Terrorist activity from Lebanon
against the northern Israel region makes life there unbearable. A short
while after the Likud forms a coalition, the new government orders the
Israeli Air Force to strike terrorists targets in the heart of Beirut.
Dozens of civilians are hit in the raid. New Page 1
On July 1981 US mediator Philip Habib achieves a cease fire between Israel
and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).
Although the cease fire is kept, Ariel Sharon orders IDF's General
Headquarters to prepare Operation Oranim, with the following objectives:
1. To prevent terrorists from shelling the northern region of Israel
2. To destroy the terrorists' infrastructure in Beirut and force the Syrians
to withdraw their troops from the city.
3. To create the political circumstances that would enable the election of a
pro-Israeli government in Lebanon
According to the plan, IDF is to take over Beirut within 96 hours. On
January 1982 the plan is complete and IDF units begin training.
Sharon spends months planning the war and meets secretly with Lebanese
Christian militia allies whom he plans to help install as Lebanon's
government once they kick the PLO out of Beirut. Sharon's vision is to join
forces with the Christian militia in order to liberate Lebanon from the
clutches of Syria and the Palestinians. He aspires to create a continuous
zone of peace from Alexandria in Egypt in the South, until Tripoli in the
north of Lebanon.
On February 1982, Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan (Raful) asks the government to
authorize a military action against the terrorists in Lebanon after a group
of terrorists infiltrates from Jordan to Israel. The government authorizes
an air strike, and at the same time large ground forces do their way to the
northern border and prepare to go into Lebanon in case the PLO would shell
the northern settlements in response to the planned air raid on Beirut. The
United States strongly opposes such big scale military operation which would
clearly be the end of the cease fire. Israel scraps the plan and aborts the
On 1999, Sharon would say about US-Israel relations: "This is the question
of Israel’s independence. On one hand we saw a process where the American
aid has increased; we saw expressions of friendship from the American
government, which stood by Israel in difficult times. But at the same time a
sort of slavery was formed, a voluntary slavery, as a natural process. Do
you think Israel would have taken today a decision such as Begin’s to strike
a nuclear plant? I think not. Do you think Israel would have helped today,
as it did in the 1960’s to Kurds, Yemenites, in the war of the Ethiopians
against the Somali tribes? I think not. What I’m asking is this: Is the
Israeli leadership, in terms of its mental state, capable of standing and
stating clearly: ‘Listen, this we are willing to accept, and this not.’, and
insist on it? Much less. Much less than in the days when it was a state of
million and a half people. Is there an ability to take a decision without
consulting the US first? It’s always in the background. Everything you say
is immediately followed by questions such as: ‘But what would the US
President think about it? What would the US Secretary of State think about
it?’ Or, ‘What would the Europeans say about it? They might impose economic
sanctions as they did before.’ And on and on. This leads to loss of
independence in terms of decision making. This means that without any
serious reason, you are getting into a situation where your ability to act
is gradually diminished. Today’s Israel does not have the same degree of
independence as it used to have when it was a 2.5 million people state, when
it should have been vice versa.
"But let me stress this: I do not think that in today’s world any state can
enjoy full independence. You have to be considerate. We live in a different
world. The degree of independence is diminishing, and to us it’s about
issues that have to do with our very existence in the long term. They always
say, and I also think it’s true, that the US is committed to the existence
of Israel, but we have seen what happened in Kuwait. The greatest power in
the world had difficulties in making a decision to go to the Gulf war in
1991. It took five months. Israel under Arab rule would not last five days;
this is what we must understand. This is the difference between existence
Nobody knows how the US would look twenty years from now. There are changes.
Even in the demographic structure. It could be that the degree of its
interest in this zone would be much smaller. We don’t know how things would
evolve, so we have to be more cautious… Israel has to regain its
independence as much as possible. We, in terms of reliance on the United
States, have gone too far.”
On April 21, 1982, an IDF officer is killed in South Lebanon in a landmine
explosion. The Israeli government orders the air force to strike terrorist
targets in Lebanon. PLO does not respond.
On June 3, 1982, Israel's ambassador to Britain, Shlomo Argov, is shot in
the head by terrorists from Abu Nidal's organization. He is severely
On Friday, June 4, the Israeli government holds an emergency meeting and
orders the Israeli air force to strike terrorists targets in Beirut and
South Lebanon. It is well understood by all ministers that if PLO responds
with shelling of north Israel, a large scale operation in Lebanon would take
Operation Oranim order is given to Commanders of Israeli divisions on the
Israeli-Lebanese border. An elite IDF unit is called and prepares to land 10
kilometers north of Sidon.
