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1983: Sharon quits after massacre inquiry

VIDEO : Commission blames Sharon for Lebanon massacres

Israeli defence minister Ariel Sharon has resigned after an inquiry concluded that he had failed to act to prevent the massacre of hundreds in two refugee camps.

Mr Sharon was forced to step down by an Israeli tribunal investigating the 1982 Lebanon killings.

The investigation found that Mr Sharon - as defence minister of the Israeli forces - was indirectly but personally to blame for the massacres.

More than 800 people died at the hands of Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut in 1982.

Israeli troops were in control of west Beirut when right-wing Christian militias entered the camps.

Israel formed a commission of inquiry led by former Supreme Justice Kahan. The report included evidence from Israeli army personnel, political figures and Phalangist officers.

The Kahan Commission's report said Mr Sharon had made a "grave mistake" by failing to order "appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the danger of massacre" at the camps.

It concluded that the former defence minister should have foreseen what the Phalange would do when they entered the camps.

Mr Sharon's lawyer said that because he had no knowledge of what would happen when Israeli troops allowed the militia into the camps, he could not be held to account.

The Kahan report also condemned Israeli General Rafael Eitan for "breach of duty" in not taking steps to stop the massacre. It said he should have anticipated the danger and opposed the decision to send militia into the camp.

The judicial report criticised Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin and his government's role and dismissed the argument that Israel could not be held directly accountable.

In Israel, 300,000 people had taken to the streets of Tel Aviv to demand that Mr Sharon resign.

PLO leader Yasser Arafat criticised the official Israeli report and called for an international tribunal to investigate the killings.

The massacre came after Bashir Gemayel, the Christian Lebanese president-elect and leader of the Phalange, was assassinated.


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