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Sabra and Shatila massacre, 30 years on

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Sabra and Shatila massacre, 30 years on


The worst massacre ever suffered by the Palestinian people took place in Lebanon 30 years ago.

In the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, women, children and old men were among the Palestinian and Lebanese civilians killed. The estimates varied between 700 and 3,500.

Members of the Christian Phalange militia murdered them without interference from the 16-18 September 1982.

After heavy bombardment, on Sept. 1 the Israeli army had invaded Lebanon to drive out the Palestinian Liberation Organisation from the capital Beirut.

Israeli Defence Minister (then) Ariel Sharon was the architect of the invasion, and he said that 2,000 terrorists were harbouring in the refugee camps.

When a bomb went off in the headquarters of the Phalange Party on 11 Sept., Lebanon’s freshly elected Christian Maronite President Bachir Gemayel was killed.

He had raised hope that the country’s civil war, begun in 1975, might finally be nearing an end.

His assassination was cited as the trigger for the massacre, revenge.

It happened while the Israeli army surrounded the camps, letting in the Phalange militia – allies in the invasion. Israeli aircraft lit up the night sky. Many victims were killed with knives and axes. The outside world learned of the quiet slaughter days later.

For the survivors of Sabra and Shatila, 17 Sept. is a day of crushing mourning and remembrance, reunited at the grave sites. Israel eventually did recognise a role of indirect responsibility, and held Sharon personally responsible, but he remained in the Israeli government.

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