launchers of the Lebanese left. Two columns of Israeli armor and infantry, one coming from the airport and the second from the port, joined together before noon near the American Embassy on Paris Avenue, one of the most beautiful thoroughfares in the Lebanese capital.

Around noon, West Beirut was entirely under Israeli control. For the first time in its history, Israel had conquered an Arab capital. At the offices of the Defense Minister in Tel Aviv, the Jewish New Year was being celebrated. Ariel Sharon took advantage of the opportunity to propose a toast and announce to his subordinates the success of his operation. The military spokesman declared in a communiqué: "Tzahal (Israeli Army) is in control of all key points in Beirut. Refugee camps harboring terrorist concentrations, remain encircled and closed.'' A military field report transmitted to headquarters in Tel Aviv indicated that only a few pockets of resistance were still holding and had not yet been cleared. The areas in question were Fakehani, where the PLO had its headquarters, and the camps of Sabra and Shatila.

The residents of both camps were awakened at dawn by the deafening noise of jets flying at low altitude. The camps were totally surrounded by Israeli troops. Snipers positioned around the camps began selecting their targets in the alleys. The first shells began falling from the surrounding hills and elevated ground. All day, the wounded poured into Gaza Hospital where doctors and nurses worked continuously. A number of patients were sent to al-Maqasid Hospital, 500 meters away.

Early in the morning, Christian militias began their preparations to seize the camps. After a conversation with Ariel Sharon, Rafael Eitan asked Major General Drori to verify for himself whether the Phalangists were well prepared to invade. At 8:00 A.M., an important meeting took place at Israeli headquarters. General Eitan detailed the tasks assigned to the Phalangists in the camps. The meeting was attended by General Saguy, director of military intelligence, a high-ranking representative of the Mossad and head of the General Security Services (The Shin Bet). About noon, Drori met with Fadi Frem, Chief of Staff of the Lebanese Forces.

He asked Frem whether his men were ready to enter Sabra and Shatila. The Phalangist officer responded: "Yes, immediately." Therefore, he was given the green light. The Phalangist troops left their bases to regroup near the International Airport. The force of about 1500 men followed the arrows and signs painted the night before on the walls of the city.

At 3:00 P.M., the commander of the Israeli forces in Beirut, Brigadier General Amos Yaron, and two of his staff officers met with Elie Hobeika, director of intelligence in the Lebanese Forces, and Fadi Frem, their chief of staff. With the assistance of aerial Photographs furnished by Israel, they coordinated the details of the Phalangist entry into the camps.

The Israeli general confirmed that his troops would supply all the necessary assistance: "to mop up the terrorists in the camps." Then, Major General Drori called Ariel Sharon to announce: "Our friends are marching on the camps. We have coordinated their entry." "Congratulations!" replied Ariel Sharon, "The operation of our friends is approved."

It is not known whether Drori informed the defense minister of what the Phalangist commanders had told him, namely that ''bones are going to be broken in the camps." After the massacre, Sharon stated before the Knesset that military leaders had specifically stated to the Phalangists that their forces "would enter the Shatila camp from the south and the west in order to comb it and purge it of terrorists. The civilian population, especially women, children, and the elderly, should not be harmed."

Several high-ranking Israeli officers, whose names are known today to some journalists in Israel, had strong reservations about the decision to authorize the Phalangist entry into the camps. They indicated that the Palestinian refugees who remained in the camps after the departure of the PLO forces, would be defenseless and risk being the object of bloody reprisals by Christian militias. On October 31, Major General Drori revealed before the Commission of Inquiry that one of his officers, named Reuven, had warned him against a possible Phalangist massacre of Palestinians.

It should be remembered that, before the beginning of the war on June 4, 1982, [1] after Phalangist participation in the fighting in West Beirut had been decided, high-ranking Israeli officers disapproved of the decision. They questioned Phalangist efficiency and discipline, insisting that the Israeli Army risked being compromised and smeared if Bashir Gemayel's men were to participate in the operations of West Beirut. Since the beginning of the war, these fears were heightened.

The men in the Lebanese Forces proved to be mediocre fighters with little motivation. The only battle in which they fully participated was the take-over of the Faculty of Sciences at Hadath. Even this battle could not have been won without the support of the Israeli Army. They have, however, shown much more determination against their Lebanese adversaries after the ruthless Israeli thrust into Lebanon. They were particularly aggressive against the Druze, killing dozens of civilians in the villages of the Shouf and the Aley district. For example, when the Israeli Army, with government orders, allowed the Phalangists to enter the Druze village of Souq el-Gharb, killed fourteen villagers during a wedding ceremony.

Elsewhere, the Phalangists requested permission from the Israelis to attack a hill on the Beirut-Damascus highway, where Palestinian troops were entrenched. On their way, the Phalangists changed their objective, deciding instead to attack the Druze, their sworn enemies. After a deadly battle, the Israeli Army had to intervene to prevent a Phalangist defeat. The Israelis lost one soldier in this particular battle. Furthermore, complaints of violence, theft, rape, and confiscation of property, committed by Phalangists in the territories occupied by the Israeli Army, have been brought before the Israeli command since the early days of the war. Some of these cases were reported by the Israeli press.

Eitan Haber, the military correspondent of Yedi'ot Aharonot, the most widely read Israeli daily, described the Phalangists in these words: "The high authorities in the army have known for a long time that the Phalangist fighters (if we can call them 'fighters'), are nothing but a gang of youths, and the not-so-young, whose level of combat is rather poor and whose morality is even more dubious. Some of them who established roadblocks in Beirut were bribed by the terrorists [PLO fighters] and accepted hard cash to close their eyes and allow the passage of food and other banned goods during the blockade of West Beirut. They are moreover, an organized mob, with uniforms, motorized units, and training camps, who have become guilty of abominable and cruel deeds."

This opinion is shared by a majority of Israeli military correspondents who came to know the Phalangists well, particularly those who received military training in Israel. Since 1976, which marked the beginning of their collaboration with the Israelis, Phalangist militiamen have received military training in Israeli Army camps within Israel proper.

The Phalangists never concealed from the Israelis their intention to massacre the Palestinians. Testimonies to this effect are numerous, and have been reported in the Israeli press. The most impressive testimony was cited by Knesset Deputy Amnon Rubenstein, a member of the small centrist political party, Shinui.

In the Knesset debates which followed the announcement of the massacre in Sabra and Shatila, Mr. Rubenstein recalled that during a visit by Israeli parliamentarians to Israeli-occupied south Lebanon, he met members of the Phalangist Party who resolutely expressed their intention to massacre the Palestinians. One of them said: "The death of one Palestinian is pollution; the death of all the Palestinians is the solution."

Bamahaneh, the official weekly voice of the Israeli Army, wrote on September 1, 1982 (two weeks prior to the massacre) that "A high-ranking Israeli officer heard the following words uttered by a Phalangist officer: 'The question we ask ourselves is: what should we start with? Rape or murder? ... If the Palestinians have any common sense, they should try to leave Beirut. You do not have any idea of the slaughter to befall the Palestinians, civilians or terrorists, who will remain in town. Their attempt to blend into the local population will be futile. The sword and gun of Christian fighters would pursue them everywhere and will exterminate them once and for all.' "

On many occasions, Israeli officers in constant contact with the Christian forces heard such remarks as: "We'll cut their throats," or "blood will be knee-deep." After learning of Sharon's decision to authorize Phalangist entry into the camps, an Israeli officer reacted by stating: "He who allows a fox into a hen-house should not be astonished if the chickens are devoured."

Another Israeli officer, who served a long time at the headquarters of the northern front, said: ''The Lebanese Forces resemble the militias of Sa'ad Haddad. They both pose as heroes in the face of unarmed civilians." He recalled that during the ''Litani Operation'' of March 1978 (the first Israeli invasion of south Lebanon), Haddad's troops were content to follow the Israeli Army, ransacking and killing along their path. All the inhabitants of the village of Khiyam were savagely massacred and all their possessions loaded on trucks by Haddad's men.

Nothing better illustrates the state of mind prevalent at the Israeli command than the following minor event reported by the Labor daily, Davar. After Ariel Sharon had decided to authorize the Phalangists to "mop-up the camps," an officer suggested that an Israeli liaison officer should accompany them on their mission. However, a higher-ranking officer rejected the idea on the spot. He argued that one would expect the Phalangists to commit irregularities, thus, it would be unwise for the Israeli Army to be involved. This same officer knew that the operation was led by Elie Hobeika, an old acquaintance of the Israelis, and was also aware of the implications of Hobeika's involvement.

The first Israeli contacts with Hobeika date back to 1976 when, at the request of Israel, he was sent by Bashir Gemayel to south Lebanon. The purpose of this mission was to support, with several dozen men, the activities of Sa'ad Haddad in his enclaves along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Hobeika, who was only 22 years old, according to the Israeli press, had already proved himself by murdering several Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. Subsequently, the Israelis decided to get rid of him, sending him back to avoid being tainted by his "irregular" activities. However, all contacts with him were not severed. According to the American press, he served as liaison with the CIA and the Mossad (Israeli Intelligence agency) in his capacity as head of intelligence in the Military Council of the Lebanese Forces. Hobeika also received some training in Israel.

This time, it was with Israel's blessing that Hobeika and his men entered the Palestinian camps. According to an Israeli television reporter, Hobeika summoned his principal collaborators to his headquarters. The group included his assistants, Emile Eid and Michel Zuwein; the commander of the Phalangist Military Police, Deeb Anastaz; the commanding officer of East Beirut, Maroun Mich'alani; the chief of commandos, Joseph Edde; and the permanent liaison officer with the Israeli forces, Jessy -who had been telling everyone for months that there was no other solution but to massacre the Palestinian residents of the camps in Beirut.

A Phalangist unit of 150 men, assembled near the airport, began to move. It advanced northward through Ouzai, along the Henri Chehab army barracks, reaching the headquarters of the Lebanese Forces which were established in a United Nations building at the Kuwaiti Embassy traffic circle. At the same intersection, but across the street to the north, the Israelis set up a command and observation post in an apartment building which housed the Lebanese Army officers. It is located 200 meters from one of the massacre sites in Shatila. From the roof of this seven-story building, "it is possible to see into at least part of the Shatila camp, including those parts where piles of dead bodies were found later." (New York Times, September 26, 1982).

The Israeli soldiers who manned roadblocks at the entrance of the Shatila camp received an order by radio to allow the Phalangist forces into the camp at sunset. Testimony by the residents of Bir Hassan, a camp located near the Henri Chehab army barracks, revealed that the first contingents of Christian militias (25 jeeps) passed through their area at 4:00 P.M., headed toward the Kuwaiti Embassy. Frightened camp residents went to Israeli headquarters where they were told to return home and not to worry. The civilians did not follow the advice of Israeli officers. Instead they slept in a building near the beach and sought refuge the following day at the Henri Chehab barracks. According to the testimony of the survivors in Shatila, several units entered the camp before 6:00 P.M. They testified that the first massacre took place before nightfall in the Arsal neighborhood across from Israeli headquarters.

Several testimonies agreed as to the identity of the murderers. Most of them were members of the Lebanese Forces, that is, essentially Phalangist militias of the Kata'ib Party, founded in 1936 by Pierre Gemayel upon his return from Germany. In addition to the Phalangists, the Lebanese Forces included "The Tigers," the militiamen of the National Liberal Party headed by ex-President Camille Chamoun; and another group of rightist militant extremists known as "The Guardians of the Cedar," led by Etienne Saqr.

The armed gangs streaked across the camp aboard the jeeps furnished by the Israeli Army. They wore dark green uniforms embellished with their insignia, familiar to all Lebanese. Some were armed with knives and hatchets. These units belonged to the Phalangist Intelligence, Military Police and Commandos.
Afterward, camp residents affirmed fervently that Sa'ad Haddad's men had also taken part in the carnage. They identified them by their badges, and especially by their distinct southern accents and names. While the 12,000 men of the Lebanese Forces are exclusively Christian, Sa'ad Haddad's troops (approximately 6000 men) included a large number of Shiites. Refugees in Shatila heard uniformed soldiers calling each other by such first names as Ali and Abbas, which are typical Shiite names.

Sa'ad Haddad himself has formally denied any participation by his troops in the massacre. However, in a discussion with Israeli journalists, he added: "Some members of my army have joined the forces of Bashir Gemayel. It is possible that these deserters, wearing the insignia of ‘Free Lebanon' might have taken part in the massacre.'' An Israeli commander confirmed that some members of Haddad's militia were apprehended by the Israeli Army after the carnage. Haddad argued that the men in question numbered three or four "who tried to rescue their families living in the camps after the carnage was announced." In any case, according to Haddad, "Every move we make has to be coordinated with the Israeli Defense Forces. We have strict orders not to cross north of the Awali River." (The Times, September 23, 1982).

In spite of Haddad's denials, residents of Shweifat and Khalde, two small villages located south of Beirut, confirmed to journalists that military convoys of Haddad' s ''Free Lebanon'' forces were seen heading toward the airport from the south. While the massacre was unfolding, an Israeli television correspondent reported meeting a mechanic from Saad Haddad's forces at the airport. The militiaman received his training in Israel and spoke Hebrew. A reliable source also established that a member of Saad Haddad's troops was killed by the Israelis Friday night, while prowling about the Sports Stadium. Furthermore, the words "Sa'ad Haddad" and "Kata'ib" were found painted on the walls in several locations throughout Sabra and Shatila. It is also well known that members of Haddad's "Free Lebanon" militia were seen conversing with Israeli soldiers in West Beirut the day following the massacre. However there is no doubt that their participation in the massacre was limited. Although more than 400 men entered the camps at the height of the carnage, the number of Haddad's men never exceeded a few dozen. As for Sa'ad Haddad himself, he did not arrive at Beirut until Friday morning at 9:00 o'clock. He flew aboard an Israeli helicopter on his way to Bikfaya to express his condolences to the Gemayel family. According to this account, he left the capital on Friday afternoon.

Various accounts are in full agreement concerning the precise time of the assailants' entry into the camps. According to Israeli soldiers present in the area, the time of entry was 5:15 P.M. Camp residents confirm that the first organized murders began at 5:00, or even a little earlier in certain locations in Shatila. Ariel Sharon declared before the Knesset that "the forces entered [the camps] at night." Furthermore, everyone agrees that the attackers entered from two directions: from the south through the main road leading to the camps, and from the southwest coming down the hill near the Kuwaiti Embassy. Leading the campaign was Elie Hobeika.

The carnage began immediately. It lasted forty hours without interruption. The Israelis were able to observe the operations from the roof (seventh floor) of the three Lebanese buildings they had occupied since September 3. They were equipped with telescopes and binoculars with night-vision. In reality, they did not need this equipment because they were only 200 meters away from the major location of the carnage. During these two days, the building swarmed with officers. There was an endless flow of traffic in and out; vehicles of the signal corps, armored vehicles and different units all around.

To quote one Israeli officer, watching from the roof of these buildings was like watching "from the front row of a theater." Furthermore, Israeli forward positions manned by paratrooper units were very close to the edges of the camps, and Israeli "Merkava" tanks commanded a view of the area. In addition, Battalion 501 of the Lebanese Army was stationed at the Kuwaiti Embassy traffic circle.

According to the survivors, the massacre immediately assumed grave proportions. During the first hours, Phalangist militiamen murdered hundreds of people. They shot everything that moved in the alleys. Tearing down doors, they barged inside and liquidated whole families at the dinner table. Residents were murdered in bed, still wearing their pajamas. In many apartments, children, three or four years old, were found in their pajamas and blood-soaked blankets. Quite often, the murderers were not content with sowing death.

In too many cases, the assailants dismembered their victims before killing them. They smashed the heads of children and babies against the walls. Women, and even little girls, were raped before they were killed with hatchets. Often, men were dragged out of their houses to be summarily executed in the streets.

