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What happened in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982?
A massacre of Palestinian civilians (including the eldery, women and children) by Christian militiamen during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The goal of Israel's action was to expel Palestinian guerrillas from Lebanon. To achieve this objective, Israel allied itself with several Lebanese Christian groups, including the Phalange party, who fought the Palestinians during the protracted Lebanese civil war (1975 -- 90). Following the U.S.-brokered evacuation of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters from Beirut, Israeli forces under Defense Minister Ariel Sharon allowed Phalange militiamen into the camps, ostensibly to root out further PLO fighters. Estimates of the number of women, children, and elderly who were killed over the next several days ranged from 800 to several thousand. Although no militiamen were ever prosecuted for their participation, Sharon — who an Israeli commission of inquiry later found indirectly responsible through negligence — was condemned in Arab popular opinion as the culprit of the massacre.
On September 28, the Israeli Government resolved to establish a Commission of Inquiry, which was led by former Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Kahan. The report included evidence from Israeli army personnel, as well as political figures and Phalangist officers. In the report, published in February 1983, the Kahan Commission stated that there was no evidence that Israeli units took direct part in the massacre and that it was the "direct responsibility of Phalangists." However, the Commission recorded that Israeli military personnel were aware that a massacre was in progress without taking serious steps to stop it, and that reports of a massacre in progress were made to senior Israeli officers and even to an Israeli cabinet minister; it therefore regarded Israel as bearing part of the "indirect responsibility."
The Kahan commission found that Ariel Sharon "bears personal responsibility", recommended his dismissal from the post of Defense Minister and concluded that Sharon should not hold public office again, stating that:
"It is our view that responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defense for having disregarded the prospect of acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population of the refugee camps and for having failed to take this danger into account when he decided to have the Phalangists enter the camps. In addition, responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defense for not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the chances of a massacre as a condition for the Phalangists' entry into the camps."
At first, Sharon refused to resign, and Begin refused to fire him. It was only after the death of Emil Grunzweig after a grenade was tossed into the dispersing crowd of a Peace Now protest march, which also injured ten others, that a compromise was reached: Sharon would resign as Defense minister, but remain in the Cabinet as a minister without portfolio. Notwithstanding the dissuading conclusions of the Kahan report, Sharon would later become Prime Minister of Israel.
The Kahan commission also recommended the dismissal of Director of Military Intelligence Yehoshua Saguy, and the effective promotion freeze of Division Commander Brig. Gen. Amos Yaron for at least three years.
Benny Morris, in Israel's Secret Wars, stated that Israeli forces provided the bulldozers used to bury the massacred Palestinians.
In the 2005 Swiss-French-German-Lebanese co-produced documentary, Massaker, six former Lebanese Forces soldiers who participated personally in the massacre stated there was direct Israeli participation. One of them said that he saw Israeli soldiers driving bulldozers into inhabited houses inside the camp. Another said that Israeli soldiers provided the Lebanese Forces soldiers with material to dispose of the corpses lying around in the streets. Several of the soldiers said that they had received training in Israel.Noam Chomsky and Robert Fisk have said that Israel could have predicted that a massacre by Phalange fighters who entered the camps might have taken place. In particular, such commentators do not believe it is possible that there were "2000 PLO terrorists" remaining in the camps, because (1) the Kahan Commission documents that the Israeli army allowed only 150 Phalangist fighters into the camps and (2) the Phalangists suffered only two casualties; an improbable outcome of a supposedly 36-hour battle of 150 militants against 2000 experienced "PLO terrorists" .