Sabra and Shatila: 30 Years On

Posted: September 17, 2012 by Rex Brynen in Lebanon

This week represents the 30th anniversary of the massacre of over eight hundred Palestinian refugees by Lebanese Christian militias in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut on 16-18 September 1982. This followed the occupation of West Beirut by the Israeli army the previous day, and an Israeli decision to have the militiamen enter the camps.

The Jerusalem Fund/Palestine Center has provided a useful set of links to commemorative articles, which I’ve reproduced below.

The 1982 Lebanon War, and the Sabra-Shatila massacre in particular, were turning points in my own academic career. I was an undergraduate at the time, with a primary interest in South African politics and military-security issues. As a consequence of events in Lebanon, I shifted my research interests, writing my BA Honours thesis on the 1982 war, and my MA and PhD theses on the PLO in Lebanon. I have been working on Palestinian refugee issues (and Lebanese-Palestinian relations) ever since.

Sadly, the refugees of Lebanon—and Palestinian refugees more generally—seem no closer to a resolution of their plight now than they were 30 years ago. Indeed, in Syria, they today find themselves in the midst of yet another brutal war.

* * *

A Preventable Massacre by Seth Anziska (The New York Times)

On the night of Sept. 16, 1982, the Israeli military allowed a right-wing Lebanese militia to enter two Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. In the ensuing three-day rampage, the militia, linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party, raped, killed and dismembered at least 800 civilians, while Israeli flares illuminated the camp’s narrow and darkened alleyways.

The forgotten massacre by Robert Fisk (The Independent)

The memories remain, of course. The man who lost his family in an earlier massacre, only to watch the young men of Chatila lined up after the new killings and marched off to death. But, like the muck piled on the garbage tip amid the concrete hovels, the stench of injustice still pervades the camps where 1,700 Palestinians were butchered 30 years ago next week.

Sabra and Shatila: Thirty Years On by Hassan Kheite (Al-Akhbar)

On the 30th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in which hundreds of defenseless Palestinian refugees were slaughtered by Lebanese right-wing militias under the cover of the Israeli military, Al-Akhbar publishes an account of the events by a Palestinian survivor who was a young boy when he witnessed the killings.

Gaza Hospital: Beirut (

Overlooking the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, Beirut’s ‘Gaza Hospital’ witnessed the Lebanese civil war and the Israeli invasion first hand. Most notably the hospital and its staff dealt with the bloody impact of the 72-hour massacre that took place there in 1982. (promo below)

Sabra and Shatila: Escaping Justice (Al-Akhbar)

Today marks the 30 year anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which hundreds of defenseless Palestinian refugees were slaughtered by Lebanese right-wing militias under the cover of the Israeli military. Below are profiles of the main culprits responsible for the killings.

The Massacre at Sabra and Shatila, Thirty Years Later by Sonja Karkar (Counter Punch)

It happened thirty years ago, 16 September 1982. A massacre so awful that people who know about it cannot forget it. The photos are gruesome reminders, charred, decapitated, indecently violated corpses, the smell of rotting flesh, still as foul to those who remember it as when they were recoiling from it all those years ago.

Remembering Sabra & Shatila: The death of their world by Amira Howeidy (Al Ahram Online)

The images only resurface in our collective memory when the almost unbelievable footage is aired on TV screens. Sun-bloated corpses, some mutilated, others too dark or disfigured to know that they were human, are covered with flies.

Sabra and Shatila: A somber anniversary (Just World Books)

September 2012 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the massacres that Lebanese Phalangist militia units, working with full, round-the-clock operational support of the Israeli military, committed against unarmed Palestinians in the two refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, in West Beirut. The killing started on Thursday, September 16 and continued for around 42 hours.

For Shatila survivors, pain lives on by Martin Armstrong (The Daily Star)

At the start of the massacre, residents had no idea what was happening. “When flares were fired in the sky we just thought it was some form of military operation. We werent thinking massacre,” Aziza Khalidi recalls.

A letter to the IDF soldiers at Sabra and Shatila by Ellen Siegel (+972 )

On the 30th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, a Jewish American nurse who provided humanitarian aid in a Beirut hospital recalls her first encounter with IDF soldiers. Today, she asks them to take a few moments during the Jewish New Year to remember.


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