With their hatchets and knives, the militiamen spread terror as they indiscriminately slaughtered men, women, children, and the elderly. Quite often, they would spare the life of a single family member -killing the rest in front of his eyes, so he could later recount what he saw and lived through. At the same time, they did not distinguish between Christian and Muslim, Lebanese or Palestinian. All who lived in the refugee camps met the same fate. A young Shiite girl related how her parents fell to their knees before their butchers. They begged to have their lives spared, swearing that they were Lebanese. The murderers responded: "You have lived with these Palestinian scoundrels; your fate will be like theirs." Then they killed all the members of the family except the witness.

Among the victims of the massacre were nine Jewish women who had married Palestinian men during the British Mandate and accompanied their husbands to Lebanon during the 1948 exodus. The names of four of these women were published by the Jerusalem Post of September 30, 1982. In the Horsh Tabet area, the whole Miqdad Lebanese family, originally from Kisrawan, operated a garage in Shatila for more than thirty years. Its 45 members -men, women and children- were executed without exception.

Some had their throats cut, others were disemboweled, among them a 29 year old woman named Zeinab. The woman, in her eighth month of pregnancy, was disemboweled and her fetus placed in her arms. Her seven other children were also murdered. Another relative, Wafa Hammoud, 26 years old and in her seventh month of pregnancy, was also killed with her four children. In this same neighborhood, several other women were raped before being murdered. They were then disrobed and their bodies arranged in the form of a cross. One of the raped young girls was a 7-year-old daughter of the Miqdad family.

Milad Farouq, 11 years old, was wounded in the arm and the leg. After being taken to Gaza Hospital for treatment, he described how his mother and young brother were killed while watching television. The militiamen entered the house, and without warning shot everyone at point-blank. Then, they left without uttering a single word.

Some camp residents had enough presence of mind to escape as fast as possible upon hearing the first shots and the voices of screaming victims. One such person is Mrs. Hashem. Upon hearing the dreadful noises coming from the south, she left her shanty at Shatila and ran with her husband and children to seek refuge farther to the north. She still did not realize that a premeditated massacre was being carried out. Hence, after locating a shelter, she asked her husband to return home and bring a little food from the refrigerator, particularly milk for the children. She was never to see him alive again. On Saturday, his bullet-riddled body was found at their home.

The militiamen were not content to torture and kill. They also looted: hands of women were cut at the wrists to remove their jewelry. An Israeli journalist reported the following testimony by a resident of Shatila:

On Thursday night, the Phalangists entered my brother's apartment. They demanded that he give them all the money he possessed. He brought them 40,000 Lebanese pounds and two kilograms of gold. But this did not satisfy them. They asked him to sign a check for 500,000 pounds. My brother did what they asked. After he finished signing the check, they told him: "You see, now you are worthless." They they killed him, his father, and his two brothers. Only his wife and two daughters managed to escape from the apartment and survived.

A 13-year-old Palestinian girl was the sole survivor of her family. She lost both parents, her grandfather and all her brothers and sisters. She recounted the following in the presence of a Lebanese officer:

We stayed in a shelter until very late on Thursday night. Then I decided to step outside with my girlfriend. We couldn't breathe anymore. Suddenly, We saw the Phalangists arrive. We ran back to the shelter and warned the others. Some people came out of the shelter brandishing a white handkerchief. They walked toward the militiamen shouting: ‘We are for peace’. They were immediately gunned down. The women screamed and pleaded I ran and hid in the bathtub of our apartment. All the others were killed. Afterward, I saw them march people nearby and execute them. I tried to look out of the window, but a militiaman saw me and shot at me. I returned to the bathtub and remained there for five hours. When I came out, they captured me and threw me with the others. They asked me if I were Palestinian and I answered in the affirmative. They said: ‘Then, you would like to occupy Lebanon?’ ‘No, we are ready to leave here,’ I answered. Next to me, my nine-month old nephew cried constantly. This unnerved one of the soldiers who suddenly said: 'I have had enough of his crying,' shooting my nephew in the shoulder. I began to cry and told him that the baby was the only child left in my family. But this unnerved him more, so he grabbed the baby and tore him in half.

At that moment, my uncle Faisal arrived. He is a little simple-minded. They wanted to kill him too, but I begged them to let him live. We stayed outside the whole night under the illumination flares shot above the camp. Early in the morning, they took my uncle to help them remove the bodies He collapsed crying when he recognized his mother's remains. Then they took us to the Sports Stadium and told us to stay there. I escaped with a friend of mine. Today, I live with my aunt. I have nothing to do at Shatila. I cannot continue my studies and I cannot work because they will not give me a work permit. I'll go wherever my aunt goes. I don't know what to do or what will become of me.

On Thursday evening, the residents of Shatila took two separate initiatives in an attempt to stop the massacre. Four men formed a delegation and headed for the Israeli post near the Kuwaiti Embassy to inform the Israelis that there were no weapons or fighters in the camp and that the residents were ready to surrender. The four were Abu Hamad Ismail (55), Abu Ahmad Said (65), Abu Swaid (62), and Tawfik Abu Hishmeh (64). They were seen heading toward the southern exit of the camp, but they disappeared. Two days later, three of them were found dead near the Kuwaiti Embassy.

Another attempt was initiated by a man named Sayed, who worked at a gas station near Akka Hospital where many residents found refuge. He organized a group of 50 people mostly women. Then, carrying a white flag, they marched toward the Israeli post at the Kuwaiti Embassy to request a cease-fire. Just before reaching the roadblock manned by the Israelis, they were stopped by the militiamen. Sayed and his son Hassan were taken to an unknown place. Several women were raped and killed on the spot. The survivors who managed to escape and hide did not reappear until the next day. At dawn, they came to Akka Hospital where they warned the civilians who had found shelter there. The civilians ran toward the surrounding Lebanese neighborhoods of Shayyah and Ghubayri.

The Israeli soldiers stationed around the camp quickly began to realize that unusual things were taking place. Of course, they were informed that a "mopping-up operation" was underway in the refugee camps known in the popular vernacular of Israel as "terrorist camps." Palestinian fighters are depicted by the Israeli government as sub-human, nazis, or "two-legged animals," according to the expression used by Menachem Begin in the Knesset on June 8, 1982. Despite this systematic campaign of dehumanizing the enemy -in which the Israeli press played a significant role- many Israeli soldiers began to agonize upon realizing that developments in the camps were anything but combat.

Ha'aretz correspondent Michael Gerti and photographer Uzi Keren, who arrived at Shatila the day after the massacre, filed the following account by two Israeli paratroopers: "It was possible to stop the massacre in Shatila, even on Thursday; had they acted on what we reported to our commander." One of the soldiers voluntarily admitted to the journalists: "On Thursday evening, as darkness fell, Palestinian women from Shatila arrived at the post and hysterically told us that the Phalangists were shooting their children and putting the men in trucks. I reported this to my commander, but all he said was: 'It is okay, do not worry.' My order was to tell the women to go back home. However, many women, and entire families as well, ran away from the camps to the north. I went back and repeated my report over and over. Each time, however, the answer was the same: "It is okay."

An Israeli officer belonging to the same select unit reported to Gerti and Keren that he had received several reports of this type. However, he added: "Everybody was sure it was just hysterics." (Ha'aretz, September 23, 1982).

Other testimonies by Israeli soldiers confirm that as early as Thursday evening camp residents attempted to explain that a massacre was unfolding in the camps. A Palestinian from Sabra left the camp early that evening and reported to an Arabic-speaking officer named Rami at the first Israeli post to the west: "I told him about meeting a woman wounded in her arm who told me that Sa'ad Haddad's men were killing everyone. The officer asked me if we were armed. I told him that some were armed, but that they only had weapons for personal defense. He told me to announce to the whole population that they must gather these weapons and surrender them before 5 o'clock. As for the massacre, it didn't interest him at all."

In subsequent interviews, young residents of the camp stated that they had handed over their weapons to Lebanese 1eftist parties after the evacuation of PLO fighters. When the Israelis invaded West Beirut, the Palestinians went to reclaim the weapons from their Lebanese allies. However, the Lebanese militiamen denied their request claiming that no orders were issued to that effect.

A nurse in an Israeli medical unit related that among the injured brought to his medical post was a nine-month-old baby with a bullet wound. A few hours later, the baby died. The nurse confirmed that the person who had brought him in was the sole survivor in his family. Later, a Phalangist saw the baby lying dead and blurted out: "Would you like to get rid of this bundle? I will throw it in the garbage." The nurse realized that a real carnage had taken place, and he alerted his superiors.

During the night, a militiaman approached the nearest Israeli roadblock and asked for a stretcher. It has been established that the Phalangists encountered armed resistance in one location, suffering two fatalities and several injuries. The militiaman answered the Israeli soldier who inquired about developments in the camp by saying: "We have already killed 250 terrorists." In telling this story to reporters, the soldier said that the Israelis laughed, while one of them commented: These [Phalangists] and their exaggerations... How could they have killed 250 terrorists when we have not heard the noise of combat?" Then the soldier said, "When he left, we stopped laughing and began to realize that indeed a massacre was unfolding."

Thursday evening, news of the massacre began arriving at the Israeli headquarters from forward command posts near the Shatila camp. They reported casualties in the camps, including "terrorists and civilians." At 11:00 P.M., the commander of the Phalangist troops in the Shatila camp filed report to the Israeli command east of Beirut stating: "Thus far we have liquidated 300 civilians and terrorists." This report was immediately communicated to headquarters in Tel Aviv where it was conveyed to more than twenty high-ranking officers. Ordinarily, this type of report is transmitted to the office of the defense minister. Its existence was revealed by the Jerusalem Post's military correspondent Hirsh Goodman, who confirmed having verified its authenticity. Still, the massacre continued until Saturday morning.

Electric power was cut off all night in West Beirut. As soon as darkness fell, the Israelis began firing flares from all directions above the camps. According to an Israeli soldier, his unit fired two 81mm illuminating flares every minute for a duration of several hours. The Israelis also used their air force to launch more flares to light the camps. Tineke Uluf, a 30-year-old Dutch nurse reported that, even during the siege of Beirut which she survived, the camps were not lighted so powerfully.

Press correspondents who saw the lighting of the camps at night demanded explanations from Israeli military spokesmen in West Beirut. The latter kept silent.
Casualties began to pour into the Gaza and Akka Hospitals, reporting acts each more horrible than the other. Eighty-two people were treated that night at Gaza Hospital. Most of them came from Shatila, the principal site of the carnage. Many suffered bullet wounds, but some were hit by shrapnel from Israeli shelling throughout the afternoon. Families were bringing the injured by their own private means because no ambulance dared to travel the streets. At the same time, a crowd made up mostly of women and children began gathering inside and around the hospitals hoping to find more security. Between Thursday night and Friday, an estimated 1000 to 2000 people in a state of indescribable panic sought refuge in the hospitals.

Early in the evening, Ariel Sharon met with American envoy Morris Draper who, on behalf of the American government, had come to request that Israel withdraw its forces from Beirut. Sharon refused. He continued to insist that Israel must stay in place "in order to save the situation in West Beirut." Draper retorted that the Lebanese Army was also capable of accomplishing this task. It became clear that the Americans were henceforth adopting a firmer tone toward Israel.

In Jerusalem, the Cabinet convened at 7:30 P.M. in a special session which lasted four hours. Thirty-eight hours after the beginning of the operation, the ministers received their first report of the Israeli Army's entry into Beirut. Several of the ministers expressed doubts about the usefulness of the operation. They vociferously declared their dissatisfaction with the manner in which the decision was made, without prior consultation with the government. Finally, a draft resolution was adopted confirming that the operation was correct and justified. The resolution stated: "In the wake of President-elect Bashir Gemayel's assassination, the IDF has seized positions in West Beirut in order to forestall the danger of violence, bloodshed and chaos." At that moment, none of the cabinet ministers, not even the prime minister, knew that violence, bloodshed, and chaos reigned over West Beirut.

The chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, and other generals taking part in the cabinet meeting, presented reports about the situation in the field in West Beirut. Eitan mentioned "limited confrontations" with some Muslim militias, the Murabitoun, and remnants of the PLO. Also mentioned were contacts with the Lebanese Army. In passing, Sharon briefly reported that Phalangist forces had entered the refugee camps "in order to clear out terrorist nests." He added that the contact with the Phalangists was continuing and that their actions were totally coordinated with those of the Israeli Army.

The ministers later said that they were persuaded everything was in order, and that the participation of Christian forces in tasks determined by the Israeli Army was perfectly controlled. No questions were asked and no debate ensued after General Eitan's report. The latter, in justifying the operation in West Beirut, alluded to the possibility of unprecedented acts of vengeance on the part of the Christians who were "already preparing for battle." Those acquainted with the proceeding of the cabinet meeting confirmed that the Phalangist role had been depicted in a misleadingly simplistic way.

Only David Levy, the deputy prime minister, referred to the danger that the Phalangists might massacre the Palestinians. Levy warned his colleagues saying: "We could come out with no credibility when I hear that the Phalangists are already entering a certain neighborhood -and I know what the meaning of revenge is for them, what kind of slaughter. Then no one will believe we went in to create order there, and we will bear the blame." (Final Report, p.28).

During four hours of discussion -after the massacre had already started- less than five minutes were devoted to the question of the entry by Lebanese Forces into the camps. Most of the debate centered on American demands for Israeli withdrawal from Beirut. The government decided that it would "give orders to withdraw from its positions when the Lebanese Army proves ready to take control of them and to secure public order and safety in coordination with Tzahal." The meaning of this statement is clear: the Israeli Army intends to remain in West Beirut for a very long time, taking into consideration the slow-going nature of the Lebanese Army. The Israeli military had good reason to be content, for it received from the government the delays necessary to achieve its objectives in Beirut.

An hour after the Cabinet session ended, the military correspondent of "Galei Tzahal," the Israeli Defense Forces radio station, reported from Beirut that "the IDF will not operate tonight to purge the areas of Sabra and Shatila ... It was decided to entrust the Phalange with the mission to carry out these purging operations." The report was broadcast at 1:00 and 2:00 A.M. on Friday, never to be repeated afterward.

During the Knesset debate on September 22, General Sharon used an argument to which the Israelis are very sympathetic. He stated: “We have not sent Tzahal into the camps in order to preserve human lives [those of Israeli soldiers]. We have not sent our soldiers because others were capable of carrying out this operation. . .”

Throughout the night, the carnage continued in the refugee camps.

* * *


Friday, September 17, 1982


At daybreak, Israeli officers and soldiers stood at their observation post and watched with binoculars what was happening inside the Shatila camp. They observed the piles of bodies and the men being lined up for execution. Soldiers from an armored unit stationed 100 meters from the camp, and once commanded by Colonel Eli Geva prior to his resignation, stated that they were able to clearly witness the execution of civilians by the militiamen that Friday morning. Their report was dispatched to senior officers who received identical accounts from other Israeli soldiers and officers stationed near the camps. Israeli soldiers also confirmed that they heard screaming refugees being slaughtered while attempting to save their own lives. The Israelis were also briefed by the Phalangists themselves, who occasionally sought food and fresh water from the encampments and roadblocks set up by the Israeli Army around Shatila. They described "combat" developments inside the camps, making no attempt to conceal the fact "that there were also civilians among the dead."

Lieutenant Avi Grabowski, deputy commander of a tank company testified before the Kahan Commission that he witnessed the Phalangists kill civilians including women and children. Grabowski told the Commission that he confronted a Phalangist about killing pregnant women. The Phalangist answered that "pregnant women will give birth to terrorists." Israeli soldiers who reported Phalangist atrocities against civilians to their superiors were ordered not to interfere with what was happening in the camps and not to enter the area. When Grabowski reported what he saw to his superiors, his tank crew quoted the battalion commander saying: "We know, it's not to our liking, and don't interfere." (Final Report, p. 35).

