Appendix V: Selected testimony and reports
Part 5: Evidence relating to the massacres at Sabra and Chatila
Dr Ang (Gaza)’ and Dr McKenna testified to the Commission on 4 October 1982 in Beirut. Dr Swee Chai Ang is a Singaporean, permanently resident in Britain, and is an orthopaedic surgeon by training. She arrived in West Beirut on 18 August with part of the Christian Aid medical team, which had been sent from London. Dr Ang was seconded to Gaza Hospital and started work there on 28 August.
Dr Phil McKenna is an Irish citizen and volunteered to work at Gaza Hospital. She worked in West Beirut July-October 1982.
Commission: Dr Ang, can you relate to us your experiences from 15 September?
Dr Ang: On 14 September, evening, President-elect Gemayel was assassinated. On 15 September, early in the morning, about 5-5:30 AM, flights of airplanes began flying in at great speed towards Sabra and Chatila.
We expected trouble then. Shelling of Sabra, Chatila, Fakhani and Corniche Mazra began about 7.30-8 am. We didn’t receive many casualties then because the roads were almost totally blocked. Two Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulances left to collect casualties, but they never returned. Up to today, I cannot find out what happened to them. On the whole of Wednesday (15 September) we had very few casualties except people who were wounded by shrapnel, who could be brought in by their families.
But on Thursday (16 September) our first major casualties arrived, and these were definitely high-velocity gunshot wounds. As a doctor I can say this, because the wound was small, there was a high vacuum, a huge area of tissue damage and a large area of exit wound. These can only be caused by high-velocity gunshot – rifle type weapons.
We had people who were shot through the jaw, shot through the brain, shot through their legs, shot through their abdomen. And our bed capacity increased from about 45 to 82 in the same day. We had to transfer about 30 patients to Makassad hospital, because we were too overworked, we couldn’t cope. And our mortuary filled up. I have a set of slides of the dead bodies in the mortuary. I was actually terrified of being killed before being able to produce this evidence.
It was evident from the casualties brought in then that gunmen had gone into the homes of the people in Sabra and Chatila camps and started shooting them in their homes. We were told by the casualties that the gunmen were not Israelis, but Lebanese with a Ba’albek accent.
On the whole of Thursday night and Friday morning we were operating very hard. On Friday morning, a hospital administrator sensed that something was going very wrong, so she went out of the hospital in an ambulance, wearing a white coat, to Makassad hospital, where she contacted the ICRC to say that there was a whole team of foreigners working in Gaza hospital, and that the Israelis should at least protect the foreigners, and spare them. The second thing she did was, she tried to radio contact the Israelis, to tell them that we have 2,000 refugees in the hospital, plus a whole team of foreign doctors. She registered all of us with the ICRC. She came back and said that – this was on Friday 17 – something very, very terrible is going to happen by sunset, and she believes that either the Kataebs or maybe the Haddads are going to come into the hospital and kill everybody. At this warning, she went round the whole hospital and told the refugees to evacuate. Also the patients began to take their own discharge.
After the hospital was evacuated, Dr Phil McKenna and myself and a whole team of foreigners were left behind.
On the following day (18 September) at 6.45 am soldiers appeared, and an American nurse spotted them and told me. So I sent one of the male doctors down to negotiate with them. And I went down as well. What they wanted at that time was all the foreign doctors and nurses to assemble in front of the hall. So I sent this doctor upstairs to collect all the other staff, and I stood and talked to them and I asked them who they were and they said they were from the army. I asked, ‘what army’? They replied, ‘Lebanese Forces’. Now, I was new to the country and I didn’t know what Lebanese Forces meant. Of course, I subsequently, found out that Lebanese Forces meant Kataeb.
Q: How were these militiamen dressed?
Ang: They had two yellow Arabic words on green uniforms, the Lebanese crest on one arm, and some of them had a blue triangle. Others had yellow insignia on their pockets.
