BEIRUT (AP) — Palestinians on Friday commemorated the 40th anniversary of the horrific killings in a Beirut refugee camp that killed hundreds of people during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Dozens of citizens from Europe who support the Palestinian cause also took part in the memorial in Beirut, near the site where the men, women and children were murdered by Israeli-backed Lebanese Christian militiamen.
For three days in September of that year, the Christian militia marched through the Shatila camp and its sister territory, Sabra, massacring hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children. To this day, the official toll is 328 confirmed dead, 991 missing.
Among those in attendance at the memorial was Kamal Maruf, 82, who was ordered from his apartment early in the morning on September 18, 1982, along 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 took them,” Maruf said. It was the last time he saw his son.
“To this day I don’t know if my son was martyred,” he said, adding that he would fight for justice for his son as long as he lives.
Two days before the disaster began, Bachir Gemayel, the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces who was elected president in August 1982, was killed by a bomb in Beirut. Hours after the assassination, Israeli forces stormed Beirut’s western neighborhoods after Palestinian fighters left weeks earlier, under an internationally brokered deal.
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 and some Lebanese by militia members of the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Twenty-three survivors of the murders filed a case against Sharon in Belgium in 2001, but a court there said 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.
“With our presence today and every year, we show that we share humanity and the need for justice,” said Italian citizen Salvatore Infantino, 37, who flew to Beirut to participate in the commemoration. Infantino, who currently lives in France, is a member of the ‘Committee not to forget Sabra and Shatila’.
“We hope that one day we can get justice for this massacre,” he said.