Nevertheless, a paratroop colonel named Yaya decided to investigate what was actually happening on the scene to verify the statements put before him by some refugees who had managed to escape toward the center of West Beirut. Accompanied by some of his men, he went into the Sabra camp at 9:00 A.M. He passed by the Stadium on his way to Gaza Hospital. Unable to verify any evidence of a massacre, he turned back. This exact spot became the scene of further carnage the next day (Saturday). The refugees fleeing to the north met another paratroop officer who had also decided to approach the outskirts of Sabra, but did not notice anything. Both officers failed to detect signs of Phalangist atrocities because the carnage at that time was taking place at Shatila. The soldiers who surrounded this camp constantly heard salves of automatic weapons, which in no way resembled the noise of combat. They also heard the screams of the victims. Later, at nightfall, Israeli units again fired illumination flares to light the camp and to facilitate the assailants' task.

Access to the camp was blocked by Israeli soldiers, who repeatedly ordered fleeing refugees to turn back. The most striking example was a group of 500 refugees who found shelter within the walls of Gaza Hospital in Sabra. During the afternoon, the crowd made their escape when they learned that the militiamen were killing, injuring, and raping everyone in the hospitals. Brandishing white flags, the hapless crowd reached Corniche el-Mazra'a, the road that intersects the capital from east to west. They were then stopped by Israeli soldiers. A spokesman for the group explained to the soldiers that Sa'ad Haddad's men were murdering civilians.

Nevertheless, they were ordered to return to the camp. When they hesitated, an Israeli tank chased the people a few hundred feet back toward the camps." (New York Times, September 26, 1982).

This Friday morning, additional Christian troops entered Shatila through the southern and western entrances. They were equipped with jeeps, trucks, and bulldozers. The first reports about the massacre in Sabra and Shatila began to spread in Beirut, following the evacuation of the foreign doctors and nurses from Akka Hospital. The medical personnel were marched to the edge of the Shatila camp by armed men, referring to themselves as Phalangists. They were met there by the Norwegian charge d'affaires who escorted them to the International Red Cross in Hamra. They alerted the press and the diplomatic corps to the grave developments in the camps. Early the following day, the first accounts of the massacre appeared in the local press. Based on reports from the Lebanese security forces, al-Safir published the following headline in the last column on page six: “The militiamen of Sa'ad Haddad entered the camps of Sabra and Shatila and attacked the Palestinians.” AI-Nahar reported the following item on an inside page: “A unit of the Lebanese Forces stopped near Akka Hospital, gathered the residents, separated men from women, then shot the former. There were five dead and many wounded.”

At 5:30 A.M., Lieutenant Colonel Moshe Hevroni, the bureau chief of the military intelligence director, received a report at the general staff headquarters in Tel Aviv. It indicated that 300 casualties were reported in the camps. He communicated the news at 7:30 A.M. to Avi Duda'i, a personal aide to the defense minister.

Journalists also received the disquieting news about Sabra and Shatila. Ze'ev Schiff, military correspondent of Ha'aretz, approached several personalities including the minister of communications, Mordechai Zippori, and informed them of what he had learned. Zippori telephoned Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir to fill him in on the report he just received concerning "a massacre in the refugee camps of West Beirut." Zippori, whose relations with Ariel Sharon had previously deteriorated, told Shamir: "You must speak with the minister of defense in order to ascertain what is happening in the camps." Shamir then requested officials of his ministry to verify Zippori's information. However, no confirmation of the report was obtained.
In his statement before the Knesset on September 22, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said: "Once the first rumors reached us as to what was occurring in the camps, the northern commander [General Drori] immediately took certain measures to halt the activities of the Phalangists in Shatila through the intervention of the Phalangist liaison officer stationed at the headquarters of one of our brigades.... Tzahal put an end to Phalangist activity as early as Friday around noon. We eventually evacuated them from the area by Saturday noon." In fact, the massacre continued all day and all night until Saturday morning. Moreover, fresh Phalangist troops continued to enter the camps during this period.
It was actually at 10:00 A.M. on Saturday morning that the carnage stopped. Eitan Haber, military correspondent of Yedi'ot Aharonot, wrote: "The massacre continued because someone was interested in its continuation."
At this time, in Beirut, Brigadier General Amos Yaron, commander of the Israeli forces in the area, called Major General Amir Drori from Israeli headquarters overlooking the camps. Northern Command Drori was then at his headquarters near the port. Yaron informed him that rumors of "irregular activity" by the Phalangists in the camps were getting more and more persistent. At 11:00 A.M., Drori went to Yaron's headquarters. Both generals asked the Phalangist liaison officer, "Jessy," to give them details on Phalangist activities in the camps. The latter answered: "Some of our commanders lost control over their men." The commander of the northern front then ordered the Phalangists to cease firing immediately. He did not order them to vacate the camps, nor did he wait to verify whether the cease-fire order was actually being implemented. Furthermore, he failed to dispatch his soldiers to the camps to determine what was happening on the scene.
A little before noon, Major General Drori called Rafael Eitan in Tel Aviv. He reported that something "suspicious" was taking place in the camps and that he ordered it stopped. "Raffoul" realized the gravity of the situation and answered that he would leave immediately for Beirut. The chief of staff arrived in Beirut at 3:30 P.M., summoning his officers to submit their reports. At 4:30 P.M., accompanied by General Drori, Eitan met with Phalangist officers at their headquarters in Karantina, near the port. Some of these officers had just returned from the camps. Fadi Frem, "chief of staff" of the Lebanese Forces, was also in attendance. According to the testimony of General Yaron before the Commission of Inquiry, General Eitan congratulated the Phalangists on their operation. The Phalangists reported that they had been "mopping up" the area. They revealed that the Americans were pressuring them "to stop their operations in the camps," and then appealed to the Israelis for "additional time to clean up the grounds." The two parties (as revealed in Ariel Sharon's famous statement before the Knesset) agreed that: "All the Phalangists will leave the refugee camps on Saturday morning, the 18th of September. It was also agreed that no further forces would enter the camps." However, in his deposition before the Commission of Inquiry, General Yaron confirmed that Phalangist units on location were permitted to bring reinforcements. Thus, the Phalangists were granted ample time to continue their "mop up" operations and to bring additional forces into Sabra and Shatila.
The Phalangist unit commanded by Elie Hobeika, Sa'ad Haddad's men, and the newly arrived troops continued their carnage. Terrorized refugees who managed to escape reported witnessing barbaric acts. They described the relentless manhunt throughout the streets of the camps conducted by small groups of militiamen. Eyewitnesses related that entire families were taken from shelters and murdered on the spot. They also described acts of torture and rape: women were repeatedly violated and physically mutilated by cutting off their breasts and then killed. The night before, the militiamen used their knives and hatchets to attack their victims. This Friday, they resorted to a more expeditious method: shooting at point-blank.
From time to time, men in uniform inspected the heaps of corpses, finishing off those who moved. Quite often, they would carve the sign of the cross on the bodies of their victims, as they had done during the massacre of Tell el-Za'tar in 1976. A boy, 13 years old, told Israeli soldiers how his small stature had saved his life when militiamen lined him up with a group of men against a wall, then proceeded to shoot the whole group. An Israeli soldier commented how this testimony reminded him of his youth, when he learned that during World War II Jewish children were saved from Nazi execution squads, thanks to their short stature. In other places, some men were tied behind military vehicles and dragged alive through the streets of the camps. Their corpses were later found piled up in a garage. One was castrated. Throughout this day there was only one case of actual armed resistance inside the camps. It took place in Sabra where some Palestinian or Lebanese fighters ambushed their Phalangist attackers near the marketplace. It seems that the Phalangist forces encountered no other armed opposition.
Also on this Friday, eyewitness reports confirmed for the first time that trucks filled with civilians had been seen heading for unknown destinations. A Danish television cameraman, M. Petersen, actually filmed the militiamen loading men, women and children aboard such trucks on the edge of Shatila. This was taking place only 400 meters from an Israeli position. Residents of the Lebanese villages of Shweifat and Hadath, south of Beirut, confirmed that at noon on Friday, three large trucks and two smaller vehicles loaded with civilians passed through their area. These people were never seen again. Similarly, survivors reported to the Red Cross in Beirut that members of their families had been loaded on trucks and taken to unknown destinations, never to return.
Residents of Shatila reported that shortly after noon, militiamen gathered about one hundred men on the main road south of the camp. After separating Palestinians from Lebanese, they began torturing the former by slashing their faces with knives while interrogating them. Between 11:00 A.M. and noon, armed men turned up at Akka Hospital. They murdered several patients, butchered the wounded in their hospital beds, and killed several staff members and camp residents who had found shelter on the premises. A 19-year-old Palestinian nurse named Intisar Ismail was raped ten times by men who spoke with a strong southern Lebanese accent -members of Sa'ad Haddad's forces. Her body was so mutilated that she could only be identified by her ring. The accuracy of this incident was confirmed by a Lebanese colleague of the victim.
The militiamen forced forty people who were hiding at the hospital to climb into their truck. They were never accounted for. Two Palestinian doctors, Ali Othman and Sami Khatib, and an Egyptian staff member were killed in cold blood. Others tried to reach the nearest Israeli roadblock located 200 meters away. A grenade was thrown in their midst, killing three people and wounding a fourth. A Lebanese patient at the hospital described how a Phalangist militiaman had approached the hospital bed of 14-year-old Mufid Asad who was injured the night before: "They pulled the cover off his feet with the barrel of a machine gun and asked him: 'Are you Palestinian?' He nodded his head affirmatively, then pointed with his finger to his identity card which was placed under his pillow. ‘You are Palestinian, and you are still living?' They added, ‘It is painful to die, isn't it! We will finish the job and there will be one less!' Then they proceeded to kill him." Later that afternoon, the International Red Cross evacuated the remaining patients.
Throughout the day, Phalangist units prepared mass graves for the hundreds of corpses scattered around the area. Bulldozers were digging such graves south of Shatila, halfway between an Israeli position and army headquarters. It was impossible for the Israelis not to have noticed this activity. At 4:00 P.M., the Norwegian charge d'affaires saw a shovel dredger filled with corpses. In the intense heat above Beirut, the stench of the corpses began to fill the air, reaching Israeli positions in the area.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, additional Phalangist troops gathered by the airport. The military correspondent of Israeli television, Ron Ben-Yishai, was in East Beirut with his news team. Around noon, they noticed a Phalangist column cross the Hazmiyeh neighborhood toward the airport. There were ten command cars and two jeeps equipped with recoilless rifles. A little later, they encountered another column in the neighborhood of Sinn el-Feel, also in East Beirut. This convoy included armored vehicles and half-tracks. He instructed his cameraman to start filming. However the commander of the unit ordered his soldiers to confiscate the film roll. Ron Ben-Yishai identified himself and explained that he worked for Israeli television. The commander then backed down and ordered his men to proceed. "Where are you going?" asked the correspondent. "Military mission," answered the Phalangist commander. Ben-Yishai followed the convoy to the airport, where he discovered a large Phalangist force organizing to go into the camps. He counted thirteen tanks. Including Sherman M-47s and T-S4s, half-tracks equipped with 120mm mortars, vehicles armed with heavy machineguns and many "command cars." He also saw a number of ambulances. The soldiers placed their combat gear on the ground. The helmets and other essential equipment of the Lebanese Forces were furnished by the Israeli Army. Even their uniforms were identical; they simply replaced the inscription "Tzahal" (Israeli Defense Forces) with the words "Lebanese Forces."
According to the Israeli television correspondent, these forces represented two reduced battalions. Ben-Yishai observed that many soldiers displayed the insignia MP. They were the same men seen at Sabra and Shatila the next day at the end of the carnage. Ben-Yishai filmed the Phalangists, while other Israeli journalists in the area took their pictures. These films and pictures were published and shown on Israeli television the day after the massacre. While waiting for orders, the Phalangist officers and soldiers conversed with Israeli journalists. The Phalangists were unambiguous as to the nature of their mission: "We are going to kill them"; "We are going to f... their mothers and sisters," they announced using expressions and signs which did not leave room for any doubt concerning their intentions. One of them said: "This is our share in the battle." Israeli correspondent Alex Fishman, remembers another Phalangist remark: "Before leaving, I need a large ration of hashish.'' Many of them carried alcohol. A senior Israeli officer about to leave for Israel asked correspondent Ben-Yishai: "Did you hear about the crimes committed by the Phalangists in Sabra and Shatila? ...The Phalangists are doing horrible things there."
In their makeshift operations room, Phalangist officers examined aerial photographs furnished by the Israelis and discussed the sequence of events. They were awaiting the results of a meeting between one of their high-ranking officers and Israeli commanders. Upon his return, the Phalangist officer declared that he had received the requested authorization. Thus, 200 men were ordered to prepare for departure. The rest were to remain on the spot until the next day. Then they disappeared returning to their bases after the massacre had been announced throughout the whole world. A bearded Phalangist officer gave his men final instructions in Arabic, which the Israelis did not understand. The column got under way toward the camps. In addition to military materiel, the Phalangists brought two bulldozers, one of which was furnished by the Israeli Army. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a total of three bulldozers being brought to the camps.
After their meeting with Fadi Frem and other leaders of the Lebanese Forces, Generals Eitan and Drori returned to the airport at the exact moment the Phalangists were preparing to leave. The chief of staff spoke with a few Israeli officers before boarding the aircraft which he piloted himself. Then he departed for Ramat-David Airport in Israel and went home to Tel Adashim where he celebrated the new Jewish Year on Friday night. Later, at 9:00 P.M., he called Sharon. According to Sharon's deposition before the Commission of Inquiry, Eitan told him that evening that "The Phalangists exaggerate." Sharon claimed that this; conversation marked the exact moment he learned of events in the camps.
Advancing along the airport road, the Phalangist force headed north. They entered Shatila from the south and east and promptly went "to work." Upon their arrival, they encountered a group of women and children who were immediately gunned down". Then the militiamen entered the first house they saw and massacred an entire family sitting around the dinner table. Right away, a bulldozer began to demolish the house. Bulldozers were used frequently to destroy houses bringing them down upon their residents. The, assailants broke into shelters searching for victims and murdering those who failed to escape right inside their hideouts. At no time did they attempt to distinguish between Palestinian and Lebanese. They simply did not have the time. All those encountered had to die. All testimonies are in full agreement about the behavior of the assailants who entered the camps Friday afternoon: it was a question of an operation planned in advance and executed in cold blood.
According to Israeli and foreign journalists who discussed the matter with Phalangist officers, the massacre and destruction were not the product of outburst of anger or a spontaneous act of vengeance for the murder of Bashir Gemayel. This massacre appears to be “an operation planned in advance aimed at effecting a mass exodus by the Palestinians from Beirut and Lebanon.” (Ha'arertz, September 2, 1982). The brutality of the crime -mutilations, dismemberment, slashing of children, smashing the heads of babies against walls- can only be explained by the desire to terrorize.
Ze'ev Schiff, the military correspondent of Ha'aretz, and Ehud Ya'ari, Israeli television's specialist on Arab affairs, both subscribe to this theory. The methodical destruction of Palestinian homes clearly supports it; for without their shelter, the Palestinian refugees would have no alternative but to leave Lebanon. Contrary to some claims, when the Phalangists requested bulldozers from the Israelis, they did not intend to tear down barricades. On the basis of aerial photographs in their possession, Israeli military authorities knew quite well that there were no roadblocks or barricades in the camps. The bulldozers had no other use but to destroy homes and bury corpses in mass graves. On November 7, General Yaron stated before the Commission of Inquiry: “We knew they wanted to destroy the camps. . . . Some of them [Phalangists] affirmed that they were planning to replace the camps with a zoo.”
Since the beginning of the war in June 1982, the Israelis have repeatedly used bulldozers to destroy homes and force the residents to flee. The refugee camps of south Lebanon were bombarded and then destroyed with explosives and bulldozers. In, Israel, this operation was known as the “destruction of the terrorist infrastructure.” The objective was to prevent the Palestinians from forming a national community in Lebanon. Therefore, it was necessary to destroy not only homes, but also Palestinian institutions such as schools, hospitals, and social service centers. In addition, the Israelis sought to deprive the Palestinian population of all males by arresting thousands of men and forcing thousands more to flee.
At the beginning of the war, officers of Israeli units entrusted with offering assistance to the Lebanese civilian population received a very clear directive from Minister Ya'acov Meridor in his capacity as cabinet member in charge of refugee problems. He told Israeli troops: "Push them to the east toward Syria. Let them go, but do not allow them to return." Lieutenant Colonel Dov Yirmiyah, who announced this and made public other revelations about the war, was stripped of his rank in the reserves. Indeed, this "plan" to disperse the Palestinians was not successfully carried out. Unlike the situation in 1948, this time the Palestinians had no place to go. Still, the plan actually existed. This fact was acknowledged by cabinet minister Ya'acov Meridor during a cabinet meeting on October 13, 1982. He admitted that this plan aimed at expelling the refugees from south Lebanon toward the north. The systematic destruction of refugee camps in south Lebanon was intended therefore to provoke a mass flight of Palestinian refugees.
In the case of Sabra and Shatila, the Phalangists were not content to destroy houses. According to all testimonies, they also wanted to terrorize the residents in order to push the panicking refugees out of Lebanon. General Yaron testified that the Phalangist commander in chief had admitted his party's intention "to pile the Palestinians on trucks and expel them." This idea has been an old Phalangist dream: to reduce the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon from 500,000 to 50,000 so "they won't upset the demographic balance between Christians and Muslims." (It is known that the majority of Palestinians are of the Islamic faith). The Phalangists also aimed to challenge the special status of Palestinians in Lebanon, to subject them to existing laws governing aliens, and to restrict their political activity.
When the Israeli Army entered West Beirut, some Israelis feared that this new offensive might be followed by a massacre of Palestinians and the destruction of their camps. Uri Avneri, former Knesset member and chairman of the Council for Israeli- Palestinian Peace shared this concern. This Friday, September 17, Avneri issued a statement accusing General Sharon of seeking to destroy the refugee camps of West Beirut under the guise of a military operation, as he had already done at Ayn el-Hilwe near Sidon, Rashidiyeh and Burj el-Shamali, near Tyre. Avneri warned that Sharon's plan would "thus inflict new and terrible suffering upon tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians who have already suffered enough from this war." The statement appeared that morning in the Israeli press.
Throughout the day, Israeli troops proceeded to destroy the last pockets of resistance in the capital. The clashes became occasionally very heavy, particularly in neighborhoods where the Israelis took control of the headquarters of progressive Lebanese organizations. On Corniche el-Mazra'a, Israeli forces occupied the main office of the PLO as well as that of al-Hadaf, the mouthpiece of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) headed by George Habash. The headquarters of both Nasserist organizations, the Murabitoun and the Arab Socialist Union, were also blockaded. The main headquarters of the Progressive Socialist Party headed by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt was first taken by the militiamen of Sa'ad Haddad and then handed over to the Israelis. Throughout these raids, Israeli forces rounded up hundreds of people in the residential areas of the city. The detainees, mostly young people, were led to the Stadium where their identities were verified. Those "suspected of terrorism" were imprisoned, the rest were released.
On the diplomatic scene, protest against the entry of Israeli troops into West Beirut continued to intensify. However, President Reagan's statement was well received by Menachem Begin. Reagan in effect expressed his conviction that Israel "was forced to advance because of an attack by a leftist militia still on the scene." For its part, the State Department pursued its objectives in a different direction. In the afternoon, the Israeli ministers of defense and foreign affairs, Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Shamir, met again with U.S. special envoy Morris Draper. The American diplomat had clashed with Ariel Sharon on several previous occasions. Draper requested that the Israeli Army, as soon as possible surrender its positions in the center of the city to the Lebanese Army. According to Ha'aretz, Sharon answered him: "The New Year will be starting in a few hours, and we won't be able to do anything in this regard.'' Draper retorted: "We will lose precious days in the process of transferring the city to the Lebanese Army." Sharon replied that "The entry of Tzahal brings about peace and security, and prevents a massacre of the Palestinian population in the western part of town."
At this time, neither the Israeli public nor the rest of the world was aware of the massacre unfolding in West Beirut. The two largest Israeli evening papers, Yedi'ot Aharonot and Ma'ariv, released their special New Year edition. The chief of staff granted both papers an interview for this occasion. It was given the following title: "Our entry into West Beirut prevented a catastrophe."
In their bases throughout Beirut and its outskirts, Israeli soldiers were sitting around tables decorated for the New Year. The military correspondent of Israeli television, Ron Ben-Yishai, was in the company of high-ranking Israeli officers in a unit based at Ba'abda, an eastern suburb of Beirut. At 8:00 P.M., Ben-Yishai overheard a group of officers from a tank battalion that surrounded Shatila recount that a soldier and an officer from their unit had watched camp residents being lined up against the wall and summarily executed. They mentioned many "horrors," including the case of one resident who was killed with a shot to the head for refusing to follow the militiamen. The commander of the tank battalion answered that he would initiate an inquiry the next day and would go, if necessary, as far as the chief of staff in order to uncover the truth. The officers continued to discuss events in the camps throughout the rest of the evening. At 11:30, the correspondent told them: "if you are certain of what you are describing; I will call the minister of defense." Then he immediately telephoned Sharon at his farm. (Military correspondents always have the private telephone number of the defense minister). Ben-Yishai told him in a distressed voice: "Something must be done immediately to put an end to this ... IDF soldiers had witnessed executions and murders... In a few hours, the entire world press will know the news, and then we'll be in a big mess." Sharon listened attentively and asked the reporter if he had any further details. Ben-Yishai confirmed that Israeli soldiers had witnessed summary executions at Shatila, not far from the division's headquarters. He stated afterwards: "Sharon hardly spoke. We greeted each other on the Jewish New Year and hung up. My impression is that he was rather aware of the developments in the camps."
Throughout, the day on Friday, several foreign journalists tried to enter the camps after they heard alarming rumors concerning events inside Sabra and Shatila. At 8:00 A;M., Roy Wilkinson of Newsweek, was stopped at a roadblock manned by Israeli soldiers and Phalangist militiamen. While talking to the soldiers, a militiaman rushed to the roadblock and announced: "I have found an old man." "Shoot him," came the reply. (Newsweek, October 4, 1982). An Israeli officer named Elie explained to him that Israeli forces had been ordered not to disturb the militias who "were mopping up the area."