They said, ‘Don’t be afraid. We want all foreign doctors to come down here, and we want to take you away for two or three hours for some interrogation, and we’ll bring you back’. So I asked him whether we should bring our luggage, but they said ‘No, don’t worry, we will come back with you’. The rest of the members of the team came down, and we were taken away by these so-called Lebanese Forces. We left behind a Swedish nurse, and a medical student to look after the intensive care. They later said that about half an hour after we left there was heavy machine gun-like shots for 20- 30 minutes, lots of screaming and crying and after that there was complete silence.
We were passed to a different group of soldiers, and a different group of soldiers, and a different group of soldiers. We were passed through four different groups of soldiers.
The first lot definitely looked Lebanese, but later on, by the time we were marched down Rue Sabra and taken to the UNICEF building for interrogation, the soldiers no longer looked like Kataeb. On the way I saw a lot of militiamen who had no identification at all. Just green uniforms and wearing baseball caps. No identification. The officer that took us from the camp was dressed in that kind of proper, Lebanese uniform, but as we got passed on and on the identification was lost. There was no more until we arrived at the Israeli headquarters and then the Israeli signs became clear.
They didn’t know what the World Council of Churches was, which surprised me, because if they were Phalangists, they would have known very well what the Middle East Council of Churches represents.
Q: Were they speaking Arabic?
Q: Could you go over what you saw as you were taken from the hospital?
Ang: As we were marched down Rue Sabra, at 7-7.30 in the morning we saw about 800-1,000 people lined up in groups on both sides of the street. I can remember clearly seeing about five or six dead bodies who seemed to have been dead for a long time as a doctor I would say they had been dead for more than 12 hours. They were lying on the roadside. I remember seeing three bulldozers, big ones, tearing down the camp houses, and pulling down the rubble, and I don’t know whether I am imagining it, but I could see that some of that rubble had bodies in it.
Dr McKenna: I’d like to make a point here. By Saturday morning and by late Friday evening, all the Palestinian staff had left the hospital at our request and with our full approval. All of them, except for two teenage boys.
And when the staff of the hospital met on the steps, before the ‘Lebanese Forces’, these two Palestinians came with us, introduced themselves, showed their identity cards, and they were welcomed in Arabic. Together we all walked down through Chatila where the civilians were gathered in groups on either side of the road. About three or four hundred yards beyond that, one of the Palestinians was taken out of the group and brought behind us. And a German girl and myself looked behind. She said ‘Where are you taking him?’ And they replied ‘Mind your own business, we’re doing our duty, just like you’re doing your duty’. And about ten seconds later we heard shots. That boy is now dead.
As we came up the hill on the right hand side of the road (towards the Israeli headquarters), we were told to take off all white medical clothes. Some people were in white coats. Then we crossed the road towards the United Nations building. Suddenly an Israeli soldier approached the stragglers, of whom I was one and asked ‘where are they taking you’? He appeared out of nowhere, I don’t know where he came from, but suddenly he was there and I was, kind of, very happy to see somebody very worried about us. We said that we were being taken to the building ahead and asked him to get an Israeli officer here at once.
We were taken into a compound, where our passports were all gathered up, and then one by one we were taken for a little chat. Some were questioned by somebody speaking German. I was questioned by somebody speaking good English and they were very interested in the people from Germany. At this point we met a female soldier. When she heard that we were Christians, working mainly (though I wasn’t myself) with the Middle East Council of Churches she was aghast, surprised that we were working with Palestinians and in Gaza Hospital. Did we go there voluntarily, or were we sent by somebody? And why didn’t we work in East Beirut? We explained that there were people working in East Beirut, for example in Mother Theresa’s home for children.
