When Catholics Murdered Thousands Of People In The 1980s

In this post, I would like to provide descriptions of an event that I have never written on in detail: the massacres of the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut, in which thousands were butchered. The killings lasted for four days. Women were ravished, babies were murdered, and mounds of bodies were made. The killers were Maronites, or members of the Lebanese branch of the Catholic Church. The slaughter took place in the midst of the Lebanese Civil War in which Palestinians and Maronites fought and killed one another. After an agreement was brokered by the US government, the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) agreed to leave the Sabra and Shatila camps. The remainder of the population in these camps were almost entirely unarmed civilians, leaving many women, children and elderly at the mercy of bloodthirsty nationalists who were trained and armed by the Israel government. The Maronite nationalists rushed into the camps, and almost immediately began slaughtering and raping. There are those who will argue that these men were fighting for Christianity, but I will ask such people, what does murdering elderly people and infants and raping women, have to do with defending Christianity? The Maronite militiamen were riddled with vicious nationalism (as was to be seen in their actions), and when they had the opportunity to exterminate a civilian population, they took it. Yes, they were at war with Palestinians, but even in such a context, their actions are not acceptable. You can argue and say, Why aren’t you talking about what atrocities Muslims did in this war? We can talk about those things, but what I would like to talk about is the evil done by those who claim Christianity with nationalist fusion. I want to talk about this because I want to warn of the dangers of nationalism dressed with the cloak of religion.    

The Sabra and Shatila massacres began on September 16th and continued on into the 19th, in the year 1982. It was after Israel’s second operation in Lebanon, called Operation Peace in Galilee, which was launched on June 6th. Its stated objective was to establish an Israeli military presence within twenty-five miles of the Israeli border. But it quickly escalated in its aim. By June 13th, Israeli forces led by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon had advanced all the way to Baabda, the seat of the Lebanese presidency. This was also the headquarters for the PLO, and so Israel had trapped thousands of PLO combatants. Moreover, the Israeli army was completely surrounding West Beirut at this point. Israel was succeeding in its goal of, in the words of Sharon, “ridding the world of the center of international terrorism.” This meant the elimination of the PLO headquarters and infrastructure in West Beirut. The PLO was putting up a tenacious fight; the Israelis lost 368 men during the fight for West Beirut. However, the Israelis were winning by a landslide. In the first three months of Israel’s invasion, 17,825 Arabs were killed in all the areas occupied by Israeli forces. In West Beirut, 2,461 were killed from air strikes. By midsummer the PLO was in negotiations led by US envoy Philip Habib to end the siege. 

Israel wanted the PLO to leave Lebanon. But the PLO was concerned about the fate of the civilian population in the camps. An agreement was finally made in mid-August. Part of the agreement was that the PLO would withdraw its more than 11,000 fighters out of Lebanon. This evacuation would be superintended by a multinational force that would leave within thirty days of its arrival. The agreement also entailed written guarantees for the security of the Palestinian civilians in the camps, personally signed by America’s representative in the negotiation, Philip Habib. The evacuation of the PLO fighters began on August 21st and ended on September 1st. By September 10th, the American, Italian and French troops who had overseen the withdrawal had left Lebanon. 

Besides having the PLO removed, the Israelis also wanted to establish a government friendly towards Israel and saw Maronite Catholic militants as the ideal people to take hold of the state. Shortly after civil war broke out in Lebanon in March of 1975, Israel began collaborating with Maronite paramilitaries who were fighting the PLO, especially the Phalangists, far-right nationalists led by Bashir Gemayel.  Ever since 1976, the Israelis had trained, armed and supplied the cadres and top lieutenants of these nationalist fighters. On top of this, Israel helped create a Lebanese border militia called Army of Free Lebanon, under the command of renegade Lebanese army major Saad Haddad.