* * *


Saturday, September 18, 1982


The carnage resumed at dawn to last until mid-morning. Everywhere, the militiamen continued to kill people and bulldoze buildings. Teams were charged with discreetly filling the mass graves.
At 6:00 A.M., a group of militiamen with bullhorns called upon the residents to come out of their homes and shelters. "Sallmu tislamu" (Surrender and you'll be unharmed), they repeated throughout the alleys. Several hundred people (more than a thousand, according to some), came out bewildered and gathered on the main street. They brandished white and Lebanese flags. For the most part, the crowd consisted of elderly people, women and children. They were marched at gunpoint southward down to Abu Hassan Salameh Street, the main street of Shatila. Along the way, militiamen would take small groups of people, line them against a wall and execute them. Then, the bulldozer would destroy the house to cover the bodies under the rubble. Near the camp entrance, Phalangists separated Palestinians from Lebanese dividing the Palestinians between men and women. They were forced to sit down along the road. Corpses were scattered all around them. The noise of the bulldozer demolishing homes became infernal. A little later, a group of Palestinians were chosen and taken away by militiamen. They made he men climb onto trucks parked in front of the Kuwaiti Embassy. Since there was not enough room for everyone, they made the remaining prisoners lie face down on the ground so as not to see in which direction the trucks went.
People taken by the militiamen were never seen again. Often, seconds after a new group departed, the noise of sustained firing would be heard. One of the Palestinians overheard a Phalangist militiaman telling one of his comrades: "It would be better to liquidate as many as possible before turning them over to the Israelis."
At 8:00 A.M., the militiamen ordered the residents of Shatila to go to the southern entrance. Just outside the gate, a man sitting in a Land-Rover identified them as they passed by him. Those singled out by the militiaman were immediately led away, never to be seen again. Some women testified later that these men were seen being loaded onto trucks. The rest continued winding around the camp on their way to the Stadium. Suddenly, an explosion took place killing several of them. No one knows whether it was a mine or a grenade that caused the explosion.
From his nearby headquarters next to the Kuwaiti Embassy, Israeli Brigadier General Amos Yaron noticed this parade of elderly people, women and children, who were crying and wearing tattered and blood-stained clothes. He grabbed a megaphone and announced that the women and children could go home and that nothing would happen to them. Israeli soldiers gave them bread, water and oranges. The men, however, were taken inside the Stadium for interrogation. The Israelis asked them to "reveal terrorist hideouts." One man, who was later released, answered that "the fighters left Beirut by ship." The investigator threatened him by saying: "If you do not tell us the truth, you know that the Phalangists and Sa'ad Haddad's men are here!" indeed, the militiamen were inside the Stadium as well. Later, 28 dead prisoners were discovered on the premises with their hands tied behind their backs. Four bodies were found in the swimming pool.
Meanwhile, at six or seven o’clock (according to different witnesses), seven Phalangist militiamen came to Gaza Hospital in the northern part of Sabra. They ordered the medical staff (22 doctors and nurses) to gather by the entrance. Only one doctor and one nurse were allowed to remain and care for the sick and injured. Members of the medical team came from Britain, Ireland, West Germany, France, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and the United States which was represented by a Jewish woman named Ellen Siegel. The group also included two Palestinian male medics. After a few attempts at intimidating and insulting "these scoundrels who work for our enemies," a militiaman asked one of the Palestinian medics to identify himself. The Norwegian physician, Dr. Per Maehlumshagen intervened and inquired about the purpose of this identity verification. The militiaman responded: "You do your job and I will do mine." The Palestinian male nurse was dragged out of the line where he was murdered. His Palestinian comrade and another Syrian staff member were gunned down later. The rest of the medical team was marched down the main street of Shatila where hundreds of people were gathered. They were taken to Phalangist headquarters in the United Nations building near the Kuwaiti Embassy traffic circle. The militiamen marching them were shouting: "These are the Baader-Meinhof gang" and "Communist scum." At that moment, Israeli Brigadier General Amos Yaron stopped the group and ordered the Phalangists, who were wearing black berets and displaying MP insignias on their uniforms, to release the prisoners. They were then turned over to the Israeli authorities who proceeded to identify them. They were offered food and water, then released.
Throughout the morning, many camp residents were led away never to be seen again. They were mostly crammed onto trucks headed for unknown destinations. The fate of these missing persons is one of the most ponderous mysteries of the whole affair. Undoubtedly, their exact number will never be known. Bodies, apparently thrown off the trucks, were later discovered along the roads to the south passing through Ouzai, Khalde, Haret el-Naimeh, and Kafr Shima. Other bodies were also found on the way to the airport.
At 10:00 A.M., calm returned to the camps. No living soul was visible. Bodies were scattered near the entrance of Shatila and in the first alleys. The suffocating stench grew worse due to the intense heat. The only detectable noise was that of flies swarming over the corpses. The first Israeli tanks approached the gate; this meant that the ordeal was over. One after another, the militiamen of the Lebanese Forces got into their vehicles and evacuated the camps returning to their bases.
Gradually, camp residents began to emerge. Those who managed to escape started to return. In an indescribable state of confusion, they began their search through the rubble to relocate members of their families. What began as cries turned into screams of pain. At noon, the first contingents of the Lebanese Army arrived and immediately closed down the camps.
Terrorized refugees, who managed to leave the camps, were the first to inform the outside world of what happened. By noon, correspondents from the press, radio and television rushed toward Sabra and Shatila. The pictures they published and the descriptions they broadcast had a considerable impact. Here is an example of the tone of these early reports:

Washington Post correspondent Loren Jenkins wrote:

Houses had been dynamited and bulldozed into rubble, often with their inhabitants still inside. Groups of bodies lay like mannequins dropped from the sky before bullet-pocked walls where they appeared to have been executed. Others were draped in alleys and streets, apparently shot as they tried to escape.

In one modest garden, two matronly women lay like limp sacks of grain on a mound of rubble out of which a baby's head poked, its open eyes glazed in death. Next to them, a baby in diapers, perhaps less than a year old, lay face down, its head blown apart.

Around the corner, in another alley, two young girls, one maybe 11, the other not more than a year older, lay on their backs, legs spread apart on the ground, each with a bullet hole in the side of the head. Twenty feet further along, eight men had been machine-gunned against a cinderblock house bearing the red painted numbers 422 and 424 in Arabic script.

Each little dirt alley through the deserted buildings, where Palestinians have lived since fleeing Palestine when Israel was created in 1948, told its own horror story.

In one, 16 men lay piled on top of each other, frozen into grotesque, contorted positions. Nearby, in a small, simple concrete patio, a lone woman about 40 years old, wearing a gingham dress and with her head in a scarf, lay flat on her back staring at the blue sky overhead. There was a bullet hole in her chest, exactly between the swell of her breasts.

Farther up the main street of the camp that leads toward the Palestinian shanty-town of Sabra, other bodies lay twisted amid the rubble of buildings bulldozed out of the way. Next to a small shop, the body of 70-year- old Abu Diab Derani was crumpled against a wall, his head buried in the dirt, a hand outstretched in a surreal pose toward a lone woman's shoe in the dirt. He had been shot at close range in the temple. (Washington Post, September 19, 1982).

