The Sabra and Shatila Massacre: Escaping Justice

An archive picture of prayers held over the bodies of martyrs of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila Massacre.

Today marks the 30 year anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which hundreds of defenseless Palestinian refugees were slaughtered by Lebanese right-wing militias under the cover of the Israeli military. Below are profiles of the main culprits responsible for the killings.

Ariel Sharon


Ariel Sharon (84) fell into a coma six years ago while preparing for his electoral campaign. He still has a strong presence in the Israeli political scene despite the media blackout imposed by the Israeli state on news and pictures of him.

His condition has not improved. The doctor in charge of caring for him says that his “state is stable,” adding that “Sharon is a very strong man physically and in my view, mentally as well.”

The financial committee in the Israeli Knesset decided to divide the cost of Sharon’s treatment – 1.5 million shekels ($400,000) annually – between the government and his family.

An Israeli investigative committee had found Sharon indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982 where hundreds of Palestinian refugees were killed “as he was a defense minister at the time.”

Rafael Eitan

Rafael Eitan

Rafael Eitan was born on 11 December 1929. In 1946 he joined the Palmach, which is the strike force of the Haganah [ the pre-establishment of Israel Jewish militant group. He held several positions in the Israeli army including Chief of Staff between 1978-1983.

During his term, he participated in planning the attack on the Iraqi atomic reactor Tammuz and the invasion of Lebanon. After the Sabra and Shatila massacre, the Kahan Commission tasked with investigating the massacre concluded that Eitan was “in breach of duty that was incumbent on the chief of staff.”

The report noted that Eitan did not take the necessary measures to prevent the massacre and did not act in accordance with the duties a military commander.

The commission did not, however, remove him from his post or make any further recommendations against him under the pretext that he was due to retire soon. He died in 2004.

Fadi Frem

Frem (R)

Bashir Gemayel appointed Fadi Frem leader of the Lebanese Forces (LF) militia in 1982 after Gemayel was “elected” president and one day before his assassination.

When the Sabra and Shatila massacre took place, he was the leader giving orders to LF fighters and he was responsible for the decision to enter the refugee camps.

Frem was married to one of the granddaughters of the Phalange Party founder, Pierre Gemayel. He advanced gradually in the LF as he was one of the first people to join the Bashir Gemayel squad. He was later appointed as head of the militia’s military intelligence before becoming deputy chief of staff, then leader of the LF.

Under his leadership, the “War of the Mountain” between Christian and Druze militias broke out and the LF were soundly defeated, causing the displacement of Christians from the Chouf area.

His relationship with President Amin Gemayel grew tense and Fouad Abou Nader was appointed in his place. Frem’s forces took part alongside Elie Hobeika’s in the Sabra and Shatila massacre.

He now lives in Canada. It should be noted that in 2000 the Canadian department of justice investigated those responsible for torture in the Khiam detention center in South Lebanon and did not allow many of them to immigrate to Canada for this reason.

Saad Haddad

Haddad (R)

Saad Haddad was born in 1936 in the town of Marjayoun in South Lebanon. He was an officer when he was put in charge of a Lebanese army unit that included 400 soldiers in the town of Qulaiah.

In 1979, he allied himself with Israel to establish the South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia. On 19 April 1979, he announced the establishment of Free Lebanon in the territories occupied by Israel in the South.

During the 1982 Israeli invasion, he transferred members of his forces from the South to Beirut Airport and then to Sabra and Shatila, where they played a prominent role in perpetrating the massacre.

Haddad died on 14 January 1984 from cancer. His daughter Arzeh, who became an Israeli citizen, works in the field of military research to develop Israeli missiles.

Etienne Sakr


Etienne Sakr was born in Ain Ebel in South Lebanon and later became an officer in the General Security Directorate. After the Lebanese government signed the Cairo Agreement in 1969 with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Sakr left the intelligence agency to devote himself to politics.

He established, with the poet Said Akel, the Lebanese Renewal Party which eventually became the Guardians of the Cedars militia – a Lebanese ultra-nationalist movement.

Sakr was also one of the founders of the Lebanese Front. His party participated in the fighting at the beginning of the civil war against PLO fighters and their Lebanese allies.

He was known for his collaboration with Israel. He supported the SLA and in the 1990s he lived in the town of Jezzine in the South.

When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, he asked to make the area along the southern border an autonomous region. He was sentenced in absentia to death on charges of treason. He currently lives in Cyprus.

Elie Hobeika


Elie Hobeika was born in 1956 and was one of the prominent leaders of the LF militia during the civil war. He joined the Phalange Party when he was young, then moved to the LF upon its inception.

In 1979, he was put in charge of the information and security agency in the LF. In early 1985, he and Samir Geagea led an uprising against the Phalange leadership and Hobeika became the leader of the LF.

At the end of that same year, he signed the Tripartite Accord with Nabih Berri and Walid Jumblatt.

This agreement ushered in his public relationship with Syria and his formal admission into the Syrian axis in Lebanon. In early 1986, Geagea turned against him and the two fought in Achrafieh and Zahle, which led to Geagea’s takeover of the LF leadership.

After the war, Hobeika became an MP and was appointed minister. He dropped out of politics in 2000 when he lost his seat in the parliamentary elections.

Hobeika was assassinated in 2002 in Hazmieh with a car bomb after his decision to go to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands to “expose Israeli war crimes.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

More about the Sabra and Shatila Massacre

  • Remember the Sabra & Shatila Massacre – Documentary
  • Sabra and Shatila: The unforgettable, unforgivable, Israeli massacre against Palestinians – 1982  – Sabbah
  • The Sabra & Shatila Massacre – in pictures  (graphic)

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