Many are wounded in the Israeli air raid on Beirut. Terrorists shell north
Israel, and an exchange of fire begins.
The next day, Dan Meridor, secretary of the Israeli government, announces:
"The Israeli government ordered the IDF to make sure that Israeli population
in the Galilee is out of the fire range of the terrorists which are based in
Lebanon. This operation is called Peace of the Galilee."
IDF moves deep into Lebanon. At first the forces crosses friendly villages.
The local villagers greet the soldiers, shower them with rice and hand them
coffee. They too want the terrorists out. One of them said, "Now, God
willing, we will be better off, thanks to the presence of Israeli Army in
Sidon. We got rid of the terrorists. I congratulate the Israeli people."
Prime Minister Menachem Begin declares in the Knesset that the operation has
a limited scope: "If we succeed in pushing back the line 40 kilometers from
our northern border – the job is done. There will be no more fighting."
The following video describes the events which
led to the Lebanon War and its declared objectives:
As the Israeli army heads north, beyond the original forty kilometer limit,
Sharon bombards the Cabinet with a military data. But some ministers are
concerned that Sharon might not have explained the real purpose of the war.
Itzhak Berman, Former Cabinet Minister, says: "On the third day of the war I
asked them to tell us what are the war's objectives, because it is a matter
that the government has do decide on. Not on tactical operational decisions,
which the government members are not familiar with. The government should
decide on the war's objectives. It was promised that there will be a meeting
to discuss the objectives of the war. No such meeting was ever held and that
was one of the reasons I resigned."
Mordechai Tzipori, Israeli Communication Minister during the years 1981 –
1984, says: "40 kilometers was the real goal that was announced by the
government and that was decided on by the government. The rest was due to us
being dragged, which could be avoided."
Chief of Staff, Rafael Eitan, had a more ambitious goal to the war, more in
the lines of Operation Oranim, which was not presented to the public at the
time. He wanted to reach Beirut-Damascus road and to impose a siege on
In the very early stages of the operation, paratroopers and armored forces
landed in the Awali river, north to Sidon, way beyond the 40 kilometers
First lieutenant in reserve Alon Shemi, paratrooper: "Once we landed there,
and we were familiar with the plans, it was obvious that the whole 40
kilometer thing is a deception. It was not clear who's trying to deceive
who, but it was clear that it is deception. Maybe the government wanted to
deceive the people or maybe the Defense Minister wanted to deceive other
ministers. That was not clear. But it was clear that it was a deception."
On the first night of the fighting, the Beaufort Castle was captured by
Israeli forces. Prime Minister Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon
arrived there the following morning and met the soldiers.
Ariel Sharon said: "This is one our greatest achievements. This place was a
nuisance and has posed a threat for years and years."
During the first days of war, coast line cities of Tyre and Sidon were
bombarded as a preparation for the invasion of Israeli troops and capturing
the terrorists and confiscating their arms and ammunition. It was a war on
civil targets. The enemy, PLO gunmen, hid among women, children and the
Lieutenant colonel in reserve Gali Hoss, infantry regiment Commander: "The
terrorists wore jeans, T-shirts, a belt with two pouches, sneakers and were
armed with Kalachnikov rifles. And we were the conquering army, dressed from
head to toe, full metal jackets, weapons, fully equipped, in great numbers
-- they sent to Lebanon whomever they could. The wheel has turned – they
fought for their homes, we were fighting outside our country. They were
light and poor, we were heavily armed. They were very determined in their
fighting, very brave."
The soldiers saw difficult sights, to which they were unaccustomed. Such was
the case in the combat on Ein Hilwe, where a hospital was mistakenly hit on
the outskirts of the refugee camp.
Lieutenant colonel in reserve Gali Hoss, infantry regiment Commander: "There
were two burned ambulances there, and around them scattered fifty bodies,
and I'm talking about hospital population. When you participate in this play
and the killed players are soldiers in uniforms, you accept it, these are
the rules of the game. But when you suddenly see that among the dead is a
girl, the same age as the girl you have at home, you realize that this is
something completely different, that this is horrible, and what is most
horrible is that you have a part in it."
