"My friends and I like Iran. Maybe they will ask their friends in Lebanon to help baba (daddy) to be allowed to work and our family allowed to own a home outside the camp," said Hanadi, a precocious youngster at Shatila Camp's Shabiba center ,after learning last week, from her teacher that Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khameneiand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warmly welcomed Palestinian leaders to Tehran. Celebrating the33rdanniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution Ahmadinejad noted that Iran was committed to a "religious and moral duty to alleviate the effects on Palestinian refugees of the Nakba's ethnic cleansing."
Around noon on Tuesday September 14, 1982, the day before Israel gave a green-lite to launch the three day Sabra-Shatila Massacre, two white vans pulled into Rue Sabra diagonally across from Akka Palestinian Hospital (PCRS), the main Shatila camp road.
Mrs. Halabi, a Palestinian teacher, thought that the four foreigners who exited the vehicles near the current Martyrs cemetery were from a European NGO because the men carried detailed maps of Shatila camp. She hoped that they might be assessing camp needs for an infrastructure project.
"Can you show us all the camp shelters?", she recalls one of the heavily accented men asking.
"Yes of course," Mrs.Halabi replied. As the men followed her and took notes and photos, she explained that the shelters were too small to be of much use during "bombardments."
"We understand", said the apparent group leader who was the only one that their Palestinian guide recalls speaking during their visit. He added,"Why does this place smell so foul?" Embarrassed by the question Mrs. Halabi explained that the sewers in Palestinian camps, especially Shatila and nearby Burj al Barajneh, are always in need of repair."
We now know that these "European NGO delegation" members were, in reality, two Israeli intelligence agents accompanied by two Phalange intelligence operatives including their chief, Elie Hobeika. They arrived at Shatla camp for the purpose of identifying shelters where Palestinians would likely try to hide during the coming days.
And they succeeded.
It was to these 11 shelters inside, and on the edge of, Shatila camp that the first arriving Christian militiamen found their way through unfamiliar alleys and began their 46 hours of non-stop slaughter. With very few exceptions all of the hundreds of refugees who huddled into the identified shelters were among the first to be massacred.
The Mossad organized group was not the only ones to complain about the sewer gases from Shatila. For weeks the Israeli troops ,as well as Hobeika's troops, at the HQ west of the camp located at the Kuwaiti Embassy also complained to journalists that when the wind came off the mountains to the east, and swept thru the camp toward the sea behind them, they "could actually smell the Palestinian terrorists."
Thirty years since the massacre at Sabra-Shatila the camp sewer problem persists. When the wind blows eastward from the sea across Shatila camp the Hezbollah dominated Ghouberi Municipality offices, located where the former Algerian Embassy stood in 1982, can smell the Shatila camp sewers just as the Israelis did three decades earlier. During the Sabra-Shatila massacre the, then, Algerian Embassy gave sanctuary to refugees lucky enough to flee to the diplomatic compound which is about 50 meters from the eastern edge of Shatila camp. To do so the survivors had to dodge five Israeli tanks positioned along the airport road to in order to seal camp residents inside Shatila. Those who were caught were forced by Israel soldiers back into the death camp.
Those who, today, work east of Shatila in the Ghouberi Municipality offices, or live nearby, are not alone. If the wind happens to blow from north to south across Shatila camp and the Bir Hassan neighborhood it is the Iranian Embassy that receives the wafting foul air.
While the overwhelmed and broken camps lack sewers, electricity, adequate clean water, heat in winter, AC in summer, absence of sun light and fresh air, intense over-crowding[sometimes eight persons to a room],adequate nutrition and health care, these camps have the added problems of sky-rocketing respiratory diseases, high student dropout rates and increased drug use. With these seemingly endless problems in the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon impacting every life, every day, recent words of solidarity from Iran are much appreciated.
According to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei Iran endorses the creation of a Palestinian state . He regards Palestine as under occupation by the "Zionist regime". Iran rejects a Two state solution and considers that Palestine is indivisible and inseparable. This likely reflects a majority of world opinion today since support for Zionist Israel has plummeted globally.
"Iran does not expect anything except endurance from Palestine's resistance," Khamenei was quoted as telling a visiting delegation led by Hamas officials.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had a very successful visit to Lebanon last year, repeated his call for a free referendum for the entire Palestinian population, including Arab citizens of Israel , to determine the type of government for the future Palestinian state. He reiterated that establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel would "never mean an endorsement of the Israeli occupation".
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