A Palestinian woman passes by a sign marking the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut, Lebanon (Gallo/Getty Images)
A woman weeps for her two children who died in the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
On September 16, 1982 the Sabra and Shatila massacre took place in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War.
The massacre was presented as retaliation for the assassination of newly elected Lebanese president Bachir Gemayel, the leader of the Lebanese Kataeb Party. It was wrongly assumed that Palestinian militants had carried out the assassination, which is now generally attributed to pro-Syrian militants.
Shortly before the massacre, Israel had been at war with the PLO in Lebanon, whom it managed to drive out of the territory. Various forces (Israeli, Phalangist and possibly SLA) were in the vicinity. The actual killers were “the Young Men”, a gang recruited by Elie Hobeika, the Lebanese Forces intelligence chief, from men who had been expelled from the Lebanese Forces for insubordination or criminal activities. The massacre is widely believed to have taken place under Hobeika’s direct orders. Hobeika’s family and fiancée had been murdered by Palestinian militiamen, and their Lebanese allies, at the Damour massacre of 1976,tself a response to a previous massacre of Palestinians at the hands of Christian militants. Hobeika later became a long-serving Member of the Parliament of Lebanon and served in several ministerial roles.
The Israel Defense Forces surrounded the Palestinian refugee camps, controlled access to them, and fired illuminating flares over the camps. In 1982, an independent commission chaired by Sean MacBride concluded that the Israeli authorities or forces were, directly or indirectly, responsible for the events. The Israeli government established the Kahan Commission to investigate, and in early 1983 it found that Israeli military personnel were aware that a massacre was in progress without taking serious steps to stop it. Therefore it regarded Israel as having indirect responsibility. The commission held Ariel Sharon personally responsible for having disregarded the prospect of acts of bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population of the refugee camps and not preventing their entry.
Here are a couple of other posts about the massacre:
Today is the thirty year anniversary of the massacre and it’s still very fresh in the minds of the people who had to go through it. Thus, I figured I’d provide a recounting by three of the survivors of the massacre: