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Israeli Soldiers Participated in the Massacre

Sabra and Shatila survivor testimonies submitted to the Belgian court allege direct Israeli involvement in the massacres. State attorney's office in a flux

Kol Ha'ir

3 Aug. 2001

The complaint filed against Ariel Sharon and others has been available on the internet since it was presented to the Brussels court on June 18 (see related links, on the right hand side, at the bottom of the page). However, it took the Mossad to deliver its content to Israel’s Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, as Jerusalem Weekly Magazine Kol Ha’ir reports today.

The State Attorney’s office is still coming to terms with the accusations survivors of the massacre in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps make. According to testimonies attached to the complaint, Israeli soldiers were directly involved in the massacre. Israel has so far acknowledged that Sharon was responsible for the massacre, but always maintained this responsibility to be indirect. Survivor testimonies attached to the complaint draw a different picture.

The testimonies, whose reliability has yet to be established by the court, suggest that Israeli soldiers worked with the Phalagists in carrying out the massacre, and participated in looting, and in taking people away who never came back.

A source in the State Attorney’s office told Kol Ha’ir that these claims may be supported by the witness of Elie Hobeika, Phalangist commander at the time of the massacre. They expect Hobeika, who was, Sharon today claims, already a Syrian agent in 1982, to connect Sharon directly to the massacre.

“Historians and journalists agree,” reads the complaint, “that it was probably during a meeting between Ariel Sharon and Bashir Gemayel in Bikfaya on 12 September that an agreement was concluded to authorize the ‘Lebanese forces’ to ‘mop up’ these Palestinian camps. The intention to send the Phalangist forces into West Beirut had already been announced by Mr. Sharon on 9 July 1982 , and in his biography he confirms having negotiated the operation during his meeting with Bikfaya.”

The massacre took place more than two weeks after all PLO fighters had evacuated Beirut on September 1st 1982. The complaint describes the sequence of events which started on September 16 as follows: “During the morning, shells were fired down towards the camps from high locations and Israeli snipers were shooting down at people in the streets. At about midday, the Israeli military command gave the Phalangist militia green light to enter the refugee camps. Shortly after 5 o'clock pm, a unit of approximately 150 Phalangists entered Shatila camp from the south and southwest.

“At that point, General Drori telephoned Ariel Sharon and announced, ‘Our friends are advancing into the camps. We have coordinated their entry.’ Sharon replied, ’Congratulations! Our friends' operation is approved.’"

Testimonies by survivors of the massacre attest the involvement of Israeli soldiers. Wadha Hassan Al Sabeq, a plaintiff who lost two sons (aged 16 and 19), a brother and about 15 other relatives in the massacre says in her testimony:

“We were at home on Friday 17 September; the neighbors came and they started to say: Israel has come in, go to the Israelis, they are taking papers and stamping them. We went out to see the Israelis. When we got there, the tanks and the Israeli soldiers were there, but we were surprised to see that they had Lebanese forces with them. They took the men and left us women and children together. When they took the children and all the men from me, they said to us, ‘Go to the Sports Center,’ and they took us there. They left us there until 7pm, then they told us, ‘Go to Fakhani and don't go back to your house,’ then they started firing shells and bullets at us.

“On one side there were some men who had been arrested; they took them and we have never found out what happened to them. To this day we know nothing about what happened to them; they just disappeared.”

Jamila Mohammed Khalife testified

“[…] The Israelis and the Phalangists came back a short while later with a loudspeaker, through which they asked us to give ourselves up, promising that our lives would be spared if we came out of the shelter. We waved a white flag, but when we came out of the shelter my father said that our lives would not be spared and that they were going to kill us. I told him not to be scared and to come with us. They dragged us all along; women, children and men; my father tried to escape and they killed him in front of my mother and my little sister. They made us all walk; our injured neighbor was with us, carrying her intestines and hemorrhaging. She and I escaped to the interior of Shatila camp, and from there we sought refuge in Gaza hospital. When they arrived near Gaza hospital, we ran away once again.”

Su'ad Srour Meri, a plaintiff who lost her father, three brothers, (aged 11, 6 and 3) and two sisters (18 months and 9 months old), testified:

“On Wednesday, after Bashir Gemayel had been killed, we heard Israeli helicopters flying overhead at a low altitude, and on Wednesday night the Israelis started firing illumination flares, which lit up the camp as though it was day. Some of my friends went down into the shelter. On Thursday evening I went with my brother Maher to see some friends and tell them to come and sleep at our house; on the way the road was full of corpses. I went into the shelter but I didn't find anyone there, so we went back. Suddenly I saw our neighbor, who was injured and had been thrown on the ground. I asked him where our friends were, he replied that they had taken the girls and asked me to help him, but I couldn't rescue him and I went straight back home with my brother. […] On Friday morning my brother Bassam and our neighbor climbed up to the roof to see what was happening, but the Phalangists spotted them straight away. A few moments later, around 13 men knocked on the door of our house. My father asked who they were, they said, "Israelis." We got up to see what they wanted; they said, "You're still here," and then they asked my father if he had anything. He said he had some money. They took the money and hit my father. I asked them, "How can you hit an old man?" Then they hit me. They lined us up in the living room and they started discussing whether or not to kill us. Then they lined us up against the wall and shot us. Those who died; I survived with my mother. My brothers Maher and Ismail were hiding in the bathroom. When they [the soldiers] left the house, I started to call my brothers' names; when one of them replied I knew he wasn't dead. My mother and my sister were able to escape from the house, but I was incapable. A few moments later while I was moving, they [the soldiers] came back, they said to me, "you're still alive?" and shot me again. I pretended to be dead. That night I got up and I stayed until Saturday. I pulled myself along crawling into the middle of the room and I covered the bodies. As I put out my hand to reach for the water jug they shot at me immediately. I only felt a bullet in my hand and the man started swearing. The second man came and he hit me on the head with his gun; I fainted. I stayed like that until Sunday, when our neighbor came and rescued me.”

Israeli Prime Minister’s office and the Israeli Ministry of the Exterior are now planning Sharon’s campaign of rehabilitation, which will include a visit to Israel by the Norwegian Prime Minister. Sharon is also said to have taken interest in a proposal made to him by funders, to initiate similar complaints against heads of NATO and leaders in the European Union. This weekend one of Sharon’s emissaries met with Professors of International Law in Europe, to consult them regarding his defense in the case.

Shimon Peres, Israeli Minister of the Exterior, has used the Ministry to help boost Sharon’s defense. Peres believes that the complaint in Belgium, just like the difficulties Denmark is giving Israel’s ambassador to be, Carmi Gilon, formerly head of Shabak (Israeli Secret Service) and a blatant proponent of the use of torture, reflect a worsening of Europe’s relation to Israel. In private conference, Peres said this week: “So long as the peace process was going on Europe consented to be quiet about the ways we handle terrorism. Arresting Gilon is one stage. In the next stage they will arrest judges who approved what Gilon did.”

 
 

Kol Ha'ir Weekly Magazine from the Schoken Local Press Network, is not published on-line, but can be contacted by email.