Tainted By Terror
Exactly 22 years ago, at 5:00pm on the evening of 16 September 1982, Lebanese Christians of the Phalangist militia entered the undefended Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in West Beirut. In the course of a 40-hour rampage, they shot, hacked, stomped, dragged, bulldozed and burned to death possibly as many as 3,500 civilians, and demolished hundreds of their homes. The Phalangists' intention was to so terrorize the 500,000 Palestinians in Lebanon - already refugees from Galilee in 1948 - that they would flee the country.
Umm Hussein lost her husband.
Umm Ali lost her daughter, Zeinab.
Mahmoud Younis lost two brothers.
He also lost his father, a third brother, his maternal uncle, his maternal cousin, two paternal cousins and other members of his extended family. He survived because his mother pretended that 11-year-old Mahmoud was a girl, and he escaped with his female relatives [Footnote 1].
It is of course natural that we should mourn our own dead more than others'. And, as Tom Gorman pointed out, in comparing US news coverage on the 30th anniversary of the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics with the total lack of coverage of the 20th anniversary of Sabra and Shatila, Palestinian victims in particular definitely fall on the wrong side of the line that Americans draw between worthy and unworthy victims. So it is no surprise that, in contrast to the extensive ceremonies for our 9/11 victims, the Palestinians massacred in 1982 will be quietly remembered in vigils in the Occupied Territories and in Palestinian refugee camps, and are commemorated by a small monument of whitewashed breezeblocks atop a mass grave in Shatila (left).
There are two more specific reasons why Sabra and Shatila have disappeared down the memory hole here in the US. Firstly, although this mass murder - the worst single atrocity in the Arab-Israeli conflict - was executed by Phalangists, it was planned and carried out with the collusion of our ally, Israel. (Specifically, senior members of the Israeli government and the IDF, who at that time were in control of West Beirut). Secondly, the safety of all the Palestinians murdered at Sabra and Shatila had actually been guaranteed by President Reagan's Middle East envoy, Ambassador Phillip Habib, only days before they were massacred.
For those who have forgotten, and for those who never knew, here is a timeline of events at the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila:
The architect of the invasion is Israeli Defence Minister, Ariel Sharon. Since 1976, Israel has been training and equipping the Phalangists, with the intention of bringing Bashir Gemayel to power in Lebanon. In return for installing him as President of Lebanon, Israel expects that Gemayel will sign a peace treaty recognizing Israel. On 17 July, Israeli PM Menachem Begin assures his Likud party, "Before the end of this year, we shall have a peace treaty with Lebanon".
The Phalangists have a very poor reputation among Israeli military correspondents. Eitan Haber, of mass-circulation daily Yedi'ot Aharonot, says: 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... [They are] an organized mob, with uniforms, motorized units, and training camps, who have become guilty of abominable and cruel deeds.
9 July 1982: Sharon announces that he will in a few months time help the Lebanese Phalange militia “clean out" the Palestinian refugee camps of Beirut. The Labor Party daily newspaper, Davar, reports that an Israeli liaison officer then suggests that Israelis should accompany the Phalangists in their "mopping-up" mission. His idea is rejected on the spot, on the grounds that the Phalangists can be expected to commit atrocities, so it would be unwise for the Israeli Army to be personally involved.
21 August 1982: The international community intervenes to end the siege of Beirut. Under the protection of an international force, all PLO fighters are to depart Beirut for Tunis. As this will leave undefended the Palestinian civilians in the Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, Yasser Arafat refuses to evacuate the PLO unless the US guarantees their safety. After receiving assurances from Israel, Ronald Reagan’s Mid East envoy, Ambassador Phillip Habib, guarantees that the IDF will not enter West Beirut and that Palestinian civilians there will come to no harm. He provides a written assurance to the PLO: The Governments of Lebanon and the United States will provide appropriate guarantees of the safety...of law-abiding Palestinian noncombatants left in Beirut, including the families of those who have departed...The U.S. will provide its guarantees on the basis of assurances received from the Government of Israel and the leaders of certain Lebanese groups with which it has been in contact.
23 August 1982: The Lebanese Parliament elects Israel’s protégé, Bashir Gemayel, President of Lebanon. Gemayel is the sworn enemy of the Palestinians. Two months earlier, in an interview published in Le Nouvel Observateur, he declared that in the Middle East, "there is one people too many: the Palestinian people."
(Phalangist threats to massacre the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have already been widely reported in the Israeli press. When news of Sabra and Shatila breaks, Knesset Member Amnon Rubenstein [Shinui] reports that, during a visit by Israeli parliamentarians to Israeli-occupied south Lebanon, he met members of the Phalangist Party who openly expressed their intention to massacre the Palestinians. One of them told him: "The death of one Palestinian is pollution; the death of all the Palestinians is the solution.")
1 September 1982: Bamahaneh, the IDF’s official weekly newspaper, reports 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.'
1 September 1982: All PLO fighters (15,000 in all) are evacuated from Beirut. The Lebanese authorities urge the multinational protection force to remain in Beirut, to help the Lebanese Army reassert control of West Beirut. Israel intercedes with the US to have the protection force removed immediately.
10 September 1982 – Having received assurances from Ariel Sharon for the safety of Palestinians in West Beirut, multinational forces begin to withdraw from the city.
11 September 1982 – Ariel Sharon announces that 2000 "terrorists" remain in the refugee camps, and that he will have to "clean them out". U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Nicholas Veliotes, warns that the claim that 2000 fighters remain in Sabra and Shatila is simply a pretext for Israel to seize West Beirut.
