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The Sabra and Shatila massacre (or Sabra and Chatila massacre) was carried out in September 1982 by the Lebanese Christian militias in Beirut and Lebanon. Israel's culpability in the incident is a matter of hot dispute.
From 1975 to 1990, Lebanon was involved in a civil war between groups involved in a complex series of competing alliances. Among them was the alliance between Israel and Lebanese Christians, led by the Phalangist party and militia. The Lebanese Christians were in conflict with a number of militant groups, including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Israel provided them with arms and training. Infighting and massacres between various groups claimed up to 100,000 victims. Israel claims its experience working with the Phalangists before the massacres did not reveal a history of violence against civilians.
The Phalangist political leader of the time, Bachir Gemayel, extremely popular among Maronites, was actually known to be ruthless and to have executed potential rivals. He was elected president of Lebanon on August 23, 1982. Israel had been training, arming, supplying, and uniforming the Christian South Lebanon Army, headed by Major Saad Haddad, since 1978.
The PLO had been using Lebanon as a staging grounds for attacks on Israel's northern border, and Israel invaded southern Lebanon on June 6, 1982. Under a US-sponsored cease fire agreement signed in late August, the PLO agreed to leave Lebanon under international supervision and Israel agreed not to advance into Beirut and to guarantee the security of Palestinian civilians left behind in the refugee camps. On September 1, the evacuation of the PLO fighters was completed and by September 10 the international force (US, French, and Italian) overseeing the ceasefire and evacuation had withdrawn. However, on September 14, 1982, Bachir Gemayel was assassinated, resulting in immediate vows of revenge by his supporters. The perpetrator of Bachir Gemayal's assassination was later discovered to be a Syrian agent, but the Israeli Defense Minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, blamed the assassination on Palestinians, which served to inflame the Phalangists' well-known hatred of Palestinians.
Gemayel's death also left Lebanon in a state of instability, and Israel invaded West Beirut to secure its position. Israel claimed that the Sabra and Shatila camps for Palestinian refugees in Beirut still contained up to 2,000 PLO members and some weapons, violating the terms of an earlier agreement, although this claim has been disputed.