Ang: We were taken from the UNICEF building, which is at the end of Rue Sabra, back to the Kuwaiti Embassy, up to a high ground area, which is the Israeli headquarters. And there we met an Israeli officer, who told us not to be afraid, and that he will do everything to help us and our patients, and an Israeli television crew was there and we were all given food and water and so on in front of the Israeli cameras. The building is about five stories tall, and I could see Israeli soldiers on top of the building, and now having gone back to where the spot is, I realise that where the Israeli general headquarters is, is within eye-range of what was going on in Sabra-Chatila. So there is no denying that the Israelis knew.
And also during this period of detention the Israelis kept telling us that they’re trying to protect us from the Haddads. At one stage the so-called Haddads were trying to take away one physiotherapist with them, and an Israeli officer just went up to them and said stop it. Immediately they stopped. So obviously, I was very clear that whatever Haddad militiamen or Kataebs were present they were all directly taking command from the Israelis.
Then at this stage, the Israelis asked us what we wanted to do. We said that we wanted to go back to the hospital, because there were very sick patients there, and we wanted to be with our patients. And they said, ‘no it is too dangerous, you can’t go back’. After a little bit of argument, the Israelis said, ‘Okay, we will allow three of you to go back’. So two male doctors and one male nurse were allowed to go from the Israeli headquarters, back to Gaza [hospital]. They said they could escort us up to the Sports Stadium and from there we could find our way back to Gaza. Of course I wasn’t with those three, but I spoke to them afterwards. They were taken to the Stadium and one of the doctors said, ‘we are not going to walk from the Stadium to Gaza; anything could happen to us. We want a guarantee of safety’. So the Israeli colonel who was with them wrote a pass in Hebrew, saying ‘This pass will get you through the whole camp, don’t worry’. The doctor replied, ‘No. I’m not going to have it because the Haddads wouldn’t read Hebrew’. The colonel said, ‘Don’t worry, just show it to the Haddads, you will get through’. They continued to argue, so in the end the colonel called a soldier who wrote Arabic. So the soldier translated the pass into Arabic, and then with that pass, they found their way back to Gaza. No problem.
The whole camp, Kuwaiti Embassy and Stadium seemed to be controlled by Israelis. The actual massacre could have been done by Kataebs, Haddads – and survivors from Sabra and Chatila told me there were a lot of gunmen who don’t even speak Arabic. So, it could be a mixture of Kataebs, Haddads, mercenaries, but certainly all of them took orders from the Israelis.
McKenna: There are children, there are lots of people in Sabra and Chatila today, who could tell more about it, than we’re telling you. What we’re telling you is a pittance to what. . . I met a woman yesterday, who can tell me that the child who was on her back, and her other three children, and her hus band, were all shot. She and her daughter were the only survivors in that room, of six people. She had bullet wounds in her back, and in her arm. Her daughter is lying in AUH [American University Hospital] and will probably [be] a paraplegic for the rest of her life. She got a bullet in her spine. That’s just one woman. If she wasn’t so afraid, she could talk. There are many, many, many people in Chatila.
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The following statement was made to the Commission in Oslo on 30 October 1982 by Ryuichi Hirokawa, a Japanese photographer.
At 8 o’clock in the morning of 18th [September], I left a hotel in West Beirut for the Chatila Camp. I arrived at the camp at 8.20 or 8.30 am.
I tried to enter the Chatila and Sabra camps from the north entrance, when I found two Israeli tanks whose barrels were set towards the camps. “I am a Japanese journalist. Let me enter the camp,’ I said to the Israeli soldiers. But I was forced to get back by them. Then I went to the eastern entrance to find it closed, too. Therefore I tried to go into the camp from the southern side street, where there were still the remains of fire. The street was scorched and the trees seemed to be blown down by shelling. Anyhow I entered the camp. Nobody could be seen. Just when I was going out of the camp, somebody called me from the opposite side of the camp. He seemed to be a Lebanese. He told me that the execution of Palestinian people was taking place in the camp. According to him, Haddad’s soldiers were executing Palestinian residents. Being very surprised to hear that, I asked him to take me there. But he was afraid of being killed, and ran away. So there was no other alternative for me but to go into the camp by myself.