The candidate that Israel wanted to lead Lebanon was Bashir Gemayel, a ruthless thug who had no qualms in butchering not only fellow Maronite rivals, but their family members as well (his gunmen forced his political enemy, Tony Frangieh, and his wife Vera, to watch the shooting of their infant daughter Jihane, then made him watch the murder of his wife, before killing him). Gemayel was very popular amongst the Maronite population and garnered a cult of personality for himself. On August 23rd, as the PLO was moving out, Bashir Gemayel was elected president of Lebanon. Israel immediately pressed him to sign a peace treaty with the Israeli government. But Gemayel resisted this. On September 14th, a week before he was suppose to assume office, Gemayel was killed by a bomb at the Phalange party headquarters in East Beirut. The perpetrator turned out to be Habib Shartouni, a Maronite Catholic who was also a member of a Syrian nationalist organization called the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

Israel’s Minister of Defense at the time, Ariel Sharon, did not hesitate to blame the PLO on the killing of Gemayel, even though the PLO at that point had fully evacuated Lebanon. On the evening of the assassination, Sharon declared that Gemayel’s killing “symbolizes the terrorist murderousness threatening all people of peace from the hands of PLO terrorist organizations and their supporters.” Even though the killer was a fellow Maronite, the Maronite nationalists wanted to believe that it was the Palestinians who killed their beloved leader. According to Washington Post correspondent Jonathan Randal, Gemayel’s men were “only too willing to listen to the Israelis’ insistent argument that the Palestinians in the camps had killed Bashir and should pay.” The entire narrative of the PLO killing Gemayel was based on a lie, a lie that would instigate a lake of blood. As the saying goes, a lie can travel around the world before the truth can even get its shoes on. The lie had traveled like a demon, and possessed the souls of those who believed the lie and who thirsted for blood.

Within hours of the announcement of Gemayel’s death, Sharon and Prime Minister Menachem Begin decided to enter West Beirut. They did not consult the Israeli cabinet, and only told Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir of their deployment of troops. They did this despite an agreement with the US not to do such a move. According to Israeli journalist Amnon Kapelouk, this particular operation of entering Lebanon was meticulously planed long in advance. Thus, the death of Bashir Gemayel was merely used (albeit dishonestly) as a justification to enter Lebanon and use the Phalangists as proxies.

That evening, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff General Rafael Eitan arrived in Beirut. Some hours later, at 3:00 in the morning, September 15th, Eitan, Major General Amir Drori, head of Israel’s northern command, and other Israeli officers met with Phalangist military leaders, including Fadi Frem, the militia’s new commander in chief, and Elie Hobeika, chief of intelligence. It was during this meeting that using the Phalangists in the Palestinian camps was discussed. Sharon’s instructions (presented as testimony to the Kahan Commission of Inquiry which was set up after the massacre) stressed that “Only one element, and that is the IDF, shall command the forces in the area. For the operation in the camps, the Phalangists should be sent in.”

Chief of Staff Eitan explained that while the IDF would not go into the camps, the Phalangists would be sent in “with their own methods.” The reason why the Israelis chose to work with the Phalangists, according to Eitan, was because “we could give them orders whereas it was impossible to give orders to the Lebanese Army.” Israel’s military entry into Lebanon commenced just about twelve hours after Gemayel’s death. Israeli Phantom jets flew over Beirut, Israeli gunboats took positions to shell the city, and tanks and troops advanced. The PLO was absent, which meant that resistance came only from the Lebanese Nationalist Movement (a coalition of Islamist and left-wing forces), and it was occasional and not very strong (this is indicated in the fact that Israel lost only seven soldiers during this operation). Sharon arrived in Beirut at around 9 AM to supervise the operation. By noon time, Israeli forces completely surrounded the camps of Sabra and Shatila. Now it was time for the “nests of terrorists” to be dealt with in “combing operations.” This meant unleashing the rage of the Maronite nationalists. There were meetings that were held throughout the day between Phalangist commanders like Frem and Hobeika, and top Israeli military officials such as Chief of Staff Eitan, Major General Drori, head of military intelligence General Yehoshua Saguy and Brigadier General Amos Yaron. Yaron used photos to coordinate details for the Phalangist entry into the camps. There was also a warning “not to harm civilians.” At around 4 PM, 1,500 Maronite nationalists (Phalangists accompanied with militiamen from Saad Haddad’s Free Lebanon Forces) travelled from the Beirut International Airport on IDF-supplied jeeps towards the camps.