The inhabitants of the refugee camps were called to evacuate their homes
prior to the storming of IDF troops. Thousands of people left the villages
and marched to nearby orchards and to the coast.
At this stage, the only opposition to the war in Israel was sounded by
Hadash Party. Knesset Member Meir Vilner submitted a no-confidence motion
against the government and said in the Knesset: "This is a war against a
people that has no country, no state; this is a war against the Palestinian
people, against a civil population, against a national liberation movement.
Is this bravery? You are leading us to an unnecessary and dangerous war to
The no-confidence motion was defeated by a great majority. The government
felt that there was a national consensus that the war was justified.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin said after the vote: "I wish to thank the
opposition parties for their support. This national unity is one of the
nicest hours of Israel."
The media also supported Operation Peace of the Galilee.
- "Relief in Nahariya: It would be as safe as Tel Aviv."
- "Joy in Kiryat Shmone: This is the most justified action."
- "Citizens support the government actions in the north."
- "We are doing the right thing."
Knesset Member Yossi Sarid, Labor Party: "This was one of the worst hours,
one of the ugliest hours, and one of the most idiotic hours in the history
of Israel. Many of those who vote then for the war knew that the public was
misled; they knew that the war was not meant to take only 48 hours and they
knew that it was not limited to forty kilometers as it was presented. They
also knew that as we sat there in the Knesset and voted, combats were
already held way beyond the 40 kilometers line, but they were much more
comfortable with this agreed lie, and therefore someone like me had no
choice but not to join the consensus of this war, maybe for the first time
in the history of Israel."
On the forth day of the fighting the first cracks in the consensus where
Israeli TV reported: "This is the town of Damur, or what's left of it. This
town is less than 10 kilometers to the south of Beirut, and IDF has already
moved north to the southern outskirts of Beirut."
The storming of IDF forces northward, way beyond the 40 kilometer line, gave
rise to doubts about the true objectives of the operation. Is it really only
about the Peace of the Galilee?
Naomi Ben Tzur, a mother of a soldier: "My son, as a tank driver, told us
that he drove for forty hours non stop, until they ran out of gas and water.
And then we realized, and I think we were the first to realize the great
deception. The story about 40 kilometers, the limited operation, suddenly
becomes a war, a war with no limits, no time limits and no territorial
Prime Minister Menachem Begin said in a television interview: "There are
still thousands of terrorists. Do we want them back? The 40 kilometer or 43
kilometer line should be a line of peace, which means that beyond it there
should be no terrorists at all, so we had to go further to the north from
the 40 kilometer line in order to ensure that they don't come back."
Syria was also forced to participate in the fighting. In the forth day of
the war the Syrian missile batteries were destroyed by Israeli fighters. In
addition, dozens of Syrian fighters were downed in air battles. IDF forces
moved to the north, towards the Beirut-Damascus road, aiming to cut off
Beirut and to impose a siege on it.
On the forth day, the Israeli forces were already in the outskirts of
Beirut. The objective became more and more clear: surrounding and maybe even
destroying Arafat's headquarters in Beirut, and then joining forces with the
Christian Militias that were fighting the Palestinians under the leadership
of Bashir Gemayel. The Lebanese Forces with their commander Bashir Gemayel
were the Israeli hope in the war. For several years now, Israel assisted the
Christian Militias in the Lebanese civil war against the Muslims.
During the war Bashir Gemayel said: "All what you are seeing here now is not
only an Israeli business, but for eight years Syrians and Palestinians were
helping each other for the destruction of this country."
On Friday, June 11, a cease fire, which was reached thanks to US mediation,
was announced. Israeli casualties so far: 214 killed, 23 missing in action,
one prisoner of war and 1,114 wounded.
First lieutenant in reserve Meir Perry, paratrooper: "OK, we achieved a
cease fire, but now what, what next, what does it really give us, or anyone
else? And most troubling of all is that the cease fire is not kept by our
forces, and that we receive conflicting messages as civilians, as the
citizens of Israel, and as soldiers, and this gap is beginning to cause a
Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said in a press conference: "We have no cease
fire with the terrorists. We have not decided on any cease fire with the
terrorists, we have never signed any cease fire with terrorists, we do not
engage in any dialog with terrorists who openly state that their goal is the
destruction of Israel."
