Erekat: Still no justice for Sabra and Shatila victims
Published Monday 16/09/2013 (updated) 17/09/2013 22:35
A Palestinian woman places a flower at the Palestinian Martyr's
cemetery at Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, to mark the 2011
anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- PLO official Saeb Erekat said Monday that there has been no justice for the Palestinian victims of the Sabra and Shatila massacre 31 years ago in Lebanon.
"On the 31st anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, we take this opportunity to remember the victims of that dreaded episode and recall the importance of working to end impunity for such crimes," Erekat said.
"Thirty-one years later, there is still no justice for the victims. In fact, those responsible, including then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon, would go on to have very successful political careers, adding further insult to the injury."
The 1982 massacre took place in Beirut after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, when Christian Phalangist militias entered the refugee camp under Israeli military watch to wreak retribution for the alleged assassination of their leader Bachir Gemayel.
Over three days, Palestinian refugees were killed in droves. At the time, the number of dead was estimated at 700, but eyewitness British reporter Robert Fisk says the number is closer to 1,700.
The Palestinian Red Crescent estimates that 3,000 civilians were killed.
With Palestinian fighters having withdrawn from Lebanon just a few weeks prior, and the Israeli army in effective control of the area around the camp, the residents were absolutely defenseless.
Israeli soldiers in control of the perimeter of the camps did not stop the slaughter, firing flares overhead at night to aid the Phalangist gunmen.
"Unfortunately, this was not the first or the last massacre to take place in our history. It is our responsibility and our right to take all measures to protect our people, deter such crimes, and seek accountability for the perpetrators by relying on the system of international criminal justice. That is a primary duty of any government," the senior PLO official said.
A solution to the refugee issue will be a cornerstone of any agreement reached in peace negotiations, Erekat added.
There are currently over 400,000 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in Lebanon and the fragile sectarian composition of Lebanese society makes their presence a sensitive issue.
Refugees in the country have long suffered discrimination and are deprived of basic rights.