American and European journalists and diplomats -among them the French ambassador, Paul-Marc Henri- moved rapidly through what was left of the camp's alleyways. They discovered hundreds of scattered bodies and mangled limbs: a mother hugging her baby in her arms, both shot with a bullet in the head; naked women with their feet and wrists tied behind them; a baby whose head had been crushed laid in a pool of blood with a milk-feeding bottle next to him. Near one home, the mutilated parts of a baby were carefully lined up in a circle on an ironing board with the head placed on top.
Statistics gathered by UNICEF show that 10 children were killed for every fallen fighter during the war in Lebanon. At Sabra and Shatila, it seemed that the murderers were particularly bent on attacking children. A completely overwhelmed mother told journalists: "I begged them to spare the life of my 5-year-old son, but they answered: 'When he grows up he will become a terrorist,' then they killed him." The assassins placed unpinned grenades under some corpses to blow up the relatives who came to retrieve the bodies. Many victims were tortured before they were killed and some were clearly mutilated after their death.
One by one, dumbfounded journalists counted the bodies. One of them counted up to eighty, then stopped and vomited. Another journalist counted 150 corpses in one cluster of homes. However, these numbers did not constitute a death count because many victims were buried under the rubble of bulldozed homes. Some had obviously been dead since Thursday morning, others only for a few hours. Many victims were buried in mass graves hastily dug by the militias. Limbs, heads, arms, and legs protruded from the freshly turned dirt.
Religious icons hung starkly on a solitary wall -all that remained of a demolished home. The residents, obviously Christians, had also been massacred. Dressed in black, 35-year-old Jamila whose husband works in Saudi Arabia told journalists: "Once the firing started on Thursday evening I ran away from home with my two daughters. Snipers posted around Shatila blocked all access to and from the camp; however, I managed to sneak through an alley to Akka Hospital." The woman's 17-year-old daughter, Amal, interrupted saying: "My grandmother left the camp to buy some food. She returned but didn't make it to the hospital. Since that evening, we heard men screaming: ‘They are slaughtering them! They are slaughtering them!' We started believing them when the first wounded arrived at the hospital and we saw how they were shot at point-blank. One of them told us how in one location, 30 people were lined up against the wall and shot to death."
Jamila resumed: "On Friday morning, I went back to the camp looking for my mother. A militiaman took me by surprise, grabbed my arm and led me into a house near mine. There were four other soldiers inside. He told me: 'Take off your clothes and let them do what they want, otherwise; you'll be in trouble'; then they raped me." Turning to the journalists, she added: "I beg you not to publish my family name, you understand ... shame.... " She explained that the militiamen finally spared her life because she was Lebanese. She had her passport on her and she showed it to them. However, her parents, her cousins and her brother were not so lucky. "When I got home I found my mother's body outside in the street. I covered her with a blanket. Then I found my father's body. He was killed in his bed with his wheelchair parked beside him. He was disabled. The house was partially destroyed either by bulldozer or dynamite, I couldn't tell. Look, I no longer have a house, or money or anything. What am I going to do?" she asked, pointing at what was left of her apartment. At that moment, her second daughter arrived and announced: "They found my uncle." Jamila ran with her daughters to a spot where Red Cross rescue workers were pulling a body from the rubble. She stopped, identified her brother and collapsed screaming with pain.
Another survivor stood before the ruins of her apartment and told her neighbor's story: "My next-door neighbor who lived across from us stayed home with her family. They undoubtedly didn't know what was happening. For a long time we have both lived through the noise of combat and bombardment. When we returned we found her, hands and feet tied, butchered with a knife. Her undergarments were torn off and I believe she was raped. We haven't seen any member of her family." Asked if she saw the killers, the woman replied: "Yes, they were not Israelis. They wore mustard-green uniforms without markings. Some had the insignia of the Lebanese Forces on their chest and the symbol of Sa'ad Haddad's "Free Lebanon" on their shoulders." Other survivors around her confirmed these details.
On the walls which are still standing, the graffiti written by the militiamen was still visible. For example: "Tony passed by here. God, country, family [Phalangist slogan]. Signed: the Kata'ib." In another spot, someone wrote: "The Forces of Ba'abdat'' (a village located near Bikfaya). Other writings included abusive insults and obscenities.
Sitting on a rock, a woman murmured: "My mother, my grandmother, my uncles, my aunts, all of them, go see, they are all in the courtyard." Next to her, a woman from Shatila who had managed to save all her children told the journalists: "Only those who knew how to run were saved." All around, women still in shock, wandered back and forth like robots. Many brandished pictures of a missing husband, brother, or son, as they sought assistance to locate their loved ones. The atmosphere inside the camps was intolerable. Tension mounted as the truth became evident. The assailants did not even spare the animals -the corpses of three horses, dogs and cats were found.
Lebanese Army soldiers and Red Cross rescue workers who arrived at the camps after the massacre pointed out to the world press the multi-story building overlooking Shatila which served as headquarters for the Israeli Army. One of the rescue workers asked: "Can someone believe that from there they could not see what was happening here? It is right under the Israelis' noses!" The journalists tried to talk privately with some Israeli officers who had been in the vicinity during the last two days, particularly those stationed at Israeli headquarters. Many of these soldiers appeared genuinely shocked at the enormity of the massacre. One of them cried bitterly. Another told an Israeli journalist: "I can't tell the truth today. I must remain silent. One day, however, I will speak." The majority of Israeli soldiers adhered strictly to their orders stating: "We did not know." A second lieutenant, 20 years of age, told a French television crew: "It was very quiet in my corner, I have not heard anything." Another officer declared: "We have not done anything. We are not responsible for Phalangist misdeeds." A jittery young soldier grabbed one of the correspondents of the Israeli daily, Ma'ariv, scolding him: "Why does the press do that? Why must you write all this? Why take all these pictures? Why all these revelations? Who needs this? This only serves our enemies!"
For their part, the Phalangists seemed rather proud. An officer in the Lebanese Forces told an American reporter: "We have waited for years to be able to enter the camps of West Beirut. The Israelis chose us because we are better than they at this kind of house-to-house operation." When the journalist asked him if they had taken any prisoners, he responded: "This is not the kind of operation in which prisoners are taken."
A little past noon, the first news of the massacre was transmitted to the world through the Israeli press center at Ba'abdat, east of Beirut. All other lines of international telephone and telex communications were cut off in Beirut since early morning. In Israel, this was the first day of the Jewish New Year. Israeli radio broadcast holiday programs and light music. At 2:00 P.M., Israel's national radio, Kol Yisrael, announced in its news bulletin: "Correspondents report from Beirut that Christian militiamen killed hundreds of residents in the refugee camps of West Beirut."
According to sources close to Menachem Begin, the prime minister did not learn of the massacre until 5:00 P.M., while listening to the BBC news bulletin, i.e., 48 hours after the attack was launched. Begin's military aide, Lieutenant Colonel Azriel Nivo confirmed that he also did not learn of the massacre until Saturday afternoon. Similarly, the cabinet's secretary, Dan Meridor, said that he first learned of the developments at 3:00 P.M. from a United Press correspondent in Israel. However, in his deposition before the Commission of Inquiry, Rafael Eitan maintained that Menachem Begin had called him at 9:00 A.M. on Saturday to inform him of American complaints regarding developments at Gaza Hospital. Begin stated before this same Commission of Inquiry: "I do not recall this conversation."
On the scene, high-ranking Israeli officers were visibly embarrassed. At mid-afternoon, General Amir Drori ordered his men not to enter the camps. He feared that the presence of Israeli soldiers inside Shatila might be interpreted by reporters and photographers as evidence of active Israeli participation in the carnage. The first official reports released in Israel demonstrated unquestionably a desire to deny any responsibility for the affair. At noon, the Israeli military spokesman told journalists in Tel Aviv: "We do not know anything about these alleged massacres. There is no Israeli presence in the camps themselves. We do not know what is happening in these camps, and we are trying to establish the facts." In its news bulletin at 8:00 P.M., the Voice of Israel announced that "according to authoritative Military sources (a reference to the official military spokesman who did not want the statement directly attributed to him), Phalangists entered the vicinity of Shatila yesterday. On their way out they reported to Israeli forces that fierce fighting took place resulting in casualties on both sides. The army intervened to put an end to the hostilities." Then, in the part of the statement directed at the Israeli public, the source attempted to justify Israeli actions by stating: "Instead of reproaching our armed forces we should rather congratulate them for intervening, belatedly, but in a situation where they did not have to intervene, thus preventing a much larger tragedy...."
A little before midnight the Foreign Ministry released an official communiqué, stating for the first time that "Israel condemns the massacre." The statement added that "there was an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and extremist Phalangists who took part in the criminal acts." How did these "extremists" enter the camps? Who planned their arrival and authorized their entry into the camps? No answer was given to these questions. That evening, news of the massacre was broadcast all over the world via radio and television. Journalists stated what the Israeli Foreign Ministry failed to mention: the massacre unfolded before the eyes of Israeli soldiers who failed to do anything about it.
In the United States, these revelations provoked great embarrassment in the Jewish community, especially after President Reagan attributed to Israel a large share of the responsibility for the massacre. In a statement marked by unprecedented harshness toward the Jewish ally, Reagan recalled that Israel had justified its occupation of West Beirut by stressing that "its move would prevent the sort of tragedy which has now occurred." Furthermore, a high-ranking American official confirmed that the United States "would be extremely surprised if Israel was really unaware of what happened in the camps.'' He added: "Israeli forces evidently controlled the whole sector where the massacres occurred." This time, the Americans were not sparing in their criticism of the Begin government. According to an Israeli journalist, the Americans did so, "perhaps because they themselves felt part of the responsibility. After all, they were the ones who gave Israel the green light to launch its war on Lebanon. The massacre is a consequence of that war that could have been anticipated."
Upon hearing the news originating from Sabra and Shatila, American diplomats in Tel Aviv remarked that Lebanese intermediaries who participated in negotiating the evacuation of the PLO from Beirut, had repeatedly expressed their fear of a Phalangist massacre of camp residents. At the time, Philip Habib and his deputy Morris Draper, assured them that they had received "firm and clear commitment” from representatives of the Israeli government and military that such a massacre would not occur. "Now, we feel that by trusting Israeli promises, we have abandoned the Palestinian residents of the camps to their fate," the diplomats added. The day after the massacre, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, published the following remark by an American diplomat stationed in Tel Aviv: "They [the Palestinians] have placed their confidence in us. And we placed our trust in you. Now we realize our mistake, but it is too late." President Reagan, in a written statement issued this Saturday, clearly accused Israel of violating the agreement for the evacuation of the PLO from Beirut by "thwarting" the efforts of the Lebanese Army to take control of the western sector of the capital.
After these reactions, the Israeli military command in Beirut met with high-ranking Lebanese Army officers to coordinate the latter's entry into the refugee camps and other positions to be vacated by the Israelis, particularly the main "Bank District" in West Beirut. However, throughout the rest of the city, the Israeli Army continued to attend to its business as if nothing had happened. Throughout the day, a thousand suspects were questioned and led to the screening center at the Sports Stadium adjoining Sabra. Women stood weeping at the gate of this huge and damaged structure. They were kept at a distance behind a barricade manned by Israeli soldiers who were supported by several armored troop carriers (M-113s). Inside, groups of men were quietly sitting on the ground waiting to be checked and interrogated.
Outside the Stadium, a journalist was drafting an article which he planned to transmit that evening to his newspaper far from Lebanon. He wrote: "I am standing near the Sports Stadium of Beirut. It is here that this horrible war of Lebanon started with the Israeli aerial bombardment on the afternoon of June 4, 1982. This war has found its monstrous conclusion at the nearby camps of Sabra and Shatila. During these two days of September 16-18, 1982, the cycle has been completed . It all started with the so-called 'Peace for the Galilee,' only to end with one of the most abominable and terrifying pogroms since World War II.

* * *

Sunday, September 19, 1982

Sunday morning, the bodies of victims were still scattered throughout the streets and under the rubble of Sabra and Shatila. The noxious stench of decomposed bodies filled the air for hundreds of meters around the camps. Some of the corpses had been lying under the blazing sun since Thursday. Red Cross rescue teams and Lebanese soldiers continued their search, uncovering bodies of men, women, elderly people and children from the rubble. They wore black gas masks and rubber gloves to protect themselves. The recovered bodies were carried to an empty lot by the entrance to Shatila.
The corpses were gathered near a huge grave. Some were wrapped in blankets, others were bare. Many were disfigured beyond recognition. At the feet of one body lay the rope used to tie the victim. Now and then, a Red Cross ambulance would appear, bringing another load of corpses. A young Palestinian woman in the late stages of pregnancy moved from one body to another, hoping to locate her husband or other members of her family. Everyone looked as if they had just returned from hell. Some cried, some trembled uncontrollably. Others still dazed, moved around like robots. Before long, screaming began; the hysterical shrieks of mothers who identified their children' s corpses, of women who recognized their husbands, and children collapsing on top of the bodies of their parents.
Once a body was identified, it was placed inside a large plastic bag. Rescue workers formed a chain to pass the identified bodies to the: massive grave. The bodies were lined up one next to the other. Employees of the Red Cross stood impassively listing the names of the victims in a register as the work went on. Often, families requested to recover the remains of their relatives for private burial ceremonies according to religious rites at the neighboring Muslim cemetery.
The number of journalists in the area increased. They roamed from one part of the camps to the other. Near a ramshackle house, an 11-year-old girl and her mother stood motionless and haggard. They were the sole survivors in a family of eight people. No living soul was visible in the neighborhood. "All the neighbors are dead," the adolescent whispered softly.
In the evening, the camps were deserted. A large segment of the terrorized population preferred to live from hand to mouth, sleeping for a week in public parks or schools in different neighborhoods around Beirut.
Medical and rescue teams charged with searching for corpses and burying them in mass graves included eleven different organizations and associations in addition to the Lebanese Army. Among them were the International Red Cross, the Lebanese Red Cross, the Civil Defense, and even the Boy Scouts. Coordination among the diverse groups was limited, if not totally nonexistent. As a result, estimates of the total number of victims were contradictory and varied from one source to another. Undoubtedly, the exact number will never be known. The dislocation of the population in the aftermath of the massacre, the large number of corpses which remained buried under the rubble or in mass graves dug by the Phalangists and the large number of missing people all made a precise count extremely difficult.
Contradictory numbers began to circulate soon after the massacre stopped. On September 22, the Red Cross announced that 663 bodies were recovered and buried. On October 14, the Beirut daily, L'Orient-le-Jour, quoted official Lebanese sources who put the total figure at 762 recovered bodies in Sabra and Shatila. The report listed three groups: 212 unidentified bodies buried in mass graves, 302 bodies were identified and cremated by local rescue teams, and 248 corpses identified and buried by the International Red Cross. According to the same sources, "around 1200 bodies were claimed by their families and buried in private graves." This brings the total close to 2000 victims.
However, there are three other categories of victims which must be added to the 2000 bodies which were recovered, buried, or cremated after the massacre.
1. Those who were buried by Phalangist assailants in mass graves during the carnage. It is impossible to accurately determine this number because the Lebanese authorities prevented anyone from unearthing these graves. The estimates are very rough and tend to revolve around a few hundred victims.
2. Those bodies which remained buried under the rubble of some 200 destroyed homes. Estimates in this case are also extremely difficult. The number most commonly circulated is a few hundred. On the first day of rescue efforts, 115 bodies were retrieved from the rubble. Fifty-six more were found on the second day. However, after a few days, this type of search was abandoned because of the advanced decomposition of the corpses. For both of these categories, an estimate of several hundred victims is considered "reasonable" by all those who pondered this question.
3. Finally, the third category: the missing. On September 23, the French News Agency (AFP) estimated the number of missing at 2000. These include all the people who were transported from the camps on trucks and taken to unknown destinations. Camp survivors were not the only eyewitnesses: A Danish reporter also witnessed a loaded truck leave Shatila on Friday, September 17, 1982. The New York Times wrote that American diplomats feared that these people might have been taken to South Lebanon and massacred. The total number in this category could be reasonably estimated at several hundred even though some of the missing were later accounted for.
If all these categories were added together, the number of victims reaches approximately 3000 people. Between 3,000-3,500 men, women and children were massacred within 48 hours between September 16 and 18, 1982. The total population of both camps on the eve of the massacre reached 20,000. Of the 302 bodies initially identified by the Lebanese authorities, 136 were Lebanese citizens. It is estimated that approximately one-fourth of the victims were Lebanese, and the rest Palestinians.
At 11:00 A.M. on Sunday, the Lebanese Army took position inside the camps of Sabra and Shatila. Lebanese troops arrived in force aboard troop carriers and tanks taking control of the whole vicinity of the camps. Upon their arrival, Israeli soldiers completely withdrew from the area, including the Sports Stadium facilities where since Saturday, they held the entire male population of the area for identification purposes.
Throughout this war, Israeli soldiers have seized every opportunity to talk with journalists. Now they were suddenly speechless. The military correspondent of Ma'ariv wrote: "I have never seen our soldiers so silent throughout this war... They listened to our questions, but did not answer. Only one non-commissioned officer opened his mouth, saying that Eli Geva was right."[2]
A Lebanese Army officer stationed at the gate of Shatila reprimanded an Israeli journalist in these words: "How could you [Israelis] permit the Phalangists to enter the camps and carry out this carnage when we trusted you to protect the population of Beirut? You should be ashamed." Even in the residential neighborhoods of the city, the Israelis encountered signs of increasing hostility. "You have nothing to do here, go away!" the residents shouted at Israeli soldiers.
Israeli units continued to carry out search-and-seizure operations in the city throughout the day. The Israeli Army occupied the Palestine Research Center, where they confiscated all archives and documents found on the premises. Near the race-track, Israeli paratroopers burst into the sixth-floor apartment of the redoubtable Leila Khalid. They searched all the rooms, confiscating photographs and documents, including her passport. Place and date of birth: Haifa [Palestine], 1946.
This Sunday, the Lebanese press published headlines that screamed the news of the massacre including pictures of the victims on several pages. The headline in L’Orient-le-Jour read: "Dreadful Massacre in Sabra and Shatila." A similar title appeared in al-Nahar. The leftist daily, al-Safir, wrote: "Bloodbath Inside the Camps." As for al-Nida, the mouthpiece of the Lebanese Communist Party, its front page headline read: "The Worst Zionist Carnage Inside the Camps." The paper included a full page of photographs with a single word written in large black letters: "Nazis."
The Lebanese authorities preferred to lay the blame entirely on the militiamen of Major Sa'ad Haddad, the staunch ally of Israel; but at times, they would place direct blame on Israel, which controlled the camps and was consequently responsible for what happened there. Former Prime Minister Sa'eb Salam, for example, absolved the Kata'ib from any suspicion. When questioned about the fact that most of the assailants wore uniforms of the Lebanese Forces, he responded that these were "disguises in order to instigate trouble between Muslims and Christians." Sheikh Amin Gemayel, who was elected president of Lebanon on September 21 by an overwhelming majority of 77 votes, denied any participation in the carnage by the Kata'ib or the Lebanese Forces. In a private discussion with some diplomats, he accused Israel of direct responsibility for the massacre.
Many politicians in Lebanon have privately admitted knowing the identity of those responsible for the massacre. However, no one of any political persuasion publicly accused the Phalangists of wrongdoing. National reconciliation, sought by all Lebanese to bring about the end of Israeli occupation and guarantee the independence and unity of Lebanon, surpassed all other concerns. Even the secretary general of the Lebanese Communist Party, Georges Hawi, avoided any public condemnation of his traditional Phalangist adversaries. He accused Israel which, according to him, sought to "incite the Lebanese against each other," by placing the responsibility for the massacre on the Lebanese Forces. Likewise, the daily al-Safir cleared the Kata'ib Party of all charges, writing that the Lebanese tend to take seriously the denial by the Lebanese Forces of any wrongdoing. Christian Lebanese writer Samir Franjiye explains this unanimity as follows:

1. National unity between Christians and Muslims is henceforth more indispensable than ever before. Thus, everything should be done to avoid interconfessional conflict which might be exploited by Israel.

