“Sabra and Shatila Massacres” 1982-83, by Dia Al-Azzawi

Saturday 16th September 2017 marked the 35th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, when hundreds of members of the Phalange party (a Lebanese Christian militia), under the approving eye of Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, entered Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut.

Over 3,000 Palestinian refugees were killed. Among the victims were infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly.

In December 1982, the UN General Assembly declared the massacre to be an act of genocide. Minister Ariel Sharon was forced to resign after a special Israeli investigative panel inquiry declared him to be “personally responsible” for “ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge” and “not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed”.

Despite this, Ariel Sharon survived politically and became Prime Minister of Israel from 2001 to 2006. Not a single responsible party for the massacre has ever been successfully convicted under the law.

The massacre at Sabra and Shatila is another tragic and horrifying chapter in Palestinian history. The bloody civil war in Lebanon and the subsequent Israeli occupation continues to haunt the surviving families affected by the violence.

Today, life remains difficult in Shatila refugee camp. Originally built in 1949 for the capacity of about 3,000 people, it is now home for up to 22,000, despite the size of the camp remaining relatively unchanged since it was first established. With only intermittent electricity available and contaminated water supplies, poverty levels are high.

More than 60% of the 450,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live below the poverty line. They are all denied basic civil, social, political and economic rights.

With the conditions of the shelters continuing to deteriorate with little prospect of improvement, Palestinian refugees are in urgent need of support. With a lack of political will to bring about change to the horrific realities of their refugee status, it comes as little surprise that Palestinians exiled in Lebanon refer to themselves as ‘the Forgotten Refugees’.

To find out more about the Sabra and Shatila massacre, you can read the survivors’ stories here.

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