On Thursday, September 16th, they entered the camps armed with knives, hatchets and firearms. The slaughter commenced almost immediately. They broke inside homes, slit throats, hacked people to death with axes, shot and raped people. For those who think these Maronites were fighting for a Christian cause, then explain what this has to do with Christianity? Almost nobody fought back because the camp was now full of unarmed civilians, many of them being women, children and elderly. The only people who fought back were those owned some personal firearms.

When the sun went down, the Israelis made sure to fire nonstop flares into the night sky, so that the Maronites could see. The Israeli soldiers who were outside the camps were told that their mission was to fight terrorists. Did they know that they were firing flares so that the Phalangists could prolong the slaughter into the night? Not immediately. But they soon found out. By 8 PM that night (just three hours after the Maronites bursted through the camps) a Phalangist representative reported to the Israeli officers at the forward command post, including General Yaron, that three hundred people — including civilians — had been killed so far. Forty minutes later, a briefing was held by Yaron. In the taped transcript of the briefing (which was included in the Kahan Report) the IDF divisional intelligence officer said that the Phalangists within the camp “are pondering what to do with the population they are finding inside. On the one hand, it seems, there are no terrorists there. . . . On the other hand, they have amassed women, children, and apparently also old people, with whom they don’t exactly know what to do.” When he began to cite a conversation with a Phalangist making clear that these people were going to be slaughtered, he was cut off by General Yaron.

When Friday morning — September 17th — arrived, rumors of nightmarish massacres had begun to spread from the mouths medical personal, film crews, and refugees who managed to escape to the Gaza and Akka hospitals. IDF soldiers were ordered to seal off the exits, and there were even soldiers who pushed civilians, trying to flee, back inside. But because there were some soldiers who were so heartbroken by what was happening inside, they let people escape. Soldiers who were in an armored unit 100 meters from the camp witnessed groups of civilians being mass executed. IDF soldiers who were questioned later also spoke of how there was this absence of the “sounds of combat.”

At 11:30 AM, General Yaron (under orders from General Drori) ordered the Phalangist comanders to advance no further. Chief of Staff Eitan, being informed that the Phalangists had maybe “gone to far”, returned to Beirut from Tel Aviv. Drori, Eitan, Yaron and a Mossad representative, met together at the Phalangist headquarters in East Beirut. According to the minutes of the meeting (recorded by the Mossad representative), Chief of Staff Eitan “expressed his positive impression received from the statement by the Phalangist forces and their behavior in the field” and decided that they could continue their “mopping up” action until 5:00 A .M .

Regardless of the orders to advance no further, the slaughter did not slow down and the butchers were now told that they could continue on in satisfying their bloodlust. On went the executions — people shot at point blank range —, on went the gutting, on went the raping and the carnage. And as this horror transpired, bulldozers were seen scooping up corpses, their limbs and entrails hanging from the edges of their blades. It was like something out of the Holocaust, when mounds of bodies were pushed by tractors into pits. Only this was not the 1940s. This was 1982, and the murderers were being backed by the world’s only Jewish government. A batch of humans would be lined up, executed, and then the bulldozer would destroy a house and the debris was used to bury the corpses. The process was then repeated. 

At midnight the killing stopped, only to be resumed at 5 AM (the time the Israelis and Phalange had agreed to cease the killing).  At around 7:00 A .M ., Maronite militiamen had gone to the Gaza hospital north of Sabra, and murdered the Arab personnel on the spot. The Maronite nationalists attacked another hospital, the Akka hospital. According to the New York Times, who spoke with an Asian doctor who was at the hospital during the massacre:

“Most people were either in hiding or had fled. Early Friday, at Akka Hospital, according to the Asian doctor, a young boy came rushing in, saying that his mother had been knifed and his sister taken away by militiamen.