12 September 1982 – Ariel Sharon meets with president-elect Gemayel, to coordinate the “cleaning out” of the camps.
13 September 1982 - The last 850 French paratroopers and infantrymen of the Multinational Force leave Beirut, ten days prior to the expiration of their mandate. Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan confirms before the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense that PLO forces have evacuated the city and that: "Only a few terrorists and a small PLO office remain in Beirut." (Ha'aretz, September 15, 1982)
14 September 1982 – Bashir Gemayel is assassinated by a remote-controlled bomb at his headquarters. Ariel Sharon informs Gemayel’s Phalangist militias that Israel has proof the Palestinians are responsible. (The bombing was actually carried out by Habib Chartouni, an agent of Syrian Intelligence).
14 September 1982, 6:00pm – Ariel Sharon contacts PM Begin. They decide to send the IDF into Muslim West Beirut without informing the Israeli government. (The Israeli government will not find out that its army is occupying Beirut until it finds out the following day from Voice of Israel radio broadcasts).
14 September 1982 - In an interview that Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv will publish on 16 Sept, Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan declares: 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.
14 September 1982, 6:00pm - An officer of Lebanese Internal Security, on duty near Beirut International Airport, notes the beginning of an airlift of Israeli military equipment into the city.
Wednesday 15 September, 1982
00:30am – IDF Major General Amir Drori, commander of Israel’s northern region and occupied south Lebanon, receives orders to seize all key points in West Beirut.
03:30am - Israeli Generals Eitan and Drori meet with Fadi Frem, C-in-C of the Phalangist militia and his chief of intelligence, Elie Hobeika . On September 22, Ariel Sharon acknowledges to the Knesset that at this meeting "the principle of Phalangist entry into the refugee camps of Beirut was discussed." At the end of the meeting, one of the Phalangist commanders tells the Israelis: "We have been waiting for this moment, for many years."
05:00am - The Israelis occupy West Beirut, meeting little resistance, but causing great devastation. IDF troops have orders to disarm, in their advance, all Muslim and leftist militias. Colonel Zvi Elpeleg, former Israeli governor of Nabatiyyeh, comments: In 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).
09:00am - Ariel Sharon arrives in Beirut to personally direct the IDF campaign from the Israeli HQ located on the roof of a large building at the Kuwaiti Embassy crossroads, overlooking the city and the Sabra and Shatila camps.
09:00am - The Israeli occupation of West Beirut provokes unanimous protest throughout the world. President Reagan's special envoy, Morris Draper, visits PM Begin in Jerusalem. Begin assures him that Israel’s goal in West Beirut is simply to maintain order and prevent "pogroms". He does not mention that Israel intends to allow the Phalangists into the Palestinian camps.
PLO leaders are fearful for the Palestinians left behind in West Beirut, and now under Israeli occupation. They remind the world that they have signed assurances from American envoy Philip Habib guaranteeing the safety of Palestinian civilians after the departure of PLO fighters from Beirut. Farouq Qaddoumi, head of the PLO political department, declares: "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, the intermediary who helped broker the "Habib Agreements", confirms that the Israeli entry into the western part of the city is a violation of the signed accords. Senior State Department officials confirm the view expressed by Sa'eb Salam.
Noon - IDF tanks surround Sabra and Shatila, and Israeli soldiers set up check-points around the camps, allowing them to control all entrances and exits. Anxiety begins to mount among the refugees, who in the past were defended by the now-departed PLO fighters. Most inhabitants lock themselves inside their homes.
Late afternoon/early evening - The IDF launches sporadic shellfire at Sabra and Shatila. Norwegian Doctor Per Maehlumshagen, an orthopaedic surgeon at Gaza Hospital situated to the west of Sabra, treats about fifteen wounded civilians. Other Palestinian wounded, generally victims of sniper fire, arrive the same evening at Akka Hospital, across the road that marks the southern edge of Shatila.
Evening - An Israeli divisional intelligence officer, providing an update briefing on the situation in the camps, reports to the Chief of Staff: "It seems there are no terrorists there, in the camp; Sabra camp is empty." (Kahan Commission Final Report, p. 24).
Thursday 16 September, 1982
08:00am - Gen. Eitan chairs a meeting at Israeli HQ, in which he describes for General Saguy (IDF director of intelligence), a high-ranking representative of the Mossad, and the head of the Shin Bet, the Phalangists' imminent operation in the camps.
Noon - IDF Gen. Drori meets with Fadi Frem, Chief of Staff of the Lebanese Forces, to ascertain whether the Phalangists are ready to enter Sabra and Shatila. Frem responds: "Yes, immediately", and is given permission to proceed.
03:00pm - Brigadier General Amos Yaron (commander of Israeli forces in Beirut) meets Frem and his intelligence chief, Elie Hobeika. Using aerial photographs furnished by the Israelis, they coordinate the details of the Phalangist entry into the camps. Yaron assures the Lebanese that his troops will supply all the necessary assistance "to mop up the terrorists in the camps."
Following the meeting, Gen. Drori calls Ariel Sharon to announce: "Our friends are marching on the camps. We have coordinated their entry." Ariel Sharon replies, "The operation of our friends is approved. Congratulations!" It is not known whether Drori informs Sharon that the Phalangist commanders have told him: ''Bones are going to be broken in the camps." (On October 31, Drori will reveal to the Commission of Inquiry that one of his officers warns him that the Phalangists might massacre the Palestinians).
