The massacre took place after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, when Christian Phalangist militias entered the Beirut camp under Israeli military watch to wreak retribution for the alleged assassination of their leader Bachir Gemayel.
Between September 16 and 18, 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 was closer to 1,700, while the PLO has previously said nearly 3,500 Palestinians were killed.
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.
An Israeli investigation found then defense minister Ariel Sharon, who Ashrawi said “left a legacy of bloodshed and destruction,” guilty of failing to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians. He was demoted but later became Israeli prime minister.
“This remains a tragic chapter in Palestinian history, and thirty-five years later, the Sabra and Shatila massacre still represents Israel’s cruelty and inhumanity towards the Palestinian people as a whole. This massacre, as well as other massacres against the Palestinian people, goes unpunished,” Ashrawi said, Ma’an news agency reported.
Ashrawi said in her statement that the massacre “should remind the entire international community that the plight of the more than six million Palestinian refugees has not been resolved,” and that Israel and the US “must do justice to the Palestinian refugees and implement international law and UN resolutions.”