Sabra and Shatila massacre

The Sabra and Shatila massacre (or Sabra and Chatila massacre) was a massacre of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians carried out between September 16 and 18, 1982 by the Lebanese Forces Christian militia group.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF), in control of Beirut, surrounded Beirut's Palestinian refugee camps immediately after the assassination of Phalangist leader and president-elect Bachir Gemayel two days before, then allowed Lebanese Phalangist militiamen to enter two of these refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila. The exact number killed is disputed, with estimates ranging from 328 to 3,500 (see below).

The Phalangists stood under the direct command of Elie Hobeika, who later became a long-serving Lebanese Member of Parliament and, in the 1990s, a cabinet minister. The Israeli military's Chief of Staff was Lt. General Rafael Eitan, and Israel's Defence Minister was Ariel Sharon.

A major outcry erupted both in Israel and internationally, because the Sabra and Shatila camps had been under the control of IDF. The Phalangists, who committed the killings, were spared the brunt of international condemnation. Some commentators have suggested that the Israeli military may have been involved in the incident to some extent (see below).

The Israeli government established the Kahan Commission to investigate, and it subsequently found Israel indirectly responsible for the event. The report said the possibility of a revenge attempt was "foreseeable", and that Israeli commanders should not have permitted Phalangists into the camps. Ariel Sharon was found to bear personal responsibility for "ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge" and for "not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed." The commission recommended that Sharon be removed as head of the Defence Ministry, and Sharon, after initial resistance, resigned.