04:00pm - A Phalangist unit of 150 men, assembled near the airport, begins to move. It advances to the Phalangist HQ at the Kuwaiti Embassy traffic circle. Across the road from the Phalangist HQ, the Israelis set up a command and observation post in an apartment building, which stands 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).
Late afternoon - Israeli soldiers manning roadblocks at the entrance of the Shatila camp receive an order by radio to allow the Phalangist forces into the camp at sunset.
05:00pm The Phalangists enter Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The organized murder of the inhabitants begins immediately, in the Arsal neighborhood of Shatila, across from Israeli headquarters. The Israeli HQ building is seven storeys high and only 200 meters from the major location of the carnage. One Israeli officer says that watching from the roof is like watching "from the front row of a theater."
Evening - Phalangist militiamen murder hundreds of people in the first hours after entry. They shoot everything that moves in the alleys, then break into homes and liquidate whole families at the dinner table, or asleep in bed. In many cases, the victims are dismembered. Infants are killed by having their heads smashed against the walls of their homes. Women and girls are raped before being killed. Most of the victims on the first evening are hacked to death with knives and hatchets (most of the second day's victims will be shot at point-blank range). In some houses, the Phalangists spare the life of a single family member - killing the rest in front of him or her - so the survivor can recount what he lived through and spread terror among the Palestinians.
In the Horsh Tabet area, all 45 members of the Miqdad family are murdered. Some have their throats cut, others are disemboweled, among them a 29 year old woman named Zeinab, who is 8 months pregnant and whose foetus is placed in her arms. Her seven other children are also murdered. Another relative, Wafa Hammoud, 26 years old and in her seventh month of pregnancy, is also killed with her four children. A seven year old daughter of the Miqdad family is raped before being killed. In the same neighborhood, several other women are raped before being murdered, and their naked bodies arranged in the street in the form of a cross.
Evening - Four elderly men from Shatila form a delegation to try to stop the massacre. They are last seen heading south to the Israeli HQ, where they intend to tell the Israelis there are no fighters in the camp, and the civilians wish to surrender. They never arrive, and are found dead near the Kuwaiti Embassy several days later.
07:30pm - The Israeli Cabinet meets in Jerusalem. Cabinet members complain that the government should have been consulted before the IDF was sent into West Beirut, but they agree a draft resolution affirming that the seizure of West Beirut is necessary "in order to forestall the danger of violence, bloodshed and chaos." Defence Minister Sharon mentions in passing that Phalangist forces have entered the refugee camps "in order to clear out terrorist nests." He adds that the contact with the Phalangists is continuing and that their actions are totally coordinated with those of the Israeli Army. Only David Levy, the deputy PM, mentions the possibility that the Phalangists might massacre the Palestinians. The meeting lasts 4 hours. Most of the discussion centers on how to counter U.S. pressure for the IDF to get out of Beirut. The Cabinet devotes less than 5 minutes to the entry of the Phalangists into Sabra and Shatila.
Evening/Night - The Israeli soldiers stationed around the camps' perimeter quickly began to realize that something terrible is happening inside. Two Israeli paratroopers tell correspondent Michael Gerti: 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."...It was possible to stop the massacre in Shatila, even on Thursday; had they acted on what we reported to our commander. (Ha'aretz, September 23, 1982).
Evening/Night: A Palestinian resident of Sabra approaches the first Israeli checkpoint to the west of the camp, and tells an Arabic-speaking IDF soldier named Rami what is happening: 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.
Evening/Night: An Israeli nurse gives medical treatment to a wounded nine-month-old baby who has been brought to his medical post by his only-surviving relative. The baby dies. A Phalangist militiaman later sees the baby lying dead and blurts out: "Would you like to get rid of this bundle? I will throw it in the garbage." The nurse testifies that this makes him realize a real carnage is taking place, and he alerts his superiors.
Evening/Night - A militiaman boasts to Israeli soldiers manning a checkpoint: "We have already killed 250 terrorists." One of the soldiers later recalls for journalists that this made the soldiers laugh, and 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?". The soldier adds, "When he left, we stopped laughing and began to realize that indeed a massacre was unfolding."
10:00pm - Electric power is abruptly cut off in all of West Beirut. Israeli soldiers around the perimeter receive an order to fire illumination flares above Sabra and Shatila, starting at midnight.
11:00pm - News of the massacre begins arriving at the Israeli headquarters from forward command posts near the Shatila camp. They report casualties in the camps, including "terrorists and civilians." The commander of the Phalangist troops in the Shatila camp reports to the Israelis that, "Thus far we have liquidated 300 civilians and terrorists." This report is immediately communicated to Tel Aviv where it is conveyed to more than twenty high-ranking IDF officers.
Night - Israeli troops around the camp fire flares from all directions above Sabra and Shatila. According to one Israeli soldier, his unit fires two 81mm illuminating flares every minute for a duration of several hours. The Israeli Air Force also drops flares to light the camps. International press correspondents based in Beirut see the camps lit up at night, and ask for an explanation from Israeli military spokesmen. The spokesmen don't answer.
Overnight - Casualties pour into the Gaza and Akka Hospitals, bringing news of terrible massacres. At the same time, 1000-2000 civilians, in a state of indescribable panic, seek sanctuary in the hospitals.
Friday 17 September, 1982
01:00am - IDF radio reports 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 rebroadcast at 02:00am, never to be repeated afterward.
