sabra04On 16.09.1982, the Israeli army controlled West Beirut, sealed off the 2 Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila and fired shells at them. Later, the Israeli military command gave the Israeli-allied Lebanese Phalangist militia the green light to enter the refugee camps. For the next 40 hours the Phalangist militia raped, killed, and injured a large number of unarmed civilians, mostly children, women and elderly people inside the “encircled and sealed” Sabra and Shatila camps. These actions, accompanied or followed by systematic roundups, backed or reinforced by the Israeli army, resulted in dozens of disappearances. During the massacre, the Israeli army prevented civilians from escaping the camps and arranged for the camps to be illuminated throughout the night by flares launched into the sky from helicopters and mortars. (1)

sabra014The number of victims varies between 700 (the official Israeli figure) and 3,500 (in the inquiry launched by the Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk). The exact figure can never be determined because, in addition to the approximately 1,000 people who were buried in communal graves by the ICRC or in the cemeteries of Beirut by members of their families, a large number of corpses were buried beneath bulldozed buildings by the militia members themselves. Also, hundreds of people were carried away alive in trucks towards unknown destinations, never to return. (1)

sabra006“What we found inside the Palestinian Chatila camp at ten o’clock on the morning of 18th September 1982 did not quite beggar description, although it would have been easier to re-tell in the cold prose of a medical examination … there were women lying in houses with their skirts torn up to their waists and their legs wide apart, children with their throats cut, rows of young men shot in the back after being lined up at an execution wall. There were babies – blackened babies because they had been slaughtered more than 24 hours earlier and their small bodies were already in a state of decomposition – tossed into the rubbish heaps alongside discarded US army ration tins, Israeli army medical equipment and empty bottles of whisky …” Robert Fisk (2)

Sabra39“Down a laneway to our right, no more than 50 yards from the entrance, there lay a pile of corpses. There were more than a dozen of them, young men whose arms and legs had been wrapped around each other in the agony of death. All had been shot at point-blank range through the cheek, the bullet tearing away a line of flesh up to the ear and entering the brain. Some had vivid crimson or black scars down the left side of their throats. One had been castrated, his trousers torn open and a settlement of flies throbbing over his torn intestines. The eyes of these young men were all open. The youngest was only 12 or 13 years old … ” Robert Fisk (2)

sabra015_001“On the other side of the main road, up a track through the debris, we found the bodies of five women and several children. The women were middle-aged and their corpses lay draped over a pile of rubble. One lay on her back, her dress torn open and the head of a little girl emerging from behind her. The girl had short, dark curly hair, her eyes were staring at us and there was a frown on her face. She was dead … One of the women also held a tiny baby to her body. The bullet that had passed through her breast had killed the baby too. Someone had slit open the woman’s stomach, cutting sideways and then upwards, perhaps trying to kill her unborn child. Her eyes were wide open, her dark face frozen in horror.” Robert Fisk (2)

47148.imgcacheOn Thursday, there was shelling when the Israelis came, then it got worse so we went down into the shelter. (…) We learned on Friday that there had been a massacre. I went to my neighbours’ house. I saw our neighbour Mustapha Al Habarat; he was injured and lying in a bath of his own blood. His wife and children were dead. We took him to the Gaza hospital and then we fled. When things had calmed down, I came back and searched for my daughter and my husband for four days. I spent four days looking for them through all the dead bodies. I found Zeinab dead, her face burnt. Her husband had been cut in two and had no head. I took them and buried them. Samiha Abbas Hijazi (3)

“When the massacre was over, we went back and saw the corpses of the dead, including that of our neighbours’ son Samir, who had been murdered. And under the corpses, they had placed bombs as booby-traps.” Jamila Mohammed Khalife (3)


“There was an explosion and the people ran, on the way back I saw dead bodies on both sides of the road, women and old people. They had blown up the corpses and the children were dead. I went home and the children weren’t there. I spent four days looking for the children; my brother brought my youngest son’s dead body; I had already seen my eldest son dead in the pit.” Nazek Abdel Rahman Al Jammal (3)

sabra_10“We heard the screams and the massacre through the bathroom window. That’s how we knew that they had gone into the shelter and taken everyone they found there, including my relatives. On the Saturday, we escaped into the inside of the camp. After that, my mother went back to see my brothers and sisters, but she couldn’t recognise them because they were so disfigured. All we knew was that they had been buried in the mass grave. My father taught the child who survived (my father’s nephew) to call him Daddy.” Amal Hussein (3)


“When I came back here I saw my daughter Fatima had been hit with an axe, along with my little girl. I noticed that they had dug a ditch in the ground and they had buried them alive in the ditch. The baby’s throat had been slit. I also saw people who had been killed and pregnant women with their stomachs ripped open. About thirty young people had been massacred near our house, both Lebanese and Palestinian. They didn’t spare anyone; they killed everyone they came across. In the home of our neighbour Ali Salim Fayad, they had killed his wife and children. My God, what can I say, what can I tell you? They had demolished the shops in Sabra road and dug large ditches where they had buried the victims. I saw about 400 children’s corpses. They upturned the earth and buried them. From the twelve members of our neighbour’s family, eleven were killed and only one escaped. ” Muhammad Ibrahim Faqih (3)