Israel did not like the cease fire as long as PLO holds its positions in
West Beirut. The Lebanese civil war has divided the city to Muslim
neighborhoods in the west and to Christian neighborhoods in the east. The
border line was marked by ruined buildings, sand bags and fortified
positions on both sides. IDF tightened its grip on the city from the south
and from the east. The siege on Beirut began.
Within just a week, four hundred Israeli tanks and a thousand guns besied
Beirut. For two months the Israeli army repeatedly bombed and shelled
Arafat's headquarters, killing thousands of civilians in the process.
Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan said in a television interview: "They are under
siege. We determine how tight this siege is. If we want to – we shut down
water supply, cut off electricity, prevent gasoline supply, and then we
shall see who can endure longer. And if they fire with sniper rifles, maybe
it's because that's what's left to them. So we will come with a one ton bomb
on any target we decide on."
IDF troops seized street after street and tightened the loop around PLO's
neck. They prepared to occupy the whole city. They had the detailed plans.
The soldiers were training for Military Operations on Urban Terrain.
Lieutenant colonel in reserve Gali Hoss, infantry regiment Commander: "I
came to Beirut, and I saw a city which was greater than Tel Aviv. It wasn't
some small town. We were about to conquer a huge city, with huge buildings.
It was in a horrible state after many years of war, but it was huge
nevertheless. After I saw what happened in Ein Hilwe, I wondered how many
people live in this city. How many civilians? And they had nowhere to run
to, this was it, this was Beirut."
First lieutenant Itay Shiloni: "On one hand we refused to realize that it
was really going to happen, but then again we were positive that it would
eventually. We were certain that no matter what, this would not be over
until we reach each and every house in Beirut, cease fire or no cease fire.
It was clear that we were going to be in those streets."
Lieutenant colonel in reserve Gali Hoss, infantry regiment Commander: "To a
certain degree, we needed to formulate a new kind of fighting style that
would fit taking over a 40-story building, which is kind of taking over a
street standing upright. Not only we were not prepared for this, I never
thought I would have to do something like that. This is very complex."
Lieutenant colonel in reserve Amiram Zakin, ifantry regiment Commander in a
- Amiram Zakin: "I thought of 155mm artillery, Vulcan machine guns and air
- Reporter: "And that only then your guys would begin to climb up the
- Amiram Zakin: "No, I did not think that we should go up a high building,
and I don't think so today. To accomplish that, you can put explosives and
the building is gone. And yes, I know, it is very immoral to do so. But this
way no soldier gets killed. And if it's a war, then it has its own rules."
On 1998 Ariel Sharon said in a television interview:
- Ariel Sharon: "They did not have a plan to go into Beirut."
- Reporter: "The soldiers said that they were training for it. They were
training on houses, on streets, on blocks."
- Ariel Sharon: "I'm sure that the soldiers were training, and today they
are also training. And not only that the soldiers were training, they were
also planning and their commanders were planning. But let's be precise about
it: Did IDF planned at some point to take control over Beirut? It planned
many things. But, was there in this operation, operation Peace of the
Galilee, an intention to occupy Beirut? The answer is No."
Whether a plan to occupy Beirut existed or not, the siege on the city and
the detailed plans have cracked the Israeli consensus about the war.
Demonstrators carried signs in peace rallies, saying:
- Get out of Lebanon
- For the sake of Israel, Stop Begin and Sharon
- Beirut – The City of Killing
- The Lebanon War = Hundreds of casualties but no solution
- The Palestinian Issue will not be solved by military force
- Stop destroying Beirut
- Stop the blockade of Beirut immediately
- Shall you kill the innocent with the evil?
Major General Matityahu Peled said in a speech during a peace rally: "Never
before a rally was held in the midst of a war in Israel. This rally is held
because the majority of the people abhors this war, opposes it, and demands
its immediate ending."
Meir Kahana, head of Kach extreme right wing party, said: "The left minority
changed US policy during the Vietnam War, and God forbid this is what is
going to happen here. Thanks to the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister
we now have a golden opportunity to eliminate the PLO, completely eliminate
Israel became an arena of rallies for and against the war. Emotions ran
high. The split deepened.
Moti Goldman, a soldier in an elite commando unit, protested during the war,
saying, "I saw the silence of the bodies of our dead soldiers that were left
with us in our APC's. I vowed to make the Beaufort Castle a symbol for
breaking the silence, to cry the silence of our deceived dead."