Daybreak - Israeli officers and soldiers watch with binoculars what is happening inside the Shatila camp. They can see piles of bodies and men being lined up for execution. Soldiers from an armored unit stationed 100 meters from the camp report that they can see the execution of civilians by the militiamen. Lieutenant Avi Grabowski, deputy commander of an IDF tank company witnesses the Phalangists killing civilians, including women and children. He confronts a Phalangist about killing pregnant women. The Phalangist answers that "pregnant women will give birth to terrorists." Israeli soldiers who report Phalangist atrocities against civilians to their superiors are ordered not to interfere with what is happening in the camps and not to enter the area. When Grabowski reports to his battalion commander, he is told: "We know, it's not to our liking, and don't interfere."
05:30am - Lieutenant Colonel Moshe Hevroni, the bureau chief at IDF General Staff HQ in Tel Aviv, receives a report indicating that 300 casualties are reported in the camps. At 07:30am, he passes this information to Avi Duda'i, a personal aide to Defense Minister Sharon.
On 22 September, Sharon will inform the Knesset: 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... [The IDF] put an end to Phalangist activity as early as Friday around noon. We eventually evacuated them from the area by Saturday noon. This is not true. Throughout Friday, fresh Phalangist troops are admitted into the camps, bringing the total number of assailants up to about 400. The rampage continues all day Friday, with the approval of the IDF (see entry for 04:30pm, below). It is not until 10:00am on Saturday that the massacre finally stops.
Morning - Upon hearing the news that the IDF has entered West Beirut, some Israelis express the fear that this new offensive might be followed by a massacre of Palestinians and the destruction of their camps. A statement from former MK Uri Avneri, appears in this morning's Israeli press, accusing Ariel Sharon of seeking to destroy the refugee camps of West Beirut under the guise of a military operation.
08:00am - Several foreign journalists try to enter the camps, after hearing alarming rumors about what is going on inside. Roy Wilkinson of Newsweek, is stopped from going in by IDF soldiers and Phalangists manning a roadblock. While Wilkinson is talking to the soldiers, a militiaman rushes to the roadblock and announces he had found "an old man." He receives orders to shoot the man. An Israeli officer named Elie explains to Wilkinson that Israeli forces have been ordered not to disturb the militias who are "mopping up the area."(Newsweek, October 4, 1982).
Morning - Additional Phalangist troops enter Shatila through the southern and western entrances. They are equipped with jeeps, trucks, and three bulldozers (at least one of which has been supplied by the IDF, after having its identification removed). The bulldozers will be used for home demolitions and for the preparation of mass graves.
Morning - Phalangist militiamen escort foreign medical personnel from the Akka Hospital, and deliver them into the care of the ICRC. The evacuated medical staff alert the press and the diplomatic corps to the grave developments in the camps.
Between 11:00am and noon - Armed militiamen arrive at Akka Hospital. They murder several of the wounded in their beds, and kill camp residents who have been seeking sanctuary at the hospital. Forty of the people sheltering in the hospital are forced into a truck, and driven away. They are never accounted for. Militiamen also murder two Palestinian doctors, Ali Othman and Sami Khatib, and an Egyptian staff member. A 19-year-old Palestinian nurse named Intisar Ismail is raped by about ten men, then killed. A Lebanese colleague can identify her mutiliated body only because he recognises a ring on her hand.
11:00am - Gen. Amos Yaron reports to Gen. Amir Drori from Israeli HQ overlooking the camps that rumors of "irregular activity" by the Phalangists in the camps are getting more and more persistent. Yaron tells the Phalangist liaison officer at Israeli HQ that the Phalangists must cease firing immediately. But he does not order them to vacate the camps, nor does he verify whether the cease-fire order is being implemented, or send IDF troops to the camp to determine what is happening.
12:00am - Gen. Drori reports to Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan in Tel Aviv that something "suspicious" is taking place in the camps. Eitan leaves Tel Aviv for Beirut, arriving at 03:30pm.
Shortly after noon - Militiamen gather about one hundred men on the main road south of Shatila. After separating Palestinians from Lebanese, they begin torturing the former by slashing their faces with knives and interrogating them.
Late morning/Early afternoon - Additional Phalangist troops gather by Beirut International Airport. The military correspondent of Israeli television, Ron Ben-Yishai, asks their commander where they are going. The commander replies: "Military mission." Ben-Yishai notes that the Phalangist convoy includes 13 tanks, half-tracks equipped with 120mm mortars, vehicles armed with heavy machineguns and many "command cars." He also observes that the soldiers combat gear, even their uniforms, have been supplied by the IDF: the Phalangists have simply replaced the inscription "Tzahal" (i.e. IDF) with the words "Lebanese Forces."
While awaiting for orders, the Phalangists are unambiguous about their mission, boasting: "We are going to kill them", and "We are going to f*ck their mothers and sisters." Eventually, the Phalangist column departs north along the airport road, and enters Shatila from the south and east.
04:30pm - Accompanied by Gen. Drori and Gen. Yaron, Gen Eitan meets Phalangist officers (including Fadi Frem) at Lebanese Forces HQ. According to the testimony of Gen. Yaron, Gen. Eitan congratulates the Phalangists on their operation. The Phalangists report that they have been "mopping up" the area. They complain that the Americans are pressuring them "to stop their operations in the camps," and appeal to the Israelis for "additional time to clean up the grounds." The two parties agree that, "All the Phalangists will leave the refugee camps on Saturday morning, the 18th of September". Until then, the Phalangists continue their "mopping up" operations.