“They went into the area and took away about 18 young people, while confining us – men, women and children – to the camp. I saw my brothers and some children among the men they took away. While we were walking, we saw people who had been killed with axes. Among them were doctors from Gaza hospital. They lined them up and slaughtered them; then they started shooting at us and killed a large number of people, including 18 of our neighbours’ sons. While they were shooting, the whole camp was surrounded by Israeli tanks and all the diggers were Israeli. An Israeli patrol presented itself to us and asked us to go to the Sports Centre. The men went, while we women were taken to the Kuwaiti embassy. That’s how we saw them loading the young people into the cars. Among those young people was my brother. They blindfolded them and they loaded my brother in the car. That’s how he disappeared and I have never seen him again since.” Bahija Zrein (3)


The shelter was full of women, men and children; a woman from Tel Al Zaater was crying, saying, “This is what hap-pened at Tel Al Zaater.” A little later, I went out of the shelter, and I saw armed men who were putting the men against the walls. I saw a neighbour; they tore open her stomach. Some woman came out of the house opposite and started waving her scarf around, saying, “We must give ourselves up.” Suddenly I heard my sister shouting, “They’ve cut his throat!” I thought that my parents had been killed. I rushed to see them, carrying my daughter. They killed my sister’s husband in front of me. I went up, I saw them shooting at the men. They killed them all… The armed men left, taking with them the men from the shelter. My husband was among them… a Lebanese woman came; she had seen my husband holding my daughter. She had seen how my husband had been killed by a Phalangist: with the blow of an axe to his head. My daughter was covered in blood.” Nadima Yousef Said Nasser (3)

hhh-20081102-222359“I saw only dead bodies on the ground, and I saw the Israelis and the Phalangists passing by. I went back again and I went in through the garden of our house; that’s when I saw my dead father. I went to the house and I saw a basin. It was full of people’s heads. I fled.” Najib Abdel Rahman Al Khatib (3)

Massacre_of_palestinians_in_shatila“About fifteen armed men positioned themselves at the window, and four of them came in. The children screamed and cried, and we women screamed, too. They put the men against the wall — my husband, my paternal cousin and my brother – and they pumped them full of bullets in front of us. They made us come out and lined us up in our turn against the wall, wanting to pump bullets into us as well, but then they started arguing about who would be the first to shoot. Then they took us to the Sports Centre and took us into a room full of men, women and children. While guarding that room, they were also sharpening their axes and preparing their guns. ” Shahira Abu Roudeina (3)

Image042“.. they had put the men on one side and the women on the other… The armed men ordered us to walk in front, and the men behind. We walked like this until we got to the communal grave. There, the bulldozer started digging. Among us was a man who was wearing a white nurse’s shirt; they called him and filled him with bullets in front of everyone. The women started screaming. The Israelis posted in front of the Kuwaiti embassy and in front of the Rihab station requested through loudspeakers that we be handed over to them. That’s how we found ourselves in their hands. They took us to the Sports Centre, and the men were supposed to walk behind us. But they took the men’s shirts off and started blindfolding them. At the Sports Centre, the Israelis submitted the young people to an interrogation, and the Phalangists delivered 200 people to them. And that’s how neither my husband nor my sister’s husband ever came back.” Sana Mahmoud Sersawi (3)

sabra_and_shatila“… some Israelis and some Phalangists… placed us against the wall and … shot at the men. I was hit and I pretended to be dead. Three or four others fell on top of me. They were dead…. They then resumed their task, 5 or 6 times. They fired more shots to make sure that everyone was dead. At about five in the morning… I heard an Israeli on a microphone saying, “Give up your weapons, you will have your lives spared and those of your family.” I tried to climb up the slope in order to give myself up like they said… I looked and I saw them placing the men on one side and the women on the other. Then I saw them shooting them. That’s why I went back to hide… I stayed there until the evening. They were sitting around a table drinking alcohol, there was only a wall separating me from them. The wall was cracked; I could see what was happening. They were saying to each other, “don’t leave anything that moves.” Hamad Mohammed Shamas (3)

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“I tried to go back to our house, but I found it destroyed. I couldn’t walk because of all the dead people strewn over the road. And every time my hand touched one of them, I felt their flesh between my fingers. I saw Um Bashir who had been killed with her seven children. It was as if she was sleeping with her seven children around her. I went back home and sat down with the dead.” Hamad Mohammed Shamas (3)

_44652088_10“What will always stick in my memory is of a little boy that had come from the camps & his little body had no limbs. I can remember just holding him, holding his little body close. He was covered with blood and the life was running out of him. He was crying for his mother..They had also bulldozed buildings with people still inside, families still watching television, or having dinner. They bulldozed these people. They massacred these people. I saw bodies, piles of bodies, heaped up, mutilated & believe me they hadn’t been shot. It was like a scene from what I would have imagined happened in WWII to the Jews. They had been executed. Children, women, animals, anything that moved-they had massacred…It was horror in there, it was horror. The stench, the massacre. They are war crimes. But I shall certainly never forget. Of all the horrors & atrocities & of the many things that have happened to me when I was in Beirut, nothing can come close to what I witnessed in these camps. Nothing.” Deborah Thornton-Jackson (4)

_44655248_massacre“Despite evidence of what the UN Security Council described as a “criminal massacre,” and the ranking of the Sabra and Shatila massacres in humankind’s collective memory as among the most heinous crimes of the 20th century, the man found “personally responsible” for this crime, as well as his associates and the people who carried out the massacres, have never been pursued or punished.

The United Nations Security Council condemned the massacre with Resolution 521 (19 September 1982). This condemnation was followed by a 16 December 1982 General Assembly resolution qualifying the massacre as an “act of genocide.” (1)

(1) http://www.electronicintifada.net
(2) http://leninology.blogspot.com/2009/09/sabra-and-shatila.html
(3) ©2002 indictsharon.net
(4) http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/witness/september/17/newsid2891000/2891661.stm

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