Lebanon · Massacres/Mass Murder · Political · Religion

Sabra and Shatila massacre

September 18, 1982
Beirut, Lebanon
A three-day massacre ends with casualties reported between 460 and 3,500 (sources vary)

A militia under the Kataeb Party (also known as the Phalange), a right-wing radical Christian Democratic political party, were ordered to clear a path for the Israeli Defense Forces through the neighborhood of Sabra and the Shatila refugee camp. Though officially the IDF did not condone the killing of civilians, they did not actively attempt to stop the massacre.

Foreign witnesses to the aftermath reported most of the bodies had been severely mutilated, including boys being castrated, some bodies being scalped, and some having a Christian cross carved into their backs. American journalist Janet Lee Stevens wrote to her husband “I saw dead women in their houses with their skirts up to their waists and their legs spread apart; dozens of young men shot after being lined up against an alley wall; children with their throats slit, a pregnant woman with her stomach chopped open, her eyes still wide open, her blackened face silently screaming in horror; countless babies and toddlers who had been stabbed or ripped apart and who had been thrown into garbage piles.”

The U.N. later condemned the massacre as an act of genocide, though the delegates from Singapore and Canada expressed reluctance to consider it genocide as the target was a small area within a country rather than the systematic eradication of a ethnic or racial group. The delegate from the Soviet Union, however, stated “The word for what Israel is doing on Lebanese soil is genocide. Its purpose is to destroy the Palestinians as a nation.” The delegate from Nicaragua remarked “It is difficult to believe that a people that suffered so much from the Nazi policy of extermination in the middle of the twentieth century would use the same fascist, genocidal arguments and methods against other peoples.”

The Israeli Kahan Commission investigating the massacre found Israel indirectly responsible for being aware of the massacre but failing to stop it, and the Defense Minister Ariel Sharon responsible for “ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge.” It was only after a grenade attack in retribution that Sharon resigned his post.

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