2. A direct accusation of the Phalangists would eliminate their candidate Amin Gemayel from the forthcoming presidential elections, thus clearing the way for Israel's candidate Camille Chamoun who, unlike Gemayel, is disposed to immediately sign a peace treaty with Israel.

3. By accusing Israel of direct responsibility for the massacre, the demand for Israeli military withdrawal from Lebanon becomes more imperative. For the present, the primary objective is to get rid of the Israelis.

Thus, all Lebanese concurred that their commission of inquiry into the massacre of Sabra and Shatila should not reach any tangible conclusion. The commission, which was to begin its deliberations on October 18, 1982, was headed by military prosecutor As'ad Germanos. Was the Phalangist officer named "Michel" expected to testify before the commission? This was doubtful, even though he was interviewed October 3 on Israeli television where he explicitly admitted having personally killed Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila. Michel is a 24-year-old engineering graduate who has been a member of the Phalangist Party for eight years and served as one of Elie Hobeika's aides-de-camp. Israeli Television reporter, Dan Scemama, asked him: "Have you participated in the massacre of women and children in Sabra and Shatila? Michel responded: "What massacre of women and children? This is much ado about nothing ... I was in Shatila and Sabra, and I killed Palestinians ... I killed only 15 Palestinians in the camps, but I will continue to kill them all my life ... I hate them. I do not consider myself a killer. Thousands more will be assassinated and starved until they get out of our country." This interview was taped at an Israeli television studio in East Beirut. Michel, with his trimmed moustache, was perfectly calm. He spoke French fluently. Asked whether Christian militiamen were responsible, he said: "I am not interested in who was there. For my part, I was very happy with what happened there ... The world is responsible for what happened." Dan Scemama commented that, after the interview, his guest added in private: "A good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian. The best thing Israel has ever done was the massacre of Deir Yassin." (Los Angeles Times, October 4, 1982).
The Israelis knew the names of the Phalangist officers who entered the camps between the 16th and 18th of September. The military correspondent of Ma'ariv wrote on September 21, 1982, that "The names of the Phalangist commanders who were in the camps are in the hands of the IDF (Israeli Army), but at this stage there is no intention to publicize them for fear of a breach with the Christian elements in Lebanon." For their part, the Lebanese Forces decided to appoint their own "commission of inquiry" alongside that of the Lebanese Army. The new commission was headed by ... Elie Hobeika!
Throughout the world indignant protestations were voiced clearly linking the massacre with the Israeli occupation of West Beirut. All brought to light the contradiction between the reasons given for this new Israeli intervention, officially aimed at "preventing bloodshed" and its consequences in the refugee camps. In Israel, despite an occasional sign of disarray, official reactions on Sunday had one single objective: to vindicate and absolve Israel of any suspicion. One after the other, civilian and military officials issued several versions, often including contradictions and distortions to the point that they were immediately criticized by the press.
The initial Israeli attempt was to belittle the event and dissociate Israel from it. Official spokesmen insisted that Israel and Major Haddad had absolutely nothing to do with the massacre. On Sunday evening, Israeli television broadcast a taped interview with Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan in which he declared that the carnage did not actually start until Friday evening. On the other hand, military sources added that "the assailants entered through a gap in the eastern part of the camp, where the Lebanese Army was supposed to be in control of the situation." Israeli journalists immediately noticed that this statement totally contradicted the declarations of Ariel Sharon and Rafael Eitan, which appeared in the press the previous Friday. Sharon and Eitan claimed that "the refugee camps of West Beirut were entirely surrounded and controlled by the Israeli Army." Besides, everyone knew by then that the militiamen entered the camps from the south with the approval of the Israeli Army. Evidence to this effect was abundant. Furthermore, the decision to allow the Phalangists into the camps was also endorsed by the Israeli government on Thursday evening.
Early in the evening, General Eitan held an impromptu press conference in Beirut in which he denied any responsibility for the atrocities committed by the Phalangists. When asked if Israel had authorized the Phalangist entry into the camps, Eitan responded tensely: "We don't give the Phalangists orders, and we're not responsible for them. The Phalangists are Lebanese, and Lebanon is theirs, and they act as they see fit. The Phalangists went fighting within this camp here, Shatila, according to their guidelines, if you can call them that, of warfare. We didn't really know what was going on. It was at night. It was assumed to be ordinary fighting. Then in the morning light, we saw what was happening and what could happen further, we intervened quickly." (New York Times, September 26, 1982).
The chief of staff then laid the blame on the Lebanese Army for refusing to enter the camps, and on the Americans, whom he held responsible for the massacre. This attitude was not new. In his television interview, the chief of staff had already accused the Americans, particularly special envoy Morris Draper, of preventing the Israeli Army from "conducting direct contacts with the Lebanese Army with the aim of coordinating military moves in West Beirut." This, according to Eitan, prevented Lebanese troops from entering the camps. On this subject, we know today that Lebanese Prime Minister Shafiq el-Wazzan, totally refused to collaborate with the Israeli Army after its entry into West Beirut.
In Israel, it was the second day of the New Year holiday. Everything was closed. The streets were exceptionally quiet. Newspapers were not printed, but the information broadcast on-the-hour by radio caused confusion and shock. Soon, the first telephone calls were exchanged by the activists of "Shalom Akhshav," the Peace Now Movement. A decision was quickly made to hold a late-morning demonstration in front of the prime minister's residence to protest his policies which they believed to have brought about the massacre. There were approximately one thousand demonstrators: scientists, artists and intellectuals, in addition to activists from the Peace Now movement. They were also joined by some deputies from the Labor Party and several religious figures. A few parents who had lost their sons in battle during the war in Lebanon also appeared at the demonstration site. The demonstrators began shouting slogans such as: ''Begin is a terrorist,'' "Begin is a murderer,'' ''Beirut-Deir Yassin 1982,"[3] ''Down with Sharon, the butcher of Qibya."[4].
The demonstration in front of Begin's residence was violently dispersed by Israeli police using truncheons and tear-gas shells. The poet, Haim Gouri, declared: " I am not crying because of the gas, I am crying because of the murder of children, women and families in Beirut." Eighty-year-old Professor Epstein said with sobs: "I am ashamed to be Israeli after what happened in Beirut. This reminds me of the Nazis who led the Ukrainians into the ghetto in order to murder the Jews. I don't understand how this could have happened to us."
During the afternoon, another spontaneous demonstration erupted in Tel Aviv led by hundreds of youth mostly from Peace Now. This demonstration was also harshly quelled by the police. The same slogans were heard: "Begin murderer," and "No more Deir Yassin." The Committee Against the War in Lebanon distributed a leaflet stating that: "Those who invaded Lebanon, those who ordered the Israeli Army to enter West Beirut, those who allied themselves with Phalangist murderers and helped them to enter the refugee camps -those are the ones responsible for the massacre of Palestinians. Those who disarmed the residents of West Beirut and delivered them to their enemies -they are the ones responsible for the massacre. Those who made the decision to 'establish order in Beirut,' are the ones responsible for the massacre committed by the 'guardians' they appointed. Begin, Sharon, and Eitan are fully responsible for the assassination of hundreds of elderly people, women and children." (Published the following day in Ha'aretz, September 20, 1982).
At 9:00 P.M., Israeli television news broadcast a statement by Shimon Peres, the leader of the Labor opposition, calling for the resignations of Menachem Begin and General Sharon. Peres also demanded the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from West Beirut.
The Jewish New Year holiday was over. Life returned to normal throughout Israel. At 10:00 P.M., the cabinet met in a special session. The prime minister opened the discussion declaring: "The question on the agenda is not the massacre of Beirut, but the 'frontal assault against the State of Israel and the Jewish people.' " Referring to the age-old axiom whereby the best defense is offense itself, the prime minister told his cabinet colleagues: "Goyim [Gentiles] killing other goyim, and they accuse the Jews!"
Mordechai Zippori, the minister of communication, harshly criticized the developments since the Israeli entry into West Beirut. He argued: "We intervened to prevent anarchy. We were the only military force on the scene. Therefore, from the international viewpoint, the responsibility for what happened is ours." Yitzhak Berman, the Cabinet minister who later resigned, demanded the establishment of a commission of inquiry. Begin answered him: "The establishment of an Israeli commission will be interpreted throughout the world as an admission of guilt. The Israeli Army did not commit any massacres. It is an internal Lebanese affair."
Finally, the Cabinet adopted and released a statement absolving Israel of any responsibility. The statement was published as a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and the Washington Post at a total cost of $54,000. The following is the unabridged text of the statement entitled, "Blood Libel:"[5]

The following is a statement by the Government of Israel, September 19, 1982.

On the New Year (Rosh Hashana), a blood libel was leveled against the Jewish state, its government, and the Israel Defense Forces.

In an area where there was no position of the Israeli army, a Lebanese unit entered a refugee camp to apprehend terrorists hiding there. This unit caused many casualties to innocent civilians. We state this fact with deep grief and regret.

As soon as the IDF learned of the tragic events, Israeli soldiers put an end to the slaughter and forced the Lebanese unit to evacuate the camp.

The civilian population of the camp gave clear expression of its gratitude for the act of salvation by the IDF.

Any direct or implicit accusation that the IDF bears any blame whatsoever for this human tragedy is entirely baseless and without foundation. The government of Israel rejects such accusations with the contempt they deserve.

In fact, without the intervention of the IDF, there would have been much greater loss of life. It should be noted that, for two days and nights, the IDF carried out actions against terrorists in West Beirut and no complaint whatever was voiced concerning civilian casualties.

It is now clear that the PLO cynically violated the evacuation agreement. They left behind 2,000 terrorists; they concealed heavy weapons: artillery, tanks and mortars, and immense quantities of ammunition.

They did this in order that West Beirut should continue to be a center for PLO terror against Israel and other free nations.

The people of Israel are proud of the IDF's ethics and respect for human life. These are the traditional Jewish values in which we have educated generations of Israeli fighters, and we shall continue to do so.

We call upon free men of good will to unite with Israel in its struggle for truth, in its fight against international terrorism spearheaded by the PLO, and in its quest for security, peace, and justice.

At the same time, pictures depicting scenes from the camps were portrayed on television screens throughout the world. American journalist George Will, notorious for his relentless support of Israel, described the massacre as the ''Babi Yar" of Israel. He wrote: ''Palestinians have now had their Babi Yar, their Lidice. The Beirut massacre has altered the moral algebra of the Middle East, producing a new symmetry of suffering"[6] (Washington Post, September 23, 1982).
American Jews interviewed by an Israeli television correspondent stated that they were ashamed of being Jewish at such times. The Jewish Chronicle, official organ of the Jewish community in England, wrote: "After the 'mopping up' of camps in Beirut, it is Israel that should now be cleaned of all those who authorized or were implicated in this horror which brought shame to us all."

* * *


Monday, September 20, 1982


Units of the Lebanese Army established a "security belt" around the two camps using 1500 soldiers supported by 40 armored vehicles. The deployment of Lebanese troops continued throughout the night. By Monday morning, there were no signs of Israeli soldiers.
Inside the camps, the smell of death grew stronger as new corpses were uncovered. At the entrance of Shatila, more than 100 bodies were still lined on the ground near two mass graves. Many bodies were already in a state of decomposition making it impossible to identify the victims. The corpses were lowered inside these massive holes and covered with quicklime. The burials, which started the day before, continued for several days.
Oblivious to the rescue teams, survivors of the camps continued to wander aimlessly hoping to locate a missing parent or a precious possession. An elderly man, accompanied by a woman and two children, searched in the rubble of their home in Shatila. Their cries deafened nearby rescue workers. However, none of the workers dared to speak to them. Further down, a young man returned to locate his brother's remains. He uncovered another corpse behind every wall. Three young people sitting next to a demolished hut whispered to each other. One of them told an approaching journalist: “We will never again rely on the promises of others. We will never again entrust others with our destiny and security. We will take care of ourselves by ourselves.”
Camp residents were still traumatized by the forty hours of carnage they lived through. In the morning, two trucks arrived loaded with Lebanese soldiers dressed in bright green uniforms, in contrast to the dark green worn by the other soldiers stationed in the camps. The residents were struck with horror as rumors spread that "Haddad's militiamen are back." Hundreds of panic-stricken residents stampeded northward. They did not return to the camp until the afternoon when they received assurances from the Lebanese authorities.
In West Beirut, Israeli withdrawal from the center of the city to the periphery became evident as early as Monday morning. Nine days later, on September 29, the Israelis, under strong American pressure, had completed their total withdrawal from Beirut including the airport. They were replaced by troops from the Multinational Force. Meanwhile, the Israelis continued to search for arms and munition depots. They went through the neighborhoods with bullhorns, asking the residents to surrender their weapons. Israeli officers driving military vehicles or even civilian cars with Israeli license plates, dashed through the streets of Beirut with name-lists in their hands. Often accompanied by local informers, they would slowly drive back and forth past the headquarters, press offices or residences of leftist Lebanese leaders who sympathized with the Palestinian cause. Frequently, they would stop and ask whether so-and-so was inside. If the person they sought was not there, they would make an appointment to pick him up an hour later. Blindfolded civilians with their hands tied behind their backs were seen being transported in Israeli vehicles. No one knows the exact number of Lebanese and Palestinians arrested by the Israelis in Beirut. Their present legal status and whereabouts are also unknown. The Lebanese press estimates the number of detainees at 1000-1500.
Israeli soldiers continued to plunder the well-equipped library of the Palestine Research Center of the P.L.O. in West Beirut. All materials, books and documents were loaded indiscriminately aboard trucks chartered for this task. A jeep and a tank covered this operation. When questioned by a Lebanese journalist, the Israeli officer in charge of the "moving operation" responded that his soldiers were taking "everything I find useful." He added: "We are the 'People of the Book,' and we have great respect for books." When the journalist reminded him that this was a research center, the Israeli officer retorted: "It is a center of espionage. There are no Palestinian intellectuals, only spies. The evidence we found includes biographies of Israeli officers."[7]
Daily life in West Beirut became increasingly precarious. Food supplies had not been replenished for five days, the city was without electric power and the water supply was diminishing. Furthermore, the scarcity of fuel oil threatened to close the last functioning major hospital in the city -the American Hospital.
In Israel, newspapers appeared for the first time since the massacre was announced. A front-page headline in Ha'aretz read: "War Crime in Beirut." Its military correspondent, Ze'ev Schiff, started his article with these words:

A war crime has been committed in the refugee camps of Beirut. The Phalangists have killed hundreds, if not more, of elderly people, women and children, exactly in the same fashion pogroms were carried out against Jews. It is not true, as claimed by official spokesmen that we didn't learn of this crime until Saturday at noon after receiving reports filed by foreign correspondents stationed in Beirut. I personally heard about it on Friday morning. I brought all my information to the attention of a senior official who took immediate action. In other words, the massacre began Thursday evening, and what I learned on Friday morning was certainly known to others before me.