Families of the fallen attacked Goldman and announced: "Our loved ones have
not fallen in vain. We, the bereaved families that lost their loved ones in
Operation Peace of the Galilee, object the horrible and cynical abuse of our
fallen dears by political factions. Let IDF uproot all terror organizations
from the land of Lebanon. Inciters: leave us alone in our grief."
On 1998 Ariel Sharon said in a television interview: "Documents that we
found in Beirut, cite the heads of the PLO saying, 'The rallies of the Left
in Israel are our last hope.'"
The battles in Beirut went on for many weeks. IDF made a slow progress,
nibbling on the outskirts of the city. The government got the support of the
Knesset to its decision to demand that the PLO should evacuate Beirut and
Several months after the war began, tens of thousands of people gathered in
a peace rally organized by Peace Now. Supporters of the war attacked the
demonstrators with harsh words:
- "You are Kapos, Nazi collaborators, you push Jews into the Nazi
- "Get out of Tel Aviv, you miserable little Palestinians"
- "Go home, keep your filth out of the city"
On 1998 Ariel Sharon said in a television interview: "Chaim Guri (a renowned
poet and publicist) wrote, 'Let's face it. This is the first time there's a
war under a Likud government.' And this was the problem. What happened in
that war was a split that was mostly fabricated by the Labor Party and the
Left in an attempt to overthrow, in an un-democratic way, a government which
was elected in a democratic and a legitimate way."
But Sharon omitted the rest of what Guri wrote: "Menachem Begin, with his
own words, contributed to the breaking of the consensus. Begin had a very
small majority, but he didn't give a damn. He didn't care about those who
did not vote for him. It is Begin who created the division to good fellows
and bad fellows, to faithful and traitors."
On a pro-war rally Menachem Begin said: "Yesterday Arafat invited Arik
Sharon to Beirut. Beware, Arafat, for Arik Sharon might accept your
invitation." And the crowd roared enthusiastically.
Sabri Jiryis, Senior PLO advisor, says: "In my opinion the Palestinian
people should award Sharon a prize for what he did for the Palestinian
cause, especially in the 1982 war, the Lebanon war, and his raids on Beirut.
In the beginning of the 1980's the PLO, the Palestinian movement, were based
in Beirut, Lebanon, and they almost forgot about Palestine. And then Sharon
came and threw the Palestinians out of there and didn't leave them any other
place to go to. So we, the Palestinians, started to fight in the West Bank
Israel was determined that the surrounded PLO terrorists should leave
Beirut. While diplomatic efforts were made to achieve that goal, Israel
launched a heavy bombardment on West Beirut. Although the targets were
carefully picked, there were civilian casualties.
First lieutenant Itay Shiloni: "We saw fighters come and bombard and go. We
got used it. It happened every day. We used to sit on balconies with
binoculars, watched the sun set and our fighters bombard West Beirut. We did
not make any connection between what we saw and the fact that people got
killed. Every bomb dropped by a fighter felt as something that might
postpone our physical invasion into the city."
Colonel Eli Geva, Armored Brigade Commander, asked to be relieved of
command. He did not see any point and justification for the ongoing war
efforts to occupy the city of Beirut: "I saw no purpose in the continuation
of the war, the price of the fighting in West Beirut was unreasonable in
light of the purpose, which would lead to nothing at all. The price in terms
of what we were supposed to do to the local population was such that
demanded a second thought whether we were allowed to operate in the first
place. I asked to be relieved from the obligation to lead the soldiers to
such a place."
Eli Geva was severely criticized. One junior officer said to a television
reporter: "I feel personally betrayed. I am simply ashamed that I had such a
commander. He simply abandoned one hundred thousand soldiers who all have
fathers and mothers. He left because he thinks he cannot enter Beirut? And
what about me? Don't I have parents? Don't I have soldiers under my command?
Don't we have thoughts? Don't we have feelings? What would be if every one
of us would have just left?"
In a press conference, held shortly after Geva's resignation, Prime Minister
Begin attacked his decision: "Among other things he told me, 'I see through
my binoculars little children.' I asked him, 'Did you receive orders to kill
those children?' He said, 'No.' So I told him, 'What's your point, then?' He
did not answer. He is afraid that he might receive such an order. Out of
On 1998, Eli Geva said in a television interview: "When I told him that we
were shooting civilians, he said that it was reported to him that there were
no civilians there. I remember I told myself that he had no alternative, but
to say that."