Just then, I was almost hit; a shell exploded just 20 meters from me. I felt a fierce wind of explosion. Fortunately, I didn’t get injured. I went toward the Akka Hospital which I had visited several times before. On entering the hospital, I found traces of caterpillar [tracks] of tanks in the court yard. It showed that Israeli tanks were there a little while ago. Nobody is there. Fourth and fifth floor of the hospital building were still smoking. In the inner part of the first floor, I found an old woman who was crouching on the bed which was not burned yet. She was shaking with fear and never looked at me.
Having walked in about 200 meters from there, I found a dead body on the left side for the first time. That was a corpse crushed out of shape in the rubble. Beside it, another dead body was tound in the same condition; then another corpse was found after I walked again about 50 meters from there. I could not understand why these dead bodies were in the rubble and in such terrible shapes and conditions as I saw them. I imagined that they were probably blown up altogether with the houses as they were shelled in the midst of war. But this guess was wrong as I found the third and fourth corpses. The third corpse was of an old man who was shot in the temple by one bullet. Stiffening of the corpse did not seem to have started yet and the blood was not dried yet, either. The corpse lying next to [it] was also of an old man. As there was something green under the thigh of the latter old man, I approached to see what actually that is. It was a grenade whose safety valve was taken off. This means any relative or any group collecting corpses who come and touch the dead body is going to be injured by the explosion of the grenade. This is how I came to understand that the mass execution has taken place. Nevertheless, I could not know on what scale and how these mass executions were carried out at all. Besides the executors may still be wandering or patrolling somewhere near.
Then I decided to walk into the alley leading to a school where I had visited once. On the way, I saw a dead body of a woman whose age was forty or fifty.
Then I returned to the previous wide street, when two women whose ages were thirty or forty came out of the shadow running towards me and cried ‘Help us, Help!’ Then they pulled me by the sleeve of my shirt and, led by them, I entered with them deep inside the alley where I saw an old man killed in front of a house. Beside the house, there was an iron door. It was locked and we could not open it. The women cried at me saying, ‘Open it, please. At any cost! My father is inside.’
I climbed up the wall and jumped inside, gathering my courage as I thought that I may never be able to get out of there. As soon as I opened the door from the inside, the women rushed in.
Their father was still alive. That old man was lying on the mattress. The women left two loaves of bread and I locked the door from the inside again. Then we all jumped out of the house to run through Chatila and Sabra camps towards the Lebanese residential area beyond the camps. In that area some people are. . . walking around; therefore, I myself returned into the camps after taking the women to the safe area.
On the top of the hill, there was a watch tower from where the Israeli army must be able to see everything in the camps. They were calling for surrender in poor Arabic, saying that if anyone who is alive were staying in the camps, he had better surrender.
I entered the garage; tens of people were lying one upon another I walked up to a little hilly place and turned around there. There were seven or eight women and children fallen on the ground.
Descending that hilly ground, in the garden I arrived at I found all the family members of that house massacred. It looked as if those corpses were hidden by the bulldozer. A dead body of about two-year-old child was thrown out of the rubble.
Next to that alley there, a girl and a boy, probably 5 years old or so, were also found killed. Only their mother was covered with rubble by a bulldozer. The rubble did not completely cover her dead body and some parts of her body could be seen. A girl was wearing toy earrings in her ears. A boy was wearing something like a chain which apppeared to have been tightened around his neck. I left that place around noon when journalists gathered around. When a journalist said, ‘Israeli army has come here,’ or ‘Haddad’s gang has also come,’ everybody started to run escaping at once and the witnesses were killed. The journalists were also seized with panic. This is how we were in those moments.
Anyhow as far as the number of the corpses I witnessed is concerned, it amounted [to] at least 50. This number is limited to the ones I confirmed with my own eyes in the wide streets and the alleys in the short distance. Therefore we can imagine quite probably far more people were killed, for the camps are several hundred times bigger than the scale I walked around. We cannot tell how many more people were massacred by then.