At about this time, the people in the hospital shelter were unable to control their fear any longer and almost all of them fled the hospital in a panic, scattering in all directions. What happened to some of them is not known.

The Asian doctor said that in addition to himself, the only medical personnel left behind at Akka Hospital were five Palestinian staff members and six foreign nurses. He said there were also some patients in their rooms. None of them could walk.

At about 10:20 A.M., witnesses said, militiamen came to the hospital. Speaking Arabic in a southern Lebanese dialect, the witnesses said, they ordered everyone to come out with their hands up.

Three foreign nurses left the hospital under a white flag, according to the Asian doctor. He said they were accompanied by a Palestinian physician who worked at the hospital, Mohammed Ali Osman.

As they were leaving, a shot rang out, and the Palestinian doctor fell to the ground, dead. At 2 P.M. Friday, a different group of militiamen came, wearing different uniforms, according to the Asian doctor. He said they started to molest one of the Lebanese nurses, whose name was Friyal. They stopped after she started screaming.

”Shortly after that we went down to the shelter,” the doctor said, ”and found that one of the Palestinian nurses down there had been raped repeatedly and then shot.” He identified her as Intisar Ismail, 19 years old.

At approximately 3:45 P.M., witnesses say, yet another group of militiamen arrived at the Akka Hospital. Their arrival suggested to the Asian doctor that there was very little coordination between these men, especially since they all tended to ask the same question. The militiamen said they wanted to see the nurses. He told the men that the nurses had all fled.

At this point, according to the doctor, the militiamen asked to search the hospital. During the course of their work, they found a photograph of Yasir Arafat in the Asian doctor’s room.

”You are a terrorist,” one of the militiamen said to him.

At that point, the doctor said, he began to beg for his life. He was told to bring the nurses back to the hospital by 7 P.M., or else, the militiamen said, they would blow his head off.

Fortunately for the physician, by about 5 P.M. Friday, an International Red Cross convoy made it to the hospital and evacuated everyone left there. The doctor said that at about 5:30 P.M., as he was leaving the facility for safety, he saw at the southern end of Shatila what he estimated to be 80 to 90 bodies. They had been mixed together with sand and were being pushed by bulldozers.”

Thousands were butchered in this nightmare. Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk gives a rough estimate of 3,000 to 3,500 dead. It was as if 9/11 happened not with crashing planes, but with each murder being done manually, by knives and axes, guns and bare hands, and in four days of slaughter. When the Israeli public heard of these horrors, there was such an outrage that around 400,000 Israelis took part in a massive demonstration, showing the humanity of Israeli society. The killers claimed Catholicism, but one thing is certain — the only god these people had were their race, their nationalism, their sadistic pride. I would like now to present various testimonies from survivors, which have been compiled by Leila Shahid…

The testimony of Umm Ahmad Farhat:

 We were sleeping in the room— my husband, eight of my children, and myself. There was also our neighbor who had come to sleep at our house because of the shelling the night before. Around 5:00 in the morning, armed men came to the house and ordered us out. We went out in our nightclothes, each carrying the nearest child. I have young children, one and two years. Once we were outside, they asked my husband his nationality. He said he was a 1948 Palestinian* and that he was a telephone repairman. He also said he was crippled in one arm. The guy raised his machine gun to strike him and insult him, calling him a “terrorist.” Then he ordered us to face the wall without looking right or left. Then they fired several rounds at us. I was carrying my son two years old. I heard him cry, “Yaba!” [father] just before his skull exploded. I got two bullets in the back of my shoulder. The traces of his brain are still on the wall— and of his little sister too, who was on the shoulder of her big sister and who also got a bullet in the head.

My husband also was killed. He was forty-seven. The others were wounded, like me. I lost consciousness. When I came to, the armed men were gone. My wound was bleeding a lot. My oldest daughter was seriously wounded and couldn’t walk. The other, Salwa, was wounded in the shoulder but she could walk. Everyone else was dead.