According to the summary made by the Mossad representative at the meeting, Chief of Staff Eitan acknowledges that the Phalangists are mopping up "empty camps", i.e. empty of "terrorists". (Kahan Commission Final Report, p.37)
Throughout The Day - Access to the camp is blocked by Israeli soldiers, who repeatedly order fleeing refugees to turn back. During the afternoon, a crowd of 500 refugees sheltering in the Gaza Hospital in Sabra hear that the Phalangists are attacking the hospitals. Brandishing white flags, the crowd tries to escape the camp, but when they reach Beirut's main east-west thoroughfare, Corniche el-Mazra'a, they are stopped by Israeli soldiers. A spokesman for the group explains to the soldiers that Sa'ad Haddad's men are murdering civilians, but the soldiers order them back to the camp. When they hesitate, an Israeli tank chases them several hundred feet back toward the camps. (New York Times, September 26, 1982).
Throughout The Day - Phalangist units prepare mass graves for hundreds of the scattered corpses. Bulldozers dig one of the mass graves halfway between an Israeli position and IDF headquarters.
Throughout The Day - Eyewitnesses report that truckloads of civilians are being deported to unknown locations. A Danish TV cameraman, M. Petersen, actually films the militiamen loading men, women and children aboard such trucks on the edge of Shatila, just 400 meters from an Israeli position. Residents of the Lebanese villages of Shweifat and Hadath, south of Beirut, confirm that at noon on Friday, three large trucks and two smaller vehicles loaded with civilians pass through their area. None of the people loaded onto trucks will ever be accounted for.
08:00pm - Israeli TV correspondent Ron Ben-Yishai overhears a group of officers from a tank battalion surrounding Shatila say that a soldier and an officer from their unit has 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 officers continue to discuss events in the camps throughout the rest of the evening. At 11:30pm, the correspondent tells them: "If you are certain of what you are describing; I will call the Minister of Defense." Ben-Yishai calls Sharon at his farm, and tells him: "Something must be done immediately to put an end to this ... IDF soldiers have 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." Ben-Yishai states 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."
Saturday 18 September, 1982
06:00am - A group of militiamen with bullhorns call upon the surviving residents to come out of their homes and shelters, assuring them they will not be harmed. As many as 1,000 bewildered survivors - mostly elderly people, women and children - gather in Shatila's main street (Abu Hassan Salameh Street), carrying white flags and Lebanese flags. The militiamen march them at gunpoint south along the street, intermittently selecting out small groups of people who are stood up against the wall of the nearest house and shot. A bulldozer then demolishes each house to hide the bodies under the rubble. Near the camp entrance, Phalangists separate Palestinians from Lebanese citizens. Some Palestinians are taken away in small groups; often, the noise of sustained gunfire is heard, just after a group disappears from sight. Other Palestinians are forced onto trucks parked in front of the Kuwaiti Embassy, and driven away. People taken by the militiamen will never be seen again.
Between 06:00am and 07:00am - Seven Phalangist militiamen come to Gaza Hospital in the northern part of Sabra. They order the medical staff (22 doctors and nurses; mostly internationals, but also including 2 Palestinians) to gather by the entrance. The militiamen check the nationalities of the medical staff, over the objections of a Norwegian physician, Dr. Per Maehlumshagen. A Palestinian male nurse is dragged out of the line and murdered. A Palestinian colleague and a Syrian staff member are also shot. The rest of the medical team is marched down the main street of Shatila Phalangist headquarters near the Kuwaiti Embassy traffic circle. The militiamen harangue them as "Communist scum" and "people who help our enemies". Israeli HQ is located across the street from Phalangist HQ; Israeli Gen. Amos Yaron sees the mistreatment of the internationals, and orders their release.
08:00am - General Amos Yaron observes the remnants of the crowd of most elderly people, women and children, who were gathered at the camp entrance at 06:00am. He announces that the women and children may leave. The men are taken to the nearby Camille Chamoun Sports Stadium for interrogation by the Israelis, who warn them that they must "reveal terrorist hideouts" because, "If you do not tell us the truth, you know that the Phalangists and Sa'ad Haddad's men are here!". Twenty-eight dead prisoners are subsequently found in the sports stadium, their hands tied behind their backs.
Early Morning - U.S. special envoy, Morris Draper (deputy to Phillip Habib), demands of the Israeli Foreign Ministry: You must stop the massacres. They are obscene. I have an officer in the camp counting the bodies. You ought to be ashamed. The situation is rotten and terrible. They are killing children. You are in absolute control of the area and therefore responsible for that area. (Testimony of Israeli FM official Bruce Kashdan to the Kahan Commission of Inquiry; cited in the LA Times, 22 Nov 1982).
10:00am - Israeli tanks approach the main gate of Shatila. Militiamen of the Lebanese Forces get into their vehicles, evacuate the camps, and return to their bases. The camps are silent. Survivors begin to emerge, and to search through the rubble for members of their families.
10:00am - Journalist Robert Fisk and two colleagues are driving past Shatila when they notice an overwhelming smell. They enter the camp, and find dazed survivors and dead refugees in every alley. (Read part of their description). Fisk climbs onto an earthen wall to survey the scene. It shifts beneath his feet, and he realises he is not standing on a wall but on a hurriedly-covered mound of bodies. He falls, and finds himself face to face with the head of a child whose lower jaw has been hacked off. Fisk returns to his bureau to file a report on what he has seen. His editor will not allow him to use the word "massacre" to describe the actions of "our" side.