Then, I rushed to the office ofJiji Press, one of the Japanese news agencies in Beirut. But no one was there in their residence nor in the office. I found the Israeli army was in the midst of selecting Palestinians in the neighbouring building by closing one part of the apartments, taking all inhabitants out to have them sit on the ground, and by checking every identity card. If they found any Palestinians there, they immediately took them away. In other words, they were doing the same way to the Palestinians as they were once selected by the Nazis. . . in the same manner that the Jewish people were ordered to stand to the right and non-Jewish to the left.
I then ran to the office of the other Japanese news agency, Kyodo. While waiting for the Kyodo correspondent to come back to the office who was running to the nearest hotel to send telex to Tokyo, I could not stop my tears of deep regret.
Palestinians were betrayed not only by Israel but also by the United States, Italy and France. These states by the name of national forces cheated the Palestinians by promising safety of the Palestinians, saying ‘Don’t worry. As we will stay here, PLO can live with no fear at all.’ They implemented their guarantee only for enabling PLO to withdraw and after that they pulled out, leaving the Israeli troops to do anything they liked.
Then I went to the International Red Cross office to tell them about the massacre. The officials of the office, however, said that they were informed that so far about one hundred bodies had been found but they could not figure out the number of casualties nor could they know how many people more would be killed.
Kyodo correspondent came back and told me that all the telex lines were cut by the Israeli army. He also said that no line was available for international calls.
On Monday afternoon [20 Sept] while I was walking along Hamra Street I saw about 20 soldiers in strange uniforms marching in battle position from the opposite direction of the main street. As people were watching them fearfully, I asked who they were. People told me they were Haddad militiamen. I asked: ‘For what are they coming?’ ‘To hunt Palestinians’, was the reply.
As I found this very important, I told it to one of the foreign correspondents I met, but he didn’t believe at the beginning, saying that nobody could expect the Haddad troops to appear in Beirut. He went out to make sure. Then he came back after he had confirmed that they really were Haddad gangs.
Then what would happen to the Palestinians in the camps? I started to worry about them, so I hired a taxi by special fee and tried to rush down the street. While shooting the scenes by hiding the 8mm camera inside the car, we were stopped by the soldiers and ordered to go out of the car. After being interrogated, I was forced to leave the place. It was impossible to get closer. And when I visited this place for the next time, nobody was there. So next day, that was 21 September, I left to Damascus.
I had to add here one more point as a conclusion. The responsibility for the massacre is much more on the Israeli side than on the side of Haddad and Kataeb gangs. One fact which proves this is that on Saturday 18 when I tried to enter the camps I was driven away by Israeli soldiers. The Israeli army was controlling the camps which is proved by the imprints of the wheels of the tanks on the ground near Akka hospital.
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Extracts from the testimony submitted by Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone at the private hearings of the Commission in Oslo on 30 October 1982. (Ralph Schoenman and Mya Shone are American journalists and spent six weeks in Lebanon, from 9 August to 23 September 1982.)
We entered [Sabra-Chatila] on the Saturday [18 September], the final day of the killing, shortly after 12 noon. . . When we entered the camp we saw bodies everywhere. We proceeded to photograph. We had earlier that day spoken to doctors and nurses who had been at Akka and Gaza and they had described to us what had happened to them that [Saturday] morning. We had also been with one of the nurses the previous day and had heard her story. But none of them had a complete understanding of the nature of the slaughter that was taking place, because they were confined to the hospital and the shelling was so intense inside the camps.
The artillery shelling came from Israeli artillery units. The camps were subjected to intense shelling throughout the period following the assassination of Bashir Gemayel. The shelling was one of the reasons why people could not move around easily in the camps and it prevented people in one part of the camp from being aware that there was slaughter taking place in another part.