: The older boys were at the house Thursday afternoon, and they noticed from the terrace groups of armed men coming down the hill overlooking the camp. They came running to tell us the news. Their father told them to go stay with someone in town because the Israelis always think young men are fighters. As for us, we thought that being civilians, women and children, the Israelis wouldn’t attack us. The two little ones stayed with us, but they managed to hide in the toilets. When they came out, they found their father and brothers all dead.

Testimony of Ibrahim Musa:

Around 7:30 P .M , the owner of my house called the men and said to come out of the shelter. On the threshold, I saw a man in an Israeli uniform. Another asked me who I was. I said I was a plumber. He said, “I mean your nationality.” I said, “Palestinian.” So they told me to come out. I obeyed, and when I came out dozens of men old and young were lying face down in the street with their hands clasped behind their heads— about fifty of them. They ordered me to do likewise. I laid down, face to the ground. Then I heard an argument between the armed men and the women, followed by shooting in the air and threats. Then I heard one of the men say, “Take the women to the Red Cross headquarters .” I knew that there was no Red Cross in the camp, but I hoped all the same they would spare them. I wanted to believe they would spare them. Once the women and the children were gone, they ordered us to stand up and emptied our pockets. They took my wallet and identity card and threw them on the ground.

Then they lined us up face to the wall and began shooting. At this very mo- ment, twenty-five meters away, some men from our camp, who were armed, burst out and there was a clash. Taking advantage of the panic, I looked around and saw that I was the last one in the row against the wall and the only one standing. The others were on the ground, either dead or wounded. I didn’t know whether to flee or stay. I felt a sharp heat climbing my leg and arm. At that moment a grenade exploded, and I threw myself on the ground. I thought I was going to die. I looked around, the armed men were gone, but there were lots of dead and wounded. I heard moans.

A thirteen-year-old boy, his back against the wall, was bleeding from the chest. He was choking on the blood rising in his throat and coughing. My leg was pinning down one of the wounded, who was asking if they were gone. With great difficulty I moved my leg, and he extricated himself, leaving me there with the others. Another of the wounded, who knew me, called me by name and asked me to help him. I said I couldn’t stand up. I asked him where he was wounded. “In the back,” he said. I said, “Let’s at least talk together and we’ll see who dies first, you or me.” We spoke a little. He tried to sit up and lean against the wall. He cried out in pain and vomited a lot of blood and his body went limp. I understood he was dead. I controlled myself so as not to cry out.

Night was beginning to fall, and I was surrounded by corpses. Near the wall where they shot us there was an open door. I dragged myself and crawled into the house. I found a mattress and laid down and covered myself. I was convinced that I was going to die, but I didn’t want rats to devour my body. I recall a lot of flares but I couldn’t see where they were coming from. I tried not to move very much so I wouldn’t bleed more. I heard voices outside. They were saying that there were lots of dead, and then there was a woman’s voice saying, “Let’s get out of here before they kill us.” I called for help, but nobody answered. I saw a pitcher in a corner and dragged myself to it and drank. It was practically suicidal, because people who are seriously wounded aren’t supposed to drink, but I did it anyway. I lay there all night. I took off my shirt and made a tourniquet above my leg wound to stop the blood, and I soaked a cloth and put it on my forehead and lips. At dawn, I was exhausted. I had lost a lot of blood. Suddenly, I heard steps nearby. I thought that the militiamen were finishing off the wounded. I was afraid they would torture me. I crawled to the darkest corner and covered myself with everything I could find. I heard a voice, “Let’s go into this house to see if anyone’ s here— I see blood on the ground.” I started trembling, convinced they were going to kill me.

The steps came nearer, and a hand raised the covers. I opened my eyes and saw a familiar face: an old man I knew by sight. I started breathing again and begged him to help me, telling him I couldn’t move. He told me to wait for him because armed men were still in the vicinity. He came back a little later with three others. They asked me if there were others wounded. I said I didn’t know. They put me in a blanket and carried me through the back alleys of the camp. There were snipers, and they were very careful. I was transported from hand to hand to the Gaza hospital. After they gave me first aid, they said they wanted to send me to a hospital in town just in case the armed men attacked the hospital.