Noon - Terrorized survivors have left the camps and spread word of what has happened. American and European journalists and diplomats arrive at the camps and discover hundreds of scattered bodies and mangled limbs. A group including the French Ambassador finds 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 has been crushed, lying in a pool of blood with a milk-feeding bottle next to him; and the mutilated parts of a baby carefully arranged in a circle with the head neatly placed on top.
Foreign correspondents file their first reports. Their reports and pictures have a huge impact worldwide.
Morning - Lebanese Army soldiers and Red Cross rescue workers begin recovering bodies from the rubble. Recovery operations cease after a couple of days, because of the advanced decomposition of the bodies, leaving many of the demolished homes unsearched.
Journalists interview Israeli troops, who say they saw and heard nothing, or say nothing at all. The military correspondent of Ma'ariv writes: "I have never seen our soldiers so silent throughout this war... They listened to our questions, but did not answer". However, some Phalangists are happy to be interviewed. One officer tells a U.S. journalist: "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 asks him if they had taken any prisoners, he responds: "This is not the kind of operation in which prisoners are taken."
Noon - The Israeli government tries to distance itself from any responsibility in its first official statement: "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."
08:00pm Voice of Israel Radio reports that "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. 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...."
Midnight - The Israeli Foreign Ministry states that "Israel condemns the massacre", and again maintains that the IDF's only involvement was to stop the Phalangists. But international correspondents reporting to a worldwide audience raise the questions that the Israeli government studiously avoids: such as how could the Phalangists get into the camp, when all of West Beirut was under Israeli occupation, and every entrance to Sabra and Shatila guarded by an IDF checkpoint? And how could the IDF be unaware of a 40-hour massacre taking place before their eyes?
In the United States, President Reagan attributes to Israel a large share of the responsibility for the massacre. A high-ranking American official confirms that the US "would be extremely surprised if Israel was really unaware of what happened in the camps... Israeli forces evidently controlled the whole sector where the massacres occurred."
Throughout the day - In the rest of West Beirut, the IDF continues to arrest and interrogate "terrorist suspects", as if nothing had happened. It picks up 1,000 suspects and takes them for interrogation at the Sports Stadium adjoining Sabra.
Night - By nightfall, the camps are deserted. Surviving residents are too terrified to stay overnight. For the following week, they sleep in the parks and schools of West Beirut.
Sunday September 19, 1982
Morning - US diplomats in Tel Aviv reveal that Lebanese intermediaries who negotiated the evacuation of the PLO from Beirut had repeatedly expressed their fear of a Phalangist massacre of camp residents, but that US envoy Philip Habib and his deputy Morris Draper had assured them that they had a "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 add. Ha'aretz quotes one of the diplomats: "They [the Palestinians] have placed their confidence in us. And we placed our trust in you [Israel]. Now we realize our mistake, but it is too late."
Late Morning - One thousand Israeli demonstrators gather outside PM Begin's residence. They chant "Begin is a murderer. Beirut-Deir Yassin 1982"  and ''Down with Sharon, the butcher of Qibya.".
Throughout the day. Medical and rescue teams continue retrieving and burying corpses. The body count is inexact. Israel estimates that 700-800 people were killed. French-Israeli journalist, Amnon Kapeliouk, who compiled the first reconstruction of the massacre based on eyewitness testimony, suggests that this is a minimization of the death toll. He notes that the Lebanese authorities recorded 762 bodies buried or cremated by the Red Cross, and about 1200 bodies claimed by family members for private burial, for a total of about 2,000 dead.
Kapeliouk also notes that this number does not include those victims - he suggests in the low hundreds - bulldozed into mass graves during the assault. (The Lebanese authorities did not allow the exacavation of known or suspected mass grave sites, for fear of reigniting Lebanon's sectarian hatreds. They failed to hold a serious investigation into the massacre, for the same reason). Nor do the official figures account for those - again, possibly in the low hundreds - who remained buried under the rubble of destroyed homes after recovery efforts were abandoned due to advanced decomposition of the bodies.
The Lebanese official total also does not include those (in the high hundreds?) who were seen by multiple eyewitnesses being loaded onto trucks and driven away by the Phalangists. A few of the bodies of these missing people, apparently thrown from the trucks, were later discovered along the roads runnning south through the villages of Ouzai, Khalde, Haret el-Naimeh, and Kafr Shima. Other bodies were found on the Airport Road. But the majority were never recovered. American diplomats told the NY Times that they were feared massacred in southern Lebanon. (It is possible that some lie under the new stadium built on the ruins of Camille Chamoun Sports Stadium. And, according to the UK's Independent newspaper, some dozens are also buried near the Lebanese town of Jounieh ).
Kapeliouk concludes that, bearing in mind all these factors, it is probable that "between 3,000-3,500 men, women and children were massacred within 48 hours between September 16 and 18, 1982". About three-quarters of the dead were Palestinians, the remainder were Lebanese citizens. Nine of the dead were Jews, who had married Palestinians in the Mandate period, and had chosen to go into exile with them when they were expelled from their homes in Galilee in 1948.
Early Evening - Gen. Eitan holds a press conference in Beirut, and denies any responsibility for the atrocities. He blames the Phalangists and, indirectly, the Lebanese Army and the Americans.