Eli Geva was not alone. A group of reserve soldiers from an elite IDF
commando unit wrote to the Prime Minister about their lack of faith in
Defense Minister Ariel Sharon:
"Honorable Prime Minister!
I did not volunteer to serve in my elite unit for that! It was always clear
to me that if I go to a war, it would be a just war to defend our lives and
our existence as a people.
Today it is clear to me that I was deceived and called to fight in the first
war in the history of Israel that was not a defense war, but a dangerous
gamble aimed to achieve political goals by paying a heavy toll of IDF
casualties and innocent civilian casualties.
I have no faith in the Defense Minister!"
Prime Minister Begin wrote in reply:
"Defense Minister Sharon does not need your faith. As electing citizens I
assume that you have not vote for him or for his party, through which he and
I and our friends serve the people of Israel. As soldiers you owe him
unquestioning discipline. Under the law. Operation Peace of the Galilee,
through all its stages, is the most just operation ever carried out.
First lieutenant in reserve Alon Shemi, paratrooper: "I remember the first
time I saw this letter. It really astounded me. I remember how I walked the
streets of Jerusalem at night dumbstruck, and went through all the process
of debating with this argument [Under the law]. Because it really seemed to
destroy it all. First, it was a demagogic argument. Second, it is basically
a very totalitarian argument. An army of paid soldiers under the control of
a ruler can be directed anywhere. But this is not the case with IDF. IDF is
a people's army, an army which is based on reserve forces of citizens."
Soldiers were seen on television coming straight from the battlefield to
protest in front of the Prime Minister's house.
The international pressure, especially by the United States, both on Israel
and on the PLO, has increased. In the middle of August Arafat surrendered
and announced that he was willing to evacuate Beirut. The PLO was defeated.
15,000 Palestinian fighters left Beirut. The PLO abandoned its Beirut base
and scattered over several Arab states.
On 1998 Ariel Sharon said in a television interview: "It was a historical
victory. I don't recall when in history a whole organization, a terror
organization had its domain completely destroyed, and being expelled and
forced to leave its capital with all its headquarters and commanders and its
head Arafat, who is a war criminal by any law."
Itzhak Berman, Former Cabinet Minister, says: "When he got the PLO out of
Beirut, he didn't understand that he was creating a vacuum. Two months after
the PLO left Lebanon, the Hizbolla, which is much worse, was formed. It
humiliated the Israeli army time after time. In 1984 Hamas was formed
because there was a vacuum, because the PLO wasn't there. He didn't take
this into consideration."
Soon after the evacuation from Beirut, Arafat told in a television
interview: "What about the future? It is a responsibility upon my shoulders
to continue this very long march, and I promise them that this march will
continue until we will be able to establish our independent state, with its
Prime Minister Menachem Begin said after the expulsion of the terrorists
from Beirut: "These are their miserable soldiers. That's why they look like
that. And that's why we didn't care much for capturing him, but we did want
to terminate his command along with the command of two other 'Abus', Abu
Aiad and Abu Ziad. Oh Well, they are not a real challenge for our soldiers."
The most important achievement of Israel was that Bashir Gemayel was elected
President of Lebanon. It seemed as though Israel achieved not only the
military goal of Operation Peace of the Galilee but the political one as
well, namely a Lebanese government that would be willing to sign a peace
treaty with Israel. But Syria could not accept Gemayel as the Lebanese
president, as he was elected with the aid of Israeli artillery and tanks. He
On September 14, 1982, three weeks after he was elected president, Gemayel
was killed in a tremendous blast that destroyed the headquarters of the
Phalanges Militias. Israel's dream to establish a pro-Israeli government in
Lebanon was shattered.
The following day IDF set to occupy Beirut. Prime Minister Begin ordered:
"Muslims must be protected from Phalanges' revenge," and the IDF went to the
final battle in Beirut. The task of cleansing the refugee camps, which still
harbored some two thousand terrorists, was assigned to the Phalanges that
lost their commander in the assassination. IDF surrounded the camps and
assisted the Phalanges with lighting and observation.
On Thursday the Phalanges entered Sabra and Shatila and the massacre began.
Women, after being separated from the men, ran away from the narrow streets
and cried for help.
In the following video you can see pictures
taken a short time after the Sabra and Shatila Massacre:
First lieutenant Itay Shiloni: "Even if they turned to me, I did not care. I
had no interest in what they had to say. They were just another bunch of
annoying Arabs wishing to pass from here to there, interrupting our mission.
