Forty-one years ago, on September 16, 1982, and under the cover and support from the invading Israeli army under the command of Ariel Sharon, pro-Israel Lebanese militias entered Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in besieged Beirut and committed one of the most horrifying massacres in modern history.
After three days of pogrom in the two camps and under the eyes of the Israeli army, more than 4,000 people, most of them Palestinian refugees - elderly men, women and children - were massacred in cold blood in their homes and in the streets.
The day before the massacre, on September 15, the Israeli army besieged the two refugee camps, which became defenseless after the departure in August of the Palestinian fighters from Lebanon into exile in a deal brokered by the Americans.
According to the deal, a multinational force of American, Italian and French forces would provide protection to the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, which was then under the Israeli army siege, to make sure that the civilian refugees would not be harmed in any way.
Nevertheless, the American forces withdrew on September 10, the Italians on the next day and the French on September 13, almost 10 days before the official end of their mandate, leaving the camps totally vulnerable at a time all signs indicated that a massacre could take place by the pro-Israel Lebanese militias and under Israeli army protection and collaboration after raiding the Lebanese capital, Beirut, despite the American-brokered agreement that stipulated the Israeli army would not enter Beirut after the departure of the Palestinian fighters.
After the siege of the two camps on September 15, the Israeli army lit the skies with flares as armed Lebanese militias entered the camps through Israeli army lines and proceeded to kill everyone in their way, regardless if they were old people, women, children, or infants. They also broke into the camp hospital and killed nurses, doctors and patients who escaped from the massacre.
Over a period of three days, and under the watch of Sharon’s army, the militias proceeded in their pogrom until the news of the massacre was leaked out of the camp and the horrifying pictures of the dead were seen throughout the world before pressure was exerted on Israel to stop the militias.