10:00pm - In a special session of the Israeli Cabinet, PM Begin insists that suggestions of Israeli culpability are anti-Semitic, saying: "Goyim killing other goyim, and they accuse the Jews!" Begin refuses to hold a commission of inquiry, as this will be interpreted as "as an admission of guilt" in what is purely "an internal Lebanese affair." The Cabinet adopts and releases a statement absolving Israel of any responsibility; it raises again the fiction that the PLO left behind in the camps "2,000 terrorists" , and maintains that accusations of Israeli responsibility are a slanderous "blood libel".
Monday 20 September, 1982
Morning - Two trucks arrive at Shatila, bringing Lebanese soldiers to help with burials. Their bright green uniforms are reminiscent of the Lebanese militias'. Hundreds of panic-stricken survivors stampede northward out of the camp, believing that the militiamen have returned to finish them off.
Morning - The Israeli public and press do not believe their government's denials of involvement. Under the frontpage heading, "War Crime in Beirut", Ha'aretz's military correspondent Ze'ev Schiff reports: 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.
Ha'aretz also publishes a statement by the Israeli Committee Against the War in Lebanon: 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.
Yosef Burg, Israel's interior minister, echoes Begin's defense, saying: "Christians killed Muslims; how are the Jews responsible?" Novelist Yitzhak Smilanski tells him ironically: 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?
Writing in Ha'olam Ha'ze, Yeshayahu Leibovitz (professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) comments: The massacre was done by us. The Phalangists are our mercenaries, exactly as the Ukrainians and the Croatians and the Slovakians were the mercenaries of Hitler, who organised them as soldiers to do the work for him. Even so have we organized the assassins in Lebanon in order to murder the Palestinians.
In the same publication, Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua comments: What can one say? Even if I could believe that IDF soldiers who stood at a distance of 100 meters from the camps did not know what happened, then this would be the same lack of knowledge of the Germans who stood outside Buchenwald and Treblinka and did not know what was happening! We too did not want to know.
22 September 1982 - The Israeli General Command holds a meeting, in which Chief of Staff Eitan sets aside five minutes on the agenda to discuss "events in Sabra and Shatila." No one says a word.
22 September 1982 -In Shatila camp, correspondents find a Palestinian woman pacing back and forth near a mass grave which contains thirteen members of her family, including a 4 month-old baby. Finally she stops, sits on the ground, throws dirt over her head, and asks: "But where do I go now?"
23 September 1982 - A Gallup poll, based on interviews with 1700 people, shows that 60 percent of Israelis considered their government responsible, in one way or another, for the Beirut massacre. (Published in Ha'aretz, September 23, 1982).
25 September 1982 - Public protests against the government escalate in Israel, culminating in a demonstration in Tel Aviv by 400,000 people. (The largest demonstration in Israel's history).
28 September 1982 - PM Begin reverses himself, and accepts the appointment of a limited commission of inquiry. (The Kahan Commission)
16 December 1982 - The UN formally declares the Sabra and Shatila massacres "an act of genocide." As a signatory to both the Geneva Conventions and the Genocide Convention, Israel is legally bound to arrest and try any of its citizens directly or indirectly involved in the slaughter.
8 February 1983 - The Kahan Commission clears Israel of involvement in planning and carrying out the murders at Sabra and Shatila. It concludes however that Ariel Sharon bears "personal responsibility" for the killings, and recommends that he resign as Defence Minister. Sharon is forced to resign, but PM Begin retains him in the government as a Minister without Portfolio, and appoints him to two important Ministerial Committees (on Negotiations with Lebanon, and on Security).
The Commission also recommends that Gen. Yaron, who knew of the killings on the first evening they began but did nothing, should be relieved of field command for three years. Instead, PM Begin promotes him to Head of IDF Manpower and Training.
The Commission makes no recommendations about Chief of Staff Eitan, who allowed the Phalangists extra "mopping-up" time even when he knew a massacre was underway, on the grounds that he is due to retire from the IDF soon anyway.
6 February 2001 - Ariel Sharon is elected Prime Minister of Israel. He will be invited to the White House as a guest of the Bush Administration more often than any other world leader. In contrast, the Adminstration will boycott Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat.
17 June 2001 - British journalist Feargal Keane asks PM Ariel Sharon if he would apologise for the tragedy of Sabra and Shatila. Sharon replies: "Apologize for what?"
19 April 2002 - In the midst of the IDF's invasion and re-occupation of the Palestinian West Bank cities, President Bush describes PM Sharon as "A man of peace".
24 June 2002 - President Bush insists that the Palestinians must choose a new leader, on the grounds that Arafat is "tainted by terror".
Hopefully, anyone who has read this far, through the whole sordid episode of Sabra and Shatila, will have a better appreciation now of why most of the world rolls its eyes when our President lauds the Israeli PM as a "man of peace", but labels the Palestinian leader a "terrorist". Because the other 95% of the world understands that terrorism is not terrorism only when it is committed by Muslims or Arabs, and that the politically-motivated murder of about 3,000 U.S. civilians in New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001 is a despicable act, but no more despicable than the conveniently-forgotten politically-motivated murder of about 3,000 Palestinian civilians in Sabra and Shatila on 16-18 September 1982.