Only later I realized that they were the people who fled the camps where the
massacre took place. How did you, First lieutenant Itay Shiloni, an IDF
officer, stood in the crossroads and did not take an interpreter, did not
ask, did not make inquiries? True, you had your orders. So what? You saw
multitude of people suffering, and what have you done to prevent this? If I
were to stand trial for this, I would have been found guilty."
The massacre went on for three nights and two days. IDF soldiers around the
camps heard rumors and saw fragments of what happened. They reported to
their commanders. Nothing was done.
On 1998, Ron Ben Ishay, Israeli TV military reporter, said in an interview:
"That night I called Arik Sharon home and told him, 'Put an end to it.' That
was even before I saw what happened with my own eyes. I called him as soon
as I heard the stories, even though I could not yet verify them that night.
When I heard it from several people, I realized what was going on."
Ariel Sharon: "I asked him, 'Did you see it?' He said, 'No, I heard about
it.' And then I asked another question, 'Did you hear from those who saw
it?' He said, 'I heard from those who heard about it.' Since three hours
earlier I spoke with the Chief of Staff, and he told me about his impression
as to what happened, and he told me that he had instructed that Lebanese
Forces to evacuate the terrorists neighborhoods – which, by the way,
harbored many terrorists, there were two thousands armed terrorists there -
when he told me this, I understood that he took the necessary measures to
remove the Lebanese Forces from within the terrorists neighborhoods."
Ron Ben Isahy: "The next morning I arrived to Shatila in 06:00, and saw the
Phalanges round up women and children and massacring them, and at that point
I could no longer keep my professional composure. At that point I was
Ron Ben Ishay wrote in his turmoil to the Prime Minister: "I think that if
the authorities wished to, it would have been possible to prevent at least
part of the massacre."
The massacre proved to many Israelis that the war was leading Israel towards
a catastrophe. The shock forced everyone to take a closer look at the goals
of the war and at its methods. This was an important psychological turning
point, and from that point on the war would be seen in a different light.
On Saturday, Rosh Hashana eve, news of the massacre spread world wide.
Hundreds of demonstrators hurried to the square in front of Prime Minister
Begin's house and held an illegal rally, calling, "Begin is a Killer! Begin
is a Killer!" and "Begin and Sharon are responsible for the Pogrom! The
Pogrom is their doing!" They were dispersed using tear gas.
Knesset Member Shimon Peres said in the Knesset: "What have you done, Mr.
Prime Minister and Mr. Defense Minister, when you publicly took upon
yourselves the responsibility for everything that might happen in Beirut?
What have you caused by announcing in advance that we control every major
crossroads, and that the refugee camps are completely surrounded by us? If
in fact you assumed what might happen and could not prevent it, this is a
On 1998, Mordechai Zipori, who was at the time Communication Minister, said:
"I told the Prime Minister at the government meeting on Rosh Hashana, 'No
matter what they say. From this room we released an announcement to the
press about entering West Beirut, about entering there in order to prevent
bloodshed, and blood was shed, so we would be held responsible."
After the massacre, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon said in the Knesset: "No
IDF soldier and no IDF commander has participated in this terrible deed. The
hands of IDF soldiers are clean. IDF's moral ethics remained impeccable, as
it was impeccable throughout the war. Therefore, any attempt to put the
blame in any way, and you [Israeli opposition parties] have done so in every
media, letting the whole world know, is just making things worse."
At first, the government refused to appoint a special committee to
investigate the massacre. But 400,000 demonstrators in Tel Aviv convinced it
to change its mind. A Special Committee was appointed to investigate what
happened in Sabra and Shatila. Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Defense
Minister Ariel Sharon and many IDF officers testified.
On 1998, Ariel Sharon said in a television interview: "More than 40
testimonies were heard. Not one person said that was happened there was
predictable. They based their findings on an article published in Bamahane,
which is a very important magazine, but no offence, I admit I did not have
the time in those days to read it, as I have not read other newspapers, and
there was an article in some Lebanese newspaper which claimed that
Christians might murder Muslims. These were the two major pieces of evidence
they were relying on. No one, none of the heads of the Mossad, none of the
heads of the General Security Services, none of the heads of the Army
Intelligence, none of them said that this might happen."