On its editorial page, the same paper wrote:

The circumstances under which the horrible deed was carried out inevitably clarified Israel's responsibility indirect or direct, for the death of hundreds of helpless people. ... Even if Israel cannot clean the stain of Sabra and Shatila, it is its duty to show -first to itself and then to the rest of the world- that it is taking itself to task because of this terrible event that has taken place within the realm of its responsibility. The removal from office of General Eitan and Mr. Sharon is a first and necessary precondition for us to be able to look ourselves and the world straight in the eyes again. (Ha’aretz, September 21, 1982).

Under the headline: "The Shame of Beirut," the Labor daily, Davar, wrote: "It is difficult to be an Israeli ... We shall not be able to absolve ourselves of this stain. What has been perpetrated by those who carried out the Deir Yassin massacre, the commander of the Qibya raid and the one who commuted Daniel Pinto's sentence,[8] defames the entire nation today." Hanna Zemer, editor-in-chief of Davar, referred to the "villainous government which dragged the State of Israel into moral bankruptcy." She added: "If the government forces the army to stay in Beirut and continues to assign it the role of gendarme in this region of the world, we won't surrender our reservist cards, but the day will come soon when we shall surrender our identity cards because this is not our identity."
Al-Hamishmar, the voice of MAPAM (United Workers Party), wrote: "This slaughter has made the war in Lebanon the greatest disaster to befall the Jewish people since the holocaust." Even the evening newspapers which are generally favorable to Begin's policy on relations with the Arabs did not try to avoid responsibility. Both Yedi'ot Aharonot and Ma'ariv thought that Israel shared some indirect blame for the massacre.
The right wing political parties were quite embarrassed. A number of their leaders were quoted saying: "It is better not to discuss the situation because it is harmful to Israel." Others, as if trying to vindicate themselves, declared: "It is not, however, the first time a massacre has occurred in the Middle East!" Nevertheless, these reactions did not succeed in containing the indignation of many diverse elements. The press published on Saturday, and in subsequent issues, articles and statements of unparalleled intensity. Israel Zamir, the son of Nobel Prize-winner Isaac Bashevis-Singer, wrote: "Until this day, the word 'pogrom' had a connotation which directly concerned us, Jews, as victims. Prime Minister Begin has 'extended' the scope of the term: there was Babi-Yar, Lidice, Oradour, and now there is Sabra and Shatila."
Israeli writer Amos Kenan, writing for Yedi'ot Aharonot, stated that "In a single stroke, Mr. Begin, you have lost the one million Jewish children who were all you possessed on this earth. The one million children from Auschwitz no longer belong to you. You have sold them without any gain."
Yosef Burg, Israel's interior minister, claimed that "Christians killed Muslims; how are the Jews responsible?" Novelist Yitzhak Smilanski responded in irony: "We have released famished lions into the arena. They devoured the people; therefore, the lions are the guilty party who devoured the men, aren't they? Who could have foreseen, when we opened the door and let them in that these lions would devour the people?" In another vein, Amos Oz wrote: "He who invites the ripper of Yorkshire to spend a couple of nights in an orphanage for young girls cannot claim, upon seeing the heaps of corpses, that he came to an understanding with the ripper whereby the latter would only wash the children's heads."
The military correspondent of Ma'ariv, Ya'aqov Fret, quoted in his article a few famous verses by Haim Nahman Bialik, the national Jewish poet. The verses were part of a poem called, ''In the City of the Massacre," written by Bialik following the anti-Jewish pogrom of Kichinev in 1903. Bialik describes the scene of the massacre he witnessed. The poem is widely studied, and Israeli children memorize it at school.
Gabi Zohar, a reporter for Kol Yisrael (Israeli Radio), was bewildered after his visit to the camps. He stated: "Whether there will be a commission of inquiry or not, it is no less a fact that we knew a massacre was taking place, that we could have prevented it, and that we failed to do so."
In all the newspapers, "letters to the editor" poured in. For example, Avichai Grossman, a young reservist, wrote: "The piles of corpses in the camps of Beirut made me, for the first time, ashamed of belonging to the Israeli Army." (Al-Hamishmar). Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Benny Earbash wrote in Ha'olam Hateh: "At the head of our army stands a man whom I personally heard on several occasions state that 'A good Arab is a dead Arab'.'' Novelist Yitzhak Orpaz wrote: "I shall never forgive you for leading the country which I love into a dreadful debauchery of blunders and death. In the camps of Sabra and Shatila my father and mother, whom I lost in the Holocaust, were murdered for the second time."
Ze'ev Sternhell, historian and professor of political science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a member of the Labor Party, stated before his students that "the Israeli government and society bear a moral, political and legal responsibility for the war crime of Beirut. Even if we didn't commit it ourselves, it is indisputable that we have authorized it."
These reactions did not represent the views of a small group of peripheral people. A Gallup poll, based on interviews with 1700 people, showed that 60 percent of Israelis considered the government responsible, in one way or another, for the Beirut massacre. Eighty percent believed the war in Lebanon harmed Israel. (Published in Ha'aretz, September 23, 1982).
The following day, Tuesday, the Cabinet held its weekly session. There was no further discussion of the massacre. The question of withdrawal from Beirut was on the agenda. Ariel Sharon stated that Israel must remain in the city for several more weeks because, "Beirut is the key to the north." Minister Zippori interrupted him: "What do you mean by the north? Are we planning to occupy Tripoli? or Zahle?" Zippori demanded an Israeli evacuation of Beirut as soon as possible. The motion was supported by four other Cabinet ministers: Aharon Uzzan (TAMI), Pen Porat (TELEM), Berman (Liberals) and Hammer (National Religious Party). They noted that the Israeli entry into West Beirut, and most of all the massacre of Sabra and Shatila, have gravely altered Israel's image throughout the world, including the Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Concerning the appointment of a judicial commission of inquiry, the government yielded to Menachem Begin's uncompromising opposition.
The following day, the Knesset was convened in special session. The leader of the Labor Party, Shimon Peres, delivered one of his most important speeches:

... The Jewish nation stands before its conscience ... We have a sense that underneath the blocks of cement used to cover the bodies of children women, and old men, lie moral ruins.... The ground trembles beneath our feet.... Mr. Begin boasts that the war in Lebanon has erased the trauma of the Yom Kippur War. I am sorry to say that he himself replaced it with another trauma.

Peres proceeded to accuse Begin of fostering a resurgence of anti-Semitism through his irresponsible policies. Amnon Rubinstein, a lawyer and member of Shinui, followed Shimon Peres and demanded the establishment of a commission of inquiry. In his speech, Mr. Rubinstein exclaimed:

When the Syrians bombed Zahle, a barbaric act from all viewpoints, our prime minister declared before the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense on May 8, 1981: "What is being done today to the Christians of Lebanon is exactly what the Jews of Europe underwent in the 1940's, namely, what the Nazis did to the Jews, no more and no less. However, when children are butchered before their parents' eyes and in their mothers' arms, when their hacked bodies are scattered on the ground, when abominable and indescribable acts are committed, when, as the Nazis did, men are lined up near mass graves, then shot and buried by bulldozers, then Mr. Begin’s analogies with Nazi acts are no longer applicable.

When the speaker of Parliament informed Mr. Rubinstein that his time was up, the deputy retorted: "Mr. President, give me one more second for each child killed in the camps." Then he proceeded:

We belong to a people which has been persecuted more than any other in this world. We have known murder, racism and persecution. We must be more vigilant than others in not giving way to the inclinations which led to these persecutions. We must be the most tenacious enemies of racism. We have no right to distinguish between the blood of some and that of others. For us, all the children who die are the same.

Then, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon took the stand, declaring peremptorily:

... Any attempt to attribute this sad chapter to the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], including a call to appoint a commission of inquiry, all this is committing an injustice to the IDF, its commanders and the entire people

Sharon then attacked his critics by addressing Labor leader Shimon Peres:

I want to ask you, Shimon Peres,... when you were Defense Minister, there was an affair in Tell Za’atar. ... How come your conscience does not bother you? Thousands of people were slaughtered. ... Where were the officers of the IDF on that day, and that was an affair that occurred with foreknowledge.

Labor leader Peres categorically denied these insinuations. A few days later, Reserve General Binyamin Ben-Eliezer reported that three Israeli officers, including himself, had clandestinely visited the Phalangists in the summer of 1976 during the siege of Tell el-Za'atar. However, he stressed that they had returned to Israel fifteen days prior to the Phalangist massacre of Palestinians at Tell el-Za'atar. (Yedi'ot Aharonot, September 24, 1982).
When Menachem Begin approached the podium, tension reached a climax. He declared: "Israel is not guilty, Tzahal is not guilty. A disaster did happen. Other disasters have already happened in Israel, not only in Lebanon. Would you like me to draw you up a list?" In Israel, demonstrations and marches were organized to demand the appointment of a commission of inquiry. Countless spontaneous meetings were held. Petitions were signed. After a demonstration in Tel Aviv, a law student declared:

Arafat has transformed a displaced and rejected people into a respected and popular nation. Begin, on the other hand, transformed a respected and popular nation into a displaced and rejected people. Arafat has unified his people. Begin has divided his people. Arafat succeeded in turning defeat into victory. Begin succeeded in turning victory into defeat.

In front of the largest synagogue in Jerusalem, religious demonstrators wearing yarmulkes (skullcaps) demanded the government's resignation. One of them explained: "Until now, only laymen demonstrated against spilled blood in Lebanon. The religious have kept silent. These laymen do not have a monopoly over morality. We also protest."
Public protest continued to build up, culminating in a demonstration in Tel Aviv by 400,000 people on September 25, 1982. This was the largest demonstration in Israel's history. On September 28, the government of Menachem Begin decided to accept the appointment of a commission of inquiry.
Meanwhile, the military preferred to remain silent. The general command met on Monday, September 20. According to one of the participants, the chief of staff set aside five minutes to discuss "events in Sabra and Shatila." No one made the least remark and no questions were raised. No one requested the right to speak. These details were confided to a correspondent of the daily Davar.
In the Shatila camp at that same moment, a woman was pacing back and forth near a mass grave. Thirteen members of her family perished, including a 4 month-old baby. Finally she stopped, sat on the ground, threw dirt over her head and screamed: "But where do I go now?"

* * *




The appointment of Brigadier General Amos Yaron [9] as head of the Manpower Branch at the Israeli General Command concluded the implementation of the recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry into the Massacre of Sabra and Shatila. This reassignment was made upon the insistence of Prime Minister Menachem Begin prior to leaving office. However, long after the release of the Commission's Final Report on February 8, 1983, it is necessary to conclude that "the mountain has brought forth a mouse."
The positive contribution of this inquiry cannot be denied. It has brought to light certain aspects of the complicity and responsibility of several Israeli political and military leaders in the events which brought about the cold-blooded murder of thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese camp residents by the right-wing militias known as the Lebanese Forces. However, the Commission, which did not conduct its inquiry in an ivory-towered manner, was most probably aware of the inevitable repercussions of its findings on public opinion. The three members of the Commission did not want to virtually provoke a crisis of conscience leading to moral and political upheaval. Their conclusions were in fact the minimum expected in light of the overwhelming facts brought before them. This bias displayed in the Commission's report allowed Mr. Begin, who was initially opposed to any form of inquiry into the massacre, to avoid the downfall of his government. The only cabinet changes implemented were the appointment of the noted Israeli "hawk," Professor Moshe Arens as Minister of Defense, while General Sharon remained as a Minister without portfolio and a member of the Ministerial Committee on National Defense.
The commotion created by Sharon's supporters following the publication of the report, which was described by Interior Minister Yosef Burg as having "the smell of a putsch," has brought all those who feared for the future of Israeli institutions to the public defense of the Kahan Commission's report. Now that the storm has dissipated, it is time to quietly examine and analyze this report which, according to many experts, is unsatisfactory in certain fundamental respects.
First of all, the massacre of Sabra and Shatila is an integral part of the overall Israeli invasion of Lebanon, whereas the Commission treats the massacre as an isolated event or an unfortunate incident. All three members of the Commission -Yitzhak Kahan, President of the Supreme Court; Aharon Barak, Justice of the Supreme Court; and Major General (Res.) Yona Efrat- are part of the "establishment." They did not utter one word of criticism against any aspect of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. For example, no mention was made of the destruction of the refugee camps in south Lebanon. The massive Israeli bombardment of West Beirut by air force, navy and artillery during two-and-one-half months of siege resulted in thousands of dead and wounded. This was characterized by the Commission as occasional shelling. The report indicates that "during this time various targets in West Beirut were occasionally shelled and bombed by the IDF's [Israeli Defense Forces] Air Force and artillery." (Final Report, p. 10).
Concerning the atrocities committed throughout the Lebanese civil war, the Commission started by emphasizing the events at Damour which "was captured and destroyed by Palestinian terrorists in January 1976." (Final Report, p. 6). Meanwhile, the Phalangist massacre of Palestinians at the Beirut suburb of Karantina, one week earlier on January 14, 1976, was not even mentioned.
The Israeli occupation of West Beirut, in violation of official guarantees given by the Jewish state, was justified at the onset with the following words:

On that same night, an extraordinary emergency situation was created which justified immediate and concerted action to prevent a situation which appeared undesirable and even dangerous from Israel's perspective. (Final Report, p.58)

Indeed, the Israeli Army entered and prepared the area for ''undesirable" events. Israeli forces disarmed Muslim and progressive militias, thus upsetting the precarious equilibrium among the different armed groups and placing the Palestinian civilian population at the mercy of right wing Christian militias. Without the undermining of this balance, the Lebanese Forces of slain President-elect Bashir Gemayel would not have been able, according to all experts, to carry out the massacre of Sabra and Shatila. These forces have always been the weakest among local Lebanese militias.
The Commission's report suffers two other major flaws: First members of the Commission were "not allowed to enter the area of the events,'' as admitted on page (2) of the report. Second, the number of non-Israelis among the 221 witnesses who testified before the Commission was insignificant. It is true that Judge Kahan and his colleagues preferred to hear the depositions of Palestinian and Lebanese witnesses to the massacre. However, such witnesses did not materialize because they were afraid, did not know how to go about it, or, most probably, because they did not want to legitimize a Commission suspected of non objectivity.
Be that as it may, the facts relating to the Palestinians and Lebanese were not always accurate and included certain contradictions, errors [10] and significant omissions. For example, while the report mentions repeatedly what happened at the Gaza Hospital (in Sabra), it fails to mention Akka Hospital (south of Shatila), the scene of more abominable atrocities. Three medical staff from Gaza Hospital, American nurse Ellen Siegel, and British nationals, Dr. Swee Chai Ang and Dr. Paul Morris, testified before the Commission in Jerusalem on November 1, 1982, by giving details about events that happened at their hospital. On the other hand, none of those who witnessed the assailants commit acts of torture and murder at Akka Hospital testified before the Commission to confirm the atrocities committed there and widely disseminated by those who conducted investigations on the scene. No mention is made of 14-year-old Mufid As'ad, a Palestinian who was assassinated in his hospital bed; Intisar Isma'il, the 19-year-old Palestinian nurse who was raped repeatedly and murdered; and Palestinian doctors Ali Othman and Sami Khatib who were killed in the presence of their colleagues; in addition to other names which kept surfacing in several investigations.
Details of these developments which took place at Akka Hospital could have been obtained by simply visiting the offices of the International Red Cross in Beirut, whose staff evacuated the hospital's patients and medical staff on Friday, September 17, while the militiamen continued to rage wildly in other parts of the camps. The absence of testimonies on Akka Hospital and other crimes committed during the forty hours of carnage has left serious gaps in the Kahan Commission report.