My mother came to see me in the hospital. I asked about them [my wife and three children], telling her that the men had mentioned the Red Cross. She said there was no Red Cross in the camp, and she didn’t know where they were. When my mother-in-law came, she said my wife and children were fine, that they were in the mountains resting. I didn’t believe her and said that if they were alive they would have come to see me in the hospital, and that if her daughter didn’t come within forty-eight hours I would know that she was lying. The following day I saw photographs in the newspaper of people looking through corpses,* and I saw my mother and mother-in-law among them. When my mother-in-law came again, I yelled at her that she had lied, that I had seen her photo in the paper. She burst into tears and admitted that there was no trace of my wife and children. My mother asked what they were wearing the day of the massacre. My wife was wearing jeans and my daughter a red dress. She told me that they had found the body of a woman difficult to identify because of the blows but whose clothes could be hers. They had found the bodies of a number of our neighbors who were with my

wife and children, but not the bodies of mine. There are many bodies not yet found.

They must be in mass graves not yet opened. … . I have always lived in Shatila. I grew up here, I married here, and I lost everything here.

Testimony of Munir:

Thursday afternoon there was a lot of shelling, so we went down to the shelter. I was with my family. There was also my maternal uncle and his ten children and our neighbor and his children. There were a lot of people, especially women and children. Then the armed men arrived and forced us to get out. They lined the men against the wall and shot them, and then they led us, the women and children, to Doulchi. There, there was a clash. One of the men went mad, crying out, “They killed my brother! My brother has been hit!” and he started firing at us. My mother and my sisters were hit. I was hit in the leg, and a bullet grazed my head but didn’t injure me.

My father was shot against the wall. My mother was wounded near me and my sisters. Then the armed men said, “You injured people, get up, and we’ll take you to the hospital.” I whispered to my mother not to believe them, to stay down. But she saw the others get up, and she did too. They put them up against a wall and shot them.

One of them [my sisters] was wearing earrings. They said to her, “Are those gold or copper?” She said they were copper, so they got mad and said, “You daughter of a whore, that’s copper, is it?” And they ordered her to close her eyes and ripped off the earrings and shot her on the spot. My cousins, they killed them too with the other children with us. I heard them say, “When they grow up, they’ll become fighters— we have to kill them.” And they killed them.

I pretended to be dead. They all left, and finally I fell asleep. Then they came back. One of them had a flashlight. He saw that I was still breathing and shot at me again. He aimed at my head, but my hand was up against my cheek, and the bullet cut off my finger but didn’t touch the head. All night I lay there in a pool of blood. The next morning, the armed men came back and one of them said, “Look at that one. He’s still alive, he’s trembling.” So he fired. One bullet hit the ground, and the other hit me in the arm. I pretended to be dead. One of them wanted to fire on me a third time, but his friend said, “That’s OK, he’s dead.” When they left, I managed to get to an empty house. I took off my clothes, which were soaked in blood, and put on others that I found there. Meanwhile, they were nearby stealing cars. I stayed in the house waiting for the pain to go down and the bleeding to stop. Suddenly they burst into the house where I was hiding. “You’re still there? We’re going to kill you.” They took their guns, but then one said, “Are you Lebanese or Palestinian?” I said I was Lebanese. So he said to go sit in the room. As soon as they left, I fled by back alleys. I know all the back alleys, and I knew they led near the house of my uncle. There, I met a boy who knew me. He took me to the al-Sharq movie house, and from there a car took me to the Gaza hospital.

Testimony of Umm Hussein:

“Thursday, Israeli planes were flying over Beirut, making a terrible racket. They circled over the camp while their tanks began shelling us. Around 6:00 in the morning, the shelling intensified. We went into the shelter with our neighbors. Later, about thirty armed men came and started shooting. We ran to hide. Just as we closed the door, they burst in and said, “Why are you slamming the door in our faces? Where do you think you can hide?” Then they lined us up against the wall, separating the men from the women and children. They killed the men right in front of us. There was my husband, Hamid Mustafa, who was only forty-seven. My son Hussein was fifteen, and my son Hassan was fourteen. There was also the son and brother of our neighbor, and others too. In all, seven men they killed and piled one on top of the other in front of the house. They emptied their pockets, taking their watches and whatever they were carrying. Then they dug a pit and buried them.

