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Sabra and Shatila Massacres


mass killing of hundreds of palestinians in refugee camps, 1618 september 1982.

Shortly after Israel invaded Lebanon on 6 June 1982, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) laid siege to Beirut. A cease-fire accord reached in August allowed the entry into West Beirut of a multilateral force, including a contingent of U.S. Marines. Following a U.S. pledge to protect Palestinian civilians, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters and officials departed the city, as did the multinational force. The day after the president of Lebanon, Bashir Jumayyil, was assassinated (14 September), Israel sent troops into West Beirut, where they surrounded two Palestinian refugee camps in violation of the cease-fire agreement. Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan arranged for the Israel-supported Phalange militia to enter the camps to clear out what Sharon described as "2,0003,000 terrorists who remained behind. We even have their names." The Phalange murdered hundreds of Palestinians, mostly women, children, and older men. Israel put the figure at 800; other sources estimated it at 1,500.

The international community condemned Israel's role in the mass killing, and up to 400,000 Israelis (8 percent of the population) demonstrated against the government of Menachem Begin and demanded a judicial inquiry. A three-man Israeli commission, headed by the president of the Supreme Court, Yitzhak Kahan, found that Israeli officials were "indirectly responsible" because they arranged for the Phalange, mortal enemies of the Palestinians, to enter the camps and, even though Israeli officers and government officials received reports about the atrocities, they ignored them and allowed the Phalange to extend their stay in the camps. The International Commission, chaired by Sean MacBride, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, charged that under international law, Israel was directly responsible because the camps were under its jurisdiction as an occupying power and because the IDF planned and facilitated its ally's entry into and activities in the camps, prevented survivors from leaving the camps, and did not stop the mass killing after hearing about it. Despite the findings of both commissions, no one was prosecuted. In 2001, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for an investigation of Ariel Sharon for his role in the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

see also arabisrael war (1982); eitan, rafael; kahan commission (1983); pha-lange; sharon, ariel.


Government of Israel. The Kahan Commission Report. Jerusalem: Author, 1982.

Smithe, Charles D. Palestine and the ArabIsraeli Conflict. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.

Tessler, Mark. A History of the IsraeliPalestinian Conflict. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

philip mattar

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