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1982: Refugees massacred in Beirut camps

More than 1,000 people are feared to have been killed during a 24-hour rampage by Lebanese militia in West Beirut.

The Christian Phalangist group are reported to have murdered entire families in cold blood in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.

The massacre was apparently revenge for the assassination four days ago of the Christian President-elect, Bashir Gemayel.

The Israeli army moved into the area a few hours after Mr Gemayel was murdered, and has been accused of helping the militia during the killing - or at least not intervening to prevent further loss of life.

It is impossible to estimate accurately how many have been killed, but the first journalists to enter the camps reported seeing hundreds of bodies spread over several acres.

A nurse working at Akka hospital near Shatila said the Lebanese gunmen had fired indiscriminately.

"One little boy told me the Phalangists had kicked open the door and shot all of his family in front of him - he was the only survivor," he said.


"Not many Israeli soldiers can be proud of what happened here"

Israeli officer

Two female nurses from the same hospital were abducted - one managed to escape but said her colleague had been raped and murdered.

Babies were shot and refugees fired on while trying to escape as the Israeli troops guarded the perimeter of the camps.

One of their officers told the BBC, "Not many Israeli soldiers can be proud of what happened here."

President Ronald Reagan said he was horrified by the attacks.

"All people of decency must share our outrage and revulsion," he said.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin said an inquiry was being carried out, but told reporters there would be no official comment until a clearer picture of what happened emerged.

In Context
Estimates of the number of people killed range from 800 - 3,500.

An Israeli judicial inquiry into the massacre was published in February 1983.

The report condemned the Begin Government's role and dismissed the argument that Israel could not be held directly accountable.

The then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon resigned after being heavily criticised for failing to prevent the killings.

Mr Sharon was elected Prime Minister of Israel in February 2001.

That same year, 23 survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacres brought a civil action against him and others, accusing them of crimes against humanity, but the case was suspended.


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