Israeli Leaflets Dropped Over Lebanon
We were all in the sitting room of our apartment in West Beirut during a June 1982 evening as the Israeli army was advancing toward the capital. With no electricity, my parents, myself and my elder brother Hasan, sat with nothing much to do other than listening to the radio under the light of a kerosine lamp.
As my father tuned from one station to another we heard Israel's Arabic-language radio station airing a message to Palestinian guerrillas calling them to take off their military uniforms, carry a white flag and surrender because they had no other choice.
Then, it was not the first time Israeli troops had asked Palestinians to surrender. For days earlier, Israeli aircraft were dropping leaflets demanding the same thing.
I remembered the 1982 message and the leaflets today when Israeli aircraft dropped some over the town of Nabatiyeh calling Hezbollah guerrillas to give up.
The Palestinians then did not surrender and fought for 87 days in Beirut after Israeli troops imposed a deadly siege on the city. Then Palestinian guerrillas, including President Yasser Arafat, left Lebanon on ships that headed to several countries including Tunisia, under the condition that Israeli troops do not enter the western part of Beirut where thousands of Palestinian refugees were in camps.
The Palestinians were betrayed. Nearly three weeks after the guerrillas left the country, the notorious Sabra and Chatilla massacre took place when hundreds if not thousands of Palestinian civilians were killed mercilessly by pro-Israeli Lebanese militiamen. Survivