Sabra and Shatila are two Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, Lebanon where over two thousand Palestinians were massacred during three days in September 1982 by hundreds of Lebanese Phalange and Haddad militiamen with the aid and support of the Israeli Defense Forces.
During the1982 Israeli invasion into Lebanon and siege of Beirut, U.S. Envoy Phillip Habib managed to have a written agreement whereby Palestinian fighters would leave Lebanon, providing a U.S. guarantee to the safety of Palestinian refugees left behind in the camps.
After Palestinian fighters evacuated Lebanon, the Israeli army sealed off Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and established a command post at the Kuwaiti embassy, a seven-story building over looking both camps.
Present at the command post were the primary architects of the atrocity: Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and Chief of Lebanese Forces Intelligence Elie Hobeika, along with high-ranking Israeli army officials.
In the early morning of September 16th, the Israeli army allowed bloodthirsty armed militiamen to enter the camps, provided with weapons, bulldozers, and communication equipment. They were also given hashish and heroin to help them maintain “courage.” For 48 hours, the militia participated in wholesale slaughter and rape. Women and children were not spared. The Israeli army lit the skies over the camps by firing flares during the nights, and also prevented residents of the camp from escaping. A group of refugees who reached the one of the Israeli checkpoint were ordered by soldiers to return back into the camp – even though they told soldiers that people are being slaughtered inside. This encounter was documented by a Scandinavian news crew.
Ellen Siegel was an American nurse from Baltimore who volunteered at Gaza hospital in Sabra camp. She was rounded up with 20 other foreign medical personal. Upon hearing the radio communications that the butchers inside the camp were ready to execute all of them, an army officer stopped the order and ran back to the camp to rescue Miss Siegel and another female nurse from Holland. The rest were lined up against the wall and executed. Miss Siegel was among 3 Americans who testified in the Kahane Commission, the Israeli official inquiry into the massacre.
No adjectives exist to describe this heinous atrocity. This crime was beyond all human and moral comprehension. However, an American journalist and researcher, Janet Stevens was among the first people to visit both camps the day after this ugly crime. She wrote the following testimony to her American friend Franklin Lamb:
“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.”