We spent four days talking to survivors in the camp. We photographed victims that had been mutilated with axes and knives. Only a few of the people we photographed had been machine-gunned. Others had had their heads smashed, their eyes removed, their throats cut, skin was stripped from their bodies, limbs were severed, some people were eviscerated. We confirmed from talking to doctors that free-flowing blood is indicative of mutilation prior to death rather than after it.
We went to Akka hospital. The building was smouldering; the rehabilitation unit was on fire. As we emerged from there we were caught up in an Israeli military operation which we photographed. Tanks, half-tracks, Israeli soldiers in combat uniform and flak-jackets were advancing on Chatila down the main road from the Kuwaiti Embassy. This was on Saturday at maybe 12.45. They were broadcasting into the camp: ‘Anyone who does not surrender will be killed’. The broadcasts were in Arabic and made from loudspeakers on the half-tracks.
We entered the camps again from a different vantage point and continued to photograph for the rest of the afternoon and to talk to survivors. Some of the survivors were people who had come back from north of the camp to look for relatives; some were people still inside the camps who emerged from shelters and houses and spoke to us. We established from interviews with people that on Thursday afternoon in the north of Sabra camp a delegation of four men were sent with a white flag to the Israeli command headquarters at the Kuwaiti Embassy in order to speak to the Israeli authorities and tell them that the camp was in a position of surrender. They went to say that the population was offering no resistance and was not intending to offer resistance and to appeal to the Israelis to cease the shelling into the camp and the killing caused by the shelling.
The four men were found dead at the Israeli checkpoint, which is adjacent to the embassy. We were told that on the following day, Friday (l7th), Israeli soldiers were in the camp. They apparently came down the main street of Chatila and fanned into the smaller alleys where they met no resistance. They then withdrew and formed aline, through which the militia units came and continued the killing. The slaughter continued until Saturday and many people were killed on Saturday morning.
When we entered the camps we were unprepared for what we saw. We had heard that there had been some killing, but we were totally unprepared for what we found. We were in a state of shock, and concerned for our own safety. We were afraid that we might encounter some militia unit around the next corner. Our aim was to photograph whatever we could as fast as we could, and get out, before we were at the very least deprived of our pictures.
It was clear that an attempt had been made not long before we arrived to bulldoze bodies under the rubble, and there had been a mass grave made.
Some soldiers in the Lebanese Army mentioned that the Israelis had brought militia units into the airport. An officer in the Lebanese army told us that people had been detained in the airport area and that he thought he would go mad from the screaming. We have been to the Stadium where new bodies are being found and we photographed Palestinians and Lebanese being held there or subjected to identity checks and stamps. From amongst those checked, people have been pulled out and held, their present fate unknown. We have spoken to eye-witnesses who described truckloads of people being taken away from Sabra and Chatila. One woman told us she had seen the bodies of ten people who had been taken away. We spoke to many people from the north of Sabra camp, particularly on Natio~al Unity Street, who described how the militia killed with axes and knives. One man we spoke to had not been killed because the child he was holding was screaming so hysterically. There were two old women, sisters, who had been marched towards the stadium and they described to us how people on that march were forced to dig ditches and were then shot into the ditches. We were later told that these two women were Jews, living amongst the Palestinians.
Bodies of people from the camps were later found in places such as the Pine Forest. We don’t know whether the Israelis killed these people, but we were satisfied that the whole episode was an integral military operation and that if particular units were deployed by the Israeli armed forces it does not justify the conclusion that therefore the Israeli armed forces were not fully involved in the process.
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On 20 September Dr David Gray of the World Council of Churches was interviewed by David Sells for the BBC 2 television programme Newsnight. The following is an extract from that interview.
David Sells: What, to the best of your knowledge, was going on in the camp? Did any of the refugees say?
Dr David Gray: It’s very difficult to say, because we heard all sorts of rumours. First we heard the Israelis were in the camp and then we heard the Kataeb [Phalangists] were in the camp and then we heard the shooting no