The Scene From the Seventh Floor

One of the most serious mistakes of the Commission is its affirmation that "events in the camps, in the area where the Phalangists entered, were not visible from the roof of the forward command post." (Final Report, p. 55).

The report proceeds to explain that:

The forward command post was located on the roof of a five-story building [actually, seven-story building -A.K.] about 200 meters southwest of the Shatila camp. ... From the roof of the forward command post it was possible to see the area of the camps generally, but -as all the witnesses who visited the roof of the command post stated, and these were a good number of witnesses whose word we consider reliable- it was impossible to see what was happening within the alleys in the camp from the roof of the command post. (Final Report, pp. 14-15).

The same argument was repeated on page 21 of the report:

The Phalangists entered the Shatila camp from the west and south. They entered in two groups, and once they had passed the battery surrounding the camps their movements within the camps were not visible from the roof of the forward command post or from the observation sites on other roofs.

Yet, in the next paragraph, the same report indicates that:

Major General Drori was at the forward command post from approximately 7:30 P.M. and followed the fighting as it was visible from the roof of the forward command post. He left the site after 8:00 P.M. (Final Report, p. 22).

The extent of visibility from the roof of the command post is very important. The Israeli judges had to rely in their report on the statements of witnesses who would have been incriminated had it been established that events in the camp were clearly visible from the roof of the command post. Therefore, their affirmation of the absence of visibility from the roof is understandable. However, the camps and the roof continue to exist and it is sufficient to visit the premises, as we have done after the publication of the report, to ascertain once and for all that one could see at least the part of the camp that is closest to the forward command post where a great deal of carnage was carried out. The mass grave which the Phalangists dug southwest of Shatila, 300 meters from the roof in question, is clearly visible from above. Bulldozers which dumped dozens, if not hundreds, of corpses during the massacre were within view of the roof, at least during part of this activity.
In his response to the assertions of Israeli officers who stated before the Commission of Inquiry that they did not witness the massacre, prominent Israeli writer, A. B. Yehoshua wrote:

Even if I believed that Israeli soldiers stationed a few hundred meters from the camps did not know what was happening, this would be the same type of ignorance as that of the Germans stationed near Buchenwald and Treblinka who did not want to know what was transpiring. We also did not want to know. When we talk of ‘liquidation' and 'purification,' and when we label the Palestinians as 'two-legged animals,' then we must not be shocked that a soldier allows such horrors to be committed nearby.

Officers at the command post which overlooked the camps began receiving reports about developments inside the camps from the assailants themselves immediately after their entry into Sabra and Shatila. An hour after the Phalangists entered the camps, an Israeli officer stationed on the roof of the command post overheard a Phalangist officer radio his commander, also stationed on the roof, informing him that:

there were 50 women and children, and what should he do. The reply of Elie Hobeika [commander of the Phalangist forces operating inside the camps] over the radio was: 'This is the last time you're going to ask me a question like that, you know exactly what to do.' Then raucous laughter broke out among the Phalangist personnel on the roof. (Final Report, p.24).

A little later, the Israeli Division Intelligence Officer heard a Phalangist liaison officer tell one of his men inside the camps to "Do the will of God" to 45 people held by the Phalangists (Final Report p. 22). Then, two hours after the beginning of the massacre, the Phalangist liaison officer at the Israeli command post stated in the dining room that:

As a result of the Phalangists' operations up to that time [8:00 P.M., Thursday, September 16, 1982], 300 terrorists and civilians had been killed in the camps. (Final Report, p. 24).

This statement was made in the presence of many Israeli officers, including Brigadier General Amos Yaron, Israeli division commander in Beirut. Reports of the carnage came from Phalangist and Israeli soldiers stationed around the camps. However, as if following tacit orders, the high command turned a deaf ear to these reports. When Lieutenant Grabowski, a deputy commander of a tank company stationed on a ramp at the entrance of the Shatila camp, reported to his superiors the massacre of civilians which he witnessed, his commander replied: ''We know. It's not to our liking, and don't interfere." (Final Report, p. 35).
In the evening, shortly after the beginning of the massacre,

When Brigadier General Yaron heard from the division Intelligence officer, in the briefing on September 16, 1982, about the report indicating the danger that women and children were being killed, he interrupted him; and it appears from the transcript of the conversation that took place then, that Brigadier General Yaron wished to play down the importance of the matter and to cut off the clarification of the issue at that briefing. (Final Report, p. 93).

Even the Americans were informed and requested, according to the report, an end to all "operations" in the camps (p. 38). Only the Israeli commander appeared not to be aware of events inside the camps and of the gravity of the situation there. Then why the additional precaution of erasing IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) markings from the bulldozer supplied to the Phalangists as reported on pages 38 - 39?
Eitan Haber, military correspondent of Yedi'ot Aharonot, wrote ironically that:

It was embarrassing to see how ignorant the Northern High Command and its commanding general were of what took place under their nose. Yet, this same Israeli Army knew the exact street, building and floor in Beirut on which every guerrilla leader lived; and knew the exact thickness of the walls around the Baghdad nuclear reactor. (Yedi'ot Aharonot, November 1, 1982).

Another serious shortcoming of the Kahan Commission's report pertains to the question of responsibility for the massacre. On this matter, the conclusions of the Commission are in contradiction with the facts that are included in its report. The Israeli Army occupied West Beirut and became, according to the most elementary principles of international law, responsible for the peace and security of its civilian population. In addition, Israelis justified their entry into West Beirut under the pretext of their desire "to forestall the danger of violence, bloodshed and chaos." (Final Report, p. 28). On September 16, 1982, the day after the Israeli occupation of West Beirut, the defense minister's office issued a document specifically stating that:

Only one element, and that is the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces], shall command the forces in the area. For the operation in the camps the Phalangists should be sent in. (Final Report, p. 20).

According to the interpretation of the director of military intelligence, "the meaning is that all forces operating in the area, including the Phalangists, will be under the authority of the IDF and will act according to its instructions." (Final Report, p. 20).
On the same day, during a Cabinet session, Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan told Israeli leaders that:

He had informed the Phalangist commanders that their men would have to take part in the operation and go in where they were told, that early that evening they would begin to fight and would enter the extremity of Sabra, that the IDF would ensure that they did not fail in their operation but IDF soldiers would not enter the camps and would not fight together with the Phalangists, rather the Phalangists would go in there "with their own methods ". ... In his remarks the Chief of Staff explained that the camps were surrounded "by us," that the Phalangists would begin to operate that night in the camps, that we could give them orders whereas it was impossible to give orders to the Lebanese Army. (Final Report. p. 26).

While Lieutenant General Eitan was uttering these words, the assailants had already murdered hundreds of civilians in the camps. As to the identity and intentions of the Israeli allies, the report clearly states that:

Phalangist leaders proposed removing a large portion of the Palestinian refugees from Lebanese soil, whether by methods of persuasion or other means of pressure. They did not conceal their opinion that it would be necessary to resort to acts of violence in order to cause the exodus of many Palestinian refugees from Lebanon. (Final Report, p. 9).

The report also quotes slain Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel, telling the heads of the Israeli Mossad of his intention: "to eliminate the Palestinian problem in Lebanon when he came to power -even if that meant resorting to aberrant methods against the Palestinians in Lebanon." (Final Report, p. 12).
These were not isolated remarks. The Kahan Commission report states that:

Similar remarks were heard from other Phalangist leaders. Furthermore, certain actions of the Phalangists during the war indicated that there had been no fundamental change in their attitude toward different segments of the Lebanese population such as Druze and Palestinians, whom the Phalangists considered enemies. There were reports of Phalangist massacres of women and children in Druze villages, as well as the liquidation of Palestinians carried out by the intelligence unit of Elie Hobeika [commander of Phalangist militiamen who entered Sabra and Shatila -A.K.].... These reports reinforced the feeling among certain people -and especially among experienced intelligence officers- that in the event that the Phalangists had an opportunity to massacre Palestinians, they would take advantage of it. (Final Report, pp. 12-13).

What therefore did Generals Sharon and Eitan do? The Israeli Army surrounded the camps, disarmed the Lebanese militias hostile to the Phalangists, coordinated the latter's entry into the camps giving them diverse logistical support, and closed its eyes and ears during forty hours of carnage. The result: about 3000 civilians were killed in an orgy of massacres rarely witnessed since World War II.[11]

Shall Be Accused of Death

After that, the three honorable magistrates declared that the responsibility of Begin, Sharon, Eitan and others is an indirect responsibility. The best response to this declaration came from Amos Oz, one of the most prominent Israeli writers. He wrote:

He who invites the ripper of Yorkshire to spend a couple of nights in an orphanage of young girls cannot claim, upon seeing the heap of corpses, that he came to an understanding with the ripper whereby the latter would only wash the children's heads.

Novelist Yitzhar Smilanski commented with irony: "We have released famished lions into the arena. They devoured the people, therefore, the lions are the guilty party."
According to paragraph 298 of the Israeli penal code of 1977:

"Whoever causes the death of a person through Commission or omission, shall be accused of murder."

Paragraph 26 of the same code defines accomplices to murder and considers them directly responsible. Israeli responsibility was direct before the beginning of the massacre, and so much the more after the entry of the "Lebanese Forces" into the camps.
At 4:00 P.M. on Friday, twenty-four hours after the beginning of the carnage, the Israeli chief of staff held a meeting with the Phalangist command. According to the summary made by the Mossad (The Institute for State Security - Israel's intelligence agency) representative at the meeting:

The Chief of Staff expressed his positive impression received from the statement by the Phalangist forces and their behavior in the field and concluded that they continue action, mopping up the empty camps south of Fakhani until tomorrow at 5:00 A.M., at which time they must stop their action due to American pressure. (Final Report, p. 37).

This paragraph is extremely important because it confirms first of all: that the Israeli high command permitted the assailants to continue the carnage for an additional thirteen hours (in fact, a few more hours than that). It also reveals that American, not Israeli pressure, was exerted to stop the massacre as soon as possible. Finally, the statement verifies that the camps were empty whereas Israeli leaders continued to insist that "2000 terrorists" remained behind in Beirut after the evacuation of the PLO as stipulated by the Habib Agreement in August 1982.[12] Israeli officials reiterated that the task of "purifying" the camps was delegated to the Phalangists in order to spare Israeli lives and prevent further losses among Israeli soldiers in Lebanon. However, if an actual fact there were hundreds of heavily-armed Palestinian fighters in the camps, no one under any circumstances would have even dared to send in a unit of 150 Phalangists of mediocre fighting ability. The number of Phalangist militiamen participating in the massacre was later increased to 400. Still, the assailants suffered minimal casualties, namely, two dead and two slightly injured.
In light of the abundant evidence and testimonies, it is inconceivable that Generals Sharon and Eitan, the architects of the Sabra and Shatila operation, did not anticipate what was going to happen in both camps. After all, according to the Commission's report, Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan hoped "that in the final analysis, the Phalangist excesses would not be on a large scale.'' (Final Report , p. 77). Thus, the real objective was a small massacre to intimidate the Palestinians and cause them to flee Lebanon -a new Deir Yassin, with the Phalangists interposed this time.
In a section of the report entitled, "Closing Remarks," the Kahan Commission heaps praises on Israeli soldiers for their ''battle ethics.'' Yet, suddenly the report states:

It would appear that despite the terrible sights and experiences of the war and despite the soldier's obligations to behave as a fighter with a certain degree of callousness, IDF soldiers did not lose their sensitivity to atrocities that were perpetrated on noncombatants either out of cruelty or to give vent to vengeful feelings. It is regrettable that the reaction by IDF soldiers to such deeds was not always forceful enough to bring a halt to the despicable acts. (Final Report, p. 106).

The report continues to state that as far as Israeli soldiers are concerned, "the end never justifies the means, and basic ethical and human values must be maintained in the use of arms." (p. 106). If, according to the Commission, Israeli soldiers were above suspicion, then why were these critical remarks made?
The Final Report of the Kahan Commission undoubtedly has some merits. However, it does also suffer serious gaps. The report clearly falls short of closing this horrible case. All those directly responsible still await punishment. Contrary to the conclusions of this document, they are not exclusively Lebanese.


[1] It is worth noting that preparation for this war began as far back as the summer of 1981, upon the appointment of Ariel Sharon as Minister of Defense. The zero hour was reset five times.

[2] Eli Geva is a young Israeli officer who chose to resign his army post six weeks prior to the invasion of West Beirut. He considered the invasion a futile plan which might contribute to a disaster in which he refused to participate.

[3] On April 9, 1948, the Jewish dissident organization, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, massacred 250 residents of Deir Yassin, an Arab village west of Jerusalem. This massacre, the worst ever committed by Jewish terrorists, was condemned at the time by Jewish leaders including Ben Gurion. The Irgun was commanded by Menachem Begin.

[4] Qibya is a Palestinian village located near the cease-fire line which separated Israel from Jordan before 1967. On October 14-15, 1953, the village was attacked by Israeli "Unit 101" commanded by Colonel Ariel Sharon. This was in retaliation for an Arab attack from Jordan against the Israeli settlement of Yahoud where a Jewish woman and her two children were killed. After the Israeli raid, 69 men, women and children were found dead in Qibya.

[5] The term "blood libel" ('Alilat-dam) refers to anti-Semitic accusations leveled against Jews in the Middle Ages and more recent times, charging them with "using the blood of Christian children in Jewish ritual Ceremonies related to Pesah (Easter)."

[6] Babi Yar is the Ukrainian site where the Nazis massacred thousands of Russian Jews during World War II. Lidice is a Czechoslovakian town whose residents were massacred in reprisal for the assassination of SS officer, Reinhard Heydrich.

[7] The Palestine Research Center was established in Beirut in 1964. Its library included a large number of books and works on Palestinian and Israeli societies, as well as a collection of unedited manuscripts. Among its valuable possessions was a complete collection of journals and newspapers dating back to the British Mandate period in Palestine. The center published a scholarly review titled Shu'un Filastiniyya (Palestinian Affairs) and a number of other works on Palestine. The director of the center enjoyed diplomatic status.

[8] Daniel Pinto is an Israeli officer who was accused of killing two civilians during the Israeli offensive in Lebanon in March 1978. He was found guilty before a military tribunal. However, the chief of staff, Rafael Eitan, commuted his sentence. (See also footnotes 4 and 5)

[9] Amos Yaron served as field commander of the Israeli Army division deployed around Beirut during the massacre of Sabra and Shatila (September 16-18, 1982).

[10] In the first sentence following the introduction, the report falsely states that: "In 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon. This war began with clashes in Sidon between Christians and Palestinian terrorists and subsequently widened in a manner to encompass many diverse armed forces...." (p. 6). In fact, the events of Sidon erupted after the assassination of Ma'rouf Sa'ad on February 26, 1975. The Nasserist union activist was killed during a confrontation between progressive Lebanese demonstrators and units from the Lebanese Army. However, according to all historians, the Lebanese civil war was triggered by the Phalangist attack on a Palestinian bus killing its 27 passengers. The attack occurred on April 13, 1975 at Ayn el-Rummaneh, a Christian suburb of Beirut.

[11] The Kahan Report follows official Israeli statistics in minimizing the number of victims placed at 700 - 800 deaths. Their exact number will never be determined. However, according to official Lebanese sources quoted on October 14, 1982, in L'Orient le Jour, 762 corpses were buried by the different organizations. The same sources indicate that 1200 bodies were recovered and buried by their relatives. To this, one must add the hundreds of bodies dumped in mass graves by the assailants, those permanently buried under the rubble of their leveled homes, and finally the hundreds of missing persons never accounted for.

[12] According to the report delivered by the Israeli divisional intelligence officer at an update briefing on the evening the massacre began, "it seems, there are no terrorists there, in the camp; Sabra camp is empty." (Final Report, p. 24).

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