On February 7, 1983, Prime Minister Menachem Begin received the Inquiry
Commission report late at night and promised the head of the Commission not
to reveal the conclusions to anyone until the report is officially
published. Begin was in his Jerusalem residence. He read the report and knew
what the recommendations were. At the same time, Ariel Sharon sat in his
office in the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv and had no idea what the
report said. He nervously waited for Begin to call and tell him, but in
vain. He then called Begin himself but got no answers. Sharon would later
say that he already understood what was about to happen.
The next morning, a secretary of the Inquiry Commission brought the report
to a hotel where Sharon stayed. After he read the conclusions, Sharon said
to Begin, "Menachem, I want you to know that you have betrayed me." Sharon
considered quitting his political career, but eventually decided not do so.
The Committee concluded that, "Since the danger that the Phalanges would
carry out the massacre was not considered, and since no prompt action was
taken to stop the massacre, an indirect responsibility lies on Israel as
With regard to Ariel Sharon, the panel recommended that he, "... draw the
appropriate personal conclusions arising out of the defects revealed with
regard to the manner in which he discharged the duties of his office" - in
other words, that he resign; or, if necessary, that the prime minister
exercise his authority to remove a minister from office.
The key paragraphs relating to Sharon's responsibility are these: "In our
view, Defense Minister Sharon made a grave mistake when he ignored the
danger of acts of revenge and bloodshed by the Phalanges against the
population in the refugee camps ... It is our view that responsibility is to
be imputed to the minister of defense for having disregarded the danger of
acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalanges against the population of
the refugee camps, and having failed to take this danger into account when
he decided to move the Phalanges into the camps.
"In addition, responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defense for
not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the danger of
massacre as a condition for the Phalanges' entry into the camps. These
blunders constitute the non-fulfillment of a duty with which the defense
minister was charged.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said of the Commission: "[It
was] a great tribute to Israeli democracy... There are very few governments
in the world that one can imagine making such a public investigation of such
a difficult and shameful episode."
But the Israeli government debated whether to accept the Committee's
conclusion. The government convened. Around the government building,
opposing groups gathered and demonstrated, both for and against Sharon. The
demonstrators' conflict ended in a murder. A hand grenade was thrown to a
Peace Now crowd, and Emil Greinzweig was killed.
Few days after the massacre in Sabra and Shatila, IDF forces left Beirut and
retreated to the south.
First lieutenant Itay Shiloni: "A place that was considered just an hour
earlier a crucial position for our security is becoming a spot we have to
evacuate in half an hour. Crossroads, in which we had to prevent movement
from east to west at all costs, had to be cleared in no time. The urgency to
leave this city was astounding. This is also one of those things that won't
ever cease to disturb your mind: How come that a position that was so
important just an hour earlier, a position that was worth getting killed
for, now becoming a spot you have to rapidly clear out of?"
IDF troops stayed in Lebanon for two more years. At first they served as a
buffer between Christians and Druze, who joined the Muslims. Then the Shia
Muslims got organized, and the same people who greeted IDF with rice and
cheers, now announced a Jihad, a Holy War, on Occupying Israel. Cruel and
destructive guerilla fighting began in south Lebanon: car bombs, booby
traps, ambushes and suicide bombers.
Reserve soldiers returned from service in Lebanon straight to the Prime
Minister's house to protest against the war. They put a sign with the ever
increasing numbers of the dead. They carried placards that read: "Those who
go to Lebanon have no trust in you."
When the numbers of the dead got to hundreds, Prime Minister Begin got
depressed. At the end of August, 1983, he announced that he cannot carry on
and retired to his home. Two more winters would pass until IDF soldiers
would go home too.
Knesset Member Yossi Sarid, Labor Party: "Ariel Sharon wanted this war in
order to create a new Middle East. He intended to strike and eliminate the
PLO and thereby create an alternative leadership, which could not be and
cannot be today and cannot ever be. This was the goal. The war was designed
to achieve that goal. It was very clear to someone like me that this goal
could not be achieved, and therefore it's all very simple: it was an
adventure of Sharon, it could not but fail, and it did in fact fail."
On 1998, Ariel Sharon said in a television interview: "I don't feel that I
sit here as a defendant in front of you. I think that the Peace of the
Galilee War was one of the most justified wars of Israel, one of the most
justified wars of Israel. And I think that the worst thing that happened is
that - mostly out of internal political interests and as a result of lack of
unity and lack of consensus - we did not achieve what we could have
achieved. We could have achieved more."