… The weapons were removed from the camp, and the fighters were evacuated. They left us disarmed and without defense. There were so-called guarantees that no one would attack us. Guarantees by the Americans, the Europeans, the Arabs. But they lied. … We turned in our weapons; we trusted the Lebanese authorities.

They even killed women and children. I saw with my own eyes a baby of less than a year in his mother’s arms. She was dead, and he was crying all the time. They fired at him, but he wasn’t dead. One of the armed men got mad and yanked the child from his dead mother and said he would take it to the hospital. But farther on he strangled it and left it in the sand. I saw it on the ground when we passed. I also saw a woman whose hands were tied and who had perhaps been raped. Her clothing was torn, and she must have been dragged by the rope before being killed with an axe. It was a terrible sight.

Testimony of Sobhia F.:

Thursday night, we were sitting at home when the sky over the camp was lit by flares. A man came in and said the Phalangists are massacring people. We didn’t believe him and went to bed. The next day, someone else came and said the same  thing, that there was a massacre going on. My brother-in-law, Sobhi, who lives next door, got dressed and ran out to see what was going on. He saw dozens of bodies in the nearby alleys, along with some wounded. He was going to take them to the Akka hospital, which isn’t far. On his way to get his car, he saw for the first time armed men near the Kuwaiti embassy. He ran back and shouted to us, “Quick, get up! You can’t stay here, you have to leave!” Just then we heard loudspeakers calling on people to gather at Sports City. They said, “Go there and you will be safe.” We were hardly out of the house when three armed men stopped us and asked if we were Palestinian. We said we were Lebanese, and they said they wouldn’t touch Lebanese. Then one of them, who was leaning against a wall in khaki trousers, came up and asked to see the identity papers of one of our men, who replied, “By the life of Shaykh Bashir, I am Palestinian.” The other said, “So you are all Palestinians, then. Follow me.”

They grouped all the men together— that is, my sons Khaled and Amr, my brother-in-law Sobhi, and our neighbors Abu Farid and Abu Shihab. They ordered us to start walking. We were five families from this neighborhood, Horch Tabet, across from the Akka hospital. So we walked, the men on one side, the women and children on the other. They had made a path through the camp by opening big breaches in the walls, and so we passed from house to house. We walked like that for some time. Suddenly, they told the men to stop and ordered us to go on. We started to scream and weep. They said, “If you go on screaming we’ll kill you too.” We had hardly gone a few meters farther when we heard shots, and we understood that we were lost. So we screamed even louder. One of them said, “So what do you think? That it’s chaos here? We are not killing people. We are questioning them first and then we’ll judge.” We begged them, “For the love of God, for the love of the Prophet Muhammad, don’t kill them.” And they said, “You killed Shaykh Bashir!” We swore that we didn’t have anything to do with the assassination. We even said “May God kill the one who killed him. We are peaceful, we don’t have any weapons, we gave ourselves up without resisting. Why are you doing this?” One of them said, “There is no God, there is no Muhammad. We are God and Muhammad. Get on, now, you whores”

… My cousin went to look for my boys and their uncle the next day. He was relieved when he didn’t find their bodies. But when he heard whistling, he was frightened and ran. Later, I described to him the exact spot where they had separated us. He went the next day, Sunday, and found all their bodies. It was a little farther from the spot where we had been forced to go on, near a pink house. They were all lined up, all six, against the wall. Six men . . . and they had shot them. My son Amr, they shot him in the face and struck him with an axe. His uncle Sobhi met the same fate. My other son Khaled was leaning against the wall, his arms open, as if he had tried to resist. Their cousin did not even recognize them, they were so disfigured. He identified them by their clothing.