BEIRUT (AP) — Palestinians commemorated Friday the 40th anniversary of the horrific killings at a Beirut refugee camp that left hundreds dead during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
Dozens of citizens from Europe who support the Palestinian cause also attended the memorial service held in Beirut, near the site where men, women and children were killed by Israeli-backed Lebanese Christian militias.
Over three days in September of that year, the Christian militia swept through the Shatila camp and its sister district of Sabra, slaughtering hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children. To date, the official tally is 328 confirmed dead, 991 missing.
One of those attending the memorial service was Kamal Maruf, 82, who on September 18, 1982, was ordered out of his apartment early in the morning with his 19-year-old son, Jamal. They were forced by members of the Lebanese Forces militia to gather in a square with others.
“They took a lot of people and my son was one of them. I have no idea where they went,” Marouf said. It was the last time he saw his son.
“To this day I don’t know if my son died a martyr,” he said, adding that he will fight for justice for his son as long as he lives.
Two days before the rampage began, Bachir Gemayel, the commander of the Lebanese Forces who had been elected president in August 1982, was killed in a bomb attack in Beirut. Hours after the killing, Israeli forces stormed Beirut’s western neighborhoods after Palestinian militants had withdrawn weeks earlier under an agreement and international mediation.
Ariel Sharon was Israel’s defense minister at the time of the massacre, and in 1983, he was criticized by a commission of inquiry that found him indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees as well as some Lebanese by Lebanese Forces militia.
Twenty-three survivors of the killings filed a lawsuit against Sharon in Belgium in 2001, but a court there declared a year later that the case was “inadmissible.”
In 2002, Lebanese Christian warlord Elie Hobeika, who commanded the force that entered the camp and carried out the killings, was killed in an explosion near his home southeast of Beirut.
“We show with our presence today and every year that we share humanity and the need for justice,” said Italian citizen Salvatore Infantino, 37, who flew to Beirut to take part in the celebration. Infantino, who currently lives in France, is a member of the “Committee not to forget Sabra and Shatila”.
“We hope that one day we will have justice for this massacre,” he said.