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Atonement: Not in Israel's Vocabulary

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While slaughter was ongoing, he and other Israeli commanders directed Philangist killings. Kahan Commission members were told they entered the camps on September 16 at sunset. Yamim Noraim began 24 hours later.

Killings began "almost immediately." Militiamen entered homes. They began "slitting throats, axing, shooting, and raping, often taking groups outside and lining them up for execution."

"There was virtually no resistance. Only a very few camp residents" had small arms for protection. Slaughter continued until around sunset September 18. Yamin Noraim High Holidays began 24 hours earlier.

On September 19, Lebanese forces took control of the camps. Foreign journalists and diplomats entered for the first time. They found bodies strewn everywhere. Many were mutilated. Some were buried in shallow graves and sand piles. 

Body parts protruded. For the first time, reports were broadcast worldwide. At first, Israel denied involvement or knowledge of what happened. Later, an Israeli spokesman said "fierce fighting" broke out between Philangists and "terrorists."

Casualties resulted. Philangists, in fact, suffered almost none. IDF forces "had to intervene to prevent a much larger tragedy." Israel's entire account was falsified.

Sharon directed everything. Kahan Commission members were told he "provided logistical, operational support as well as food, water, ammunition, and supplies throughout the operation."

On September 19, a Security Council resolution unanimously condemned it. Even Ronald Reagan expressed "outrage and revulsion." He blamed Israel for the slaughter. He demanded IDF forces immediately withdraw from West Beirut.

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Within Israel, demonstrations called for Sharon's ouster. Menachem Begin was prime minister. Demands were made for his removal. On September 25, Tel Aviv witnessed its largest ever demonstration. Over 400,000 participated. Outrage was expressed. 

Recriminations didn't follow. Kahan Commission findings were largely ignored. Sharon was forced out as defense minister. He remained unprosecuted in government as minister without portfolio.

Others implicated were demoted. Quickly, they regained high-level positions. Sharon eventually became prime minister. 

Various estimates were made of the numbers slaughtered. B'Tselem co-founder Amnon Kapeliouk estimated 3,000 - 3,500. Lebanese Professor Bayan Nuwayhed al-Hour conducted exhaustive research. She published it in her book titled " Sabra and Shatila : September 1982."

Critics call it the most comprehensive, authoritative account. Its detail includes photographs, maps, and other documentation. It's over 500 pages long. It's unrivaled in detail and scope. She sought to make sense of what happened. 

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She estimated around 3,500 killed. Mass graves tried concealing many. Others were buried alive or dead under bulldozed homes.

Witnesses recounted the horror. One survivor saw a "deep pit full of corpses. They were killing people and throwing bodies into the pit."

"Before they let us leave, they lined us up, and one of the armed men said to another, with a wink, 'Choose one. Which one deserves to have her throat slit?' "

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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