Palestinians commemorate horrific 1982 massacre in Beirut

BEIRUT (AP) — Palestinians commemorated Friday the 40th anniversary of the horrific killings in a refugee camp in Beirut that left hundreds of people dead during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Dozens of citizens from Europe who support the Palestinian cause also took part in the memorial held in Beirut close to where the men, women and children were killed by Israeli-backed Lebanese Christian militiamen.

Over three days in September of that year, the Christian militia swept through Shatila camp, and its sister area of Sabra, slaughtering hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children. To this day, the official toll is 328 confirmed killed, 991 missing.

One of those attending the memorial was Kamal Maruf, 82, who on Sept. 18, 1982 was ordered down from his apartment early in the morning 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 lots of people and my son was one of them. I have no idea where they took them,” said Maruf. It was the last time he saw his son.

“Until 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 rampage started, Bachir Gemayel, the Lebanese Forces commander elected president in August 1982, was assassinated in a bomb in Beirut. Hours after the assassination, Israeli forces stormed Beirut’s western neighborhoods after Palestinian fighters had left weeks earlie, under and internationally brokered deal.

Ariel Sharon was Israel’s defense minister at the time of the massacre and in 1983, he was criticized by an inquiry commission that found him indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees as well as some Lebanese by Lebanese Forces militiamen.

Twenty-three survivors of the killings 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.

“We demonstrate with our presence today and each year that we share the humanity and need of justice,” said Italian citizen Salvatore Infantino, 37, who flew to Beirut to take part in the commemoration. Infantino, who currently lives in France, is a member of the “Committee to Not Forget Sabra and Shatila.”

“We hope that one day we can have justice for this massacre,” he said.

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