 The testimony of Mahmoud Younis: I was 11 years old. It was night and we could hear shelling and gunfire. (…) We took refuge in the bedroom and stayed there. As soon as they arrived, they went straight to the living room, and they tore down the photos from the walls, including the one of my brother who was killed in "Black September." They ransacked the living room, cursing and swearing. After having looked for us without finding us, they went up to the roof and stayed there all night long. We spent that night in terror in our hiding place, listening to the shooting and people screaming, while Israel fired flares to light the sky until sunrise.
The next morning they started saying, "give yourself up and your life will be spared." My nephew was 18 months old. He was hungry and we were far from the kitchen. My sister wanted him to quieten down, and she put her hand over his mouth for fear that they would hear. Her husband decided that we would have to give ourselves up, adding that each person's fate was anyway preordained by God. The women went out first, my brothers, my father, my brother-in-law and other members of the family followed. My brother was ill. As soon as they heard our voices, they shot in our direction and came straight back inside the house. They asked us where we had been the day before when they had come in and not found anyone there. Then they ordered the women and children to go out. My brother-in-law started kissing his little girl as if he were saying goodbye. An armed man came towards my niece, tied a rope around her neck and threatened to strangle her if her father didn't let go of her. He let go of her and gave her to me. They wanted to take me too but my mother told them I was a girl. They made my mother and the women walk to the Sports Centre. While I was walking I saw my aunt's husband, Abu Nayef, killed near our house with blows of an axe to his head. The dead bodies were disfigured. While I was carrying my niece, I bumped into a dead body that had been hit with an axe and I fell over. They knew then that I was a boy, and one of them put me up against the wall; he wanted to fire a bullet into my head. My mother begged him and kissed his feet so that he would let me go. He pushed her away. When he did that, he heard the clinking of some money she had hidden next to her chest. He asked her what that meant. She replied that he could have all the money he wanted but he had to let me stay with her. In this way we carried on our way and we arrived at the Sports Centre. The Israeli bulldozers were busy digging large trenches. We were told that we all had to get in because they wanted to bury us all alive. My mother started begging him again, and then she asked for a mouthful of water before dying.
At the Sports Centre, I saw the Israeli military, as well as tanks, bulldozers and artillery, all Israeli. We also saw groups of Phalangists with the Israelis. The Sports Centre was packed with women and children. We stayed there until sunset. An Israeli came then and he said, "Everyone go to the Cola region, whoever comes back to the camp will die." We left, as they fired shots in our direction".
 Elie Hobeika who, as the Phalangists' head of intelligence, bore direct personal responsibilty for the Sabra and Shatila massacres, agreed in early 2002 to give evidence against PM Sharon to a Belgian court investigating Sharon's involvement in the massacre. At 5:00pm on 21st January 2002, Hobeika met secretly with two Belgian senators, Josy Dubie and Vincent van Quickenborne, and agreed to testify against Sharon. News of the meeting was leaked to the Lebanese press. At 10:00am on 23 January 2002, Hobeika was killed when a massive car bomb detonated under his car, as he drove from his home in East Beirut. The perpetrators have not been apprehended.
 On 9 April 1948, the Jewish underground organisation, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, massacred 250 residents of Deir Yassin, a Palestinian village west of Jerusalem. The purpose of the slaughter was to terrorize the Arab population into fleeing the new state of Israel. The Irgun was commanded by Menachem Begin, who declared in The Revolt: "Without Deir Yasin there would be no Israel".
 Qibya is a Palestinian village located near the cease-fire line which separated Israel from Jordan before 1967. On the night of 14-15 October, 1953, the village was attacked by Israeli commandos, following at attack on a Jewish family in Yahoud (though there was no evidence that anyone in Qibya was involved in that attack). The Israeli commandos, led by then-Colonel Ariel Sharon, blew up 45 houses in the village, killing 69 civilians inside. Two-thirds of the dead were women and children. Sharon claimed that he had no idea anyone was in the houses. The UN observer who inspected the scene came to a different conclusion, reporting: One story was repeated time after time: the bullet splintered door, the body sprawled across the threshold, indicating that the inhabitants had been forced by heavy fire to stay inside until their homes were blown up over them.
 [F]ormer Phalangists live in fear of their lives...One of them recently said that dozens of Palestinians who survived the massacres were executed at a former barracks near Jounieh, north of the capital, after being held in containers for two weeks. The prisoners had been handed over to the Phalangists, he said, by Israeli troops at the ruined sports stadium in Beirut. The location of their mass grave is known to The Independent. ("Third former militiaman with links to Sabra and Chatila is murdered"; The Independent, 11 March 2002. Subscription article, reproduced without subscription here).
 The preposterous claim that 150 militiamen of the Christian Phalange (whose reputation as a fighting force was abysmal) would enter a camp housing 2,000 well-armed PLO "terrorists" becomes the subject of much ironic humor among Israeli military commentators. e.g. B. Michael in Ha'aretz: So Heroic As This Are The Christian Fighters!
2. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The US, Israel and The Palestinians.
3. Robert Fisk, Pity The Nation: Lebanon At War.
4. Chris Tolworthy, The Sabra and Shatila massacres - why do we ignore them?
5. Peggy Thomson, Sabra and Shatila: The Forgotten Massacres.
6. Ellen Siegel, After Nineteen Years: Sabra and Shatila Remembered; MEPC Journal Volume VIII, December 2001, Number 4.
7. Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.
8. The Use Of Fiction (Fotolog).
9. All black-and-white photographs are official UNRWA photos, via littleredbutton.com.
10. All color photographs are from the documentary, "Two Thousand Terrorists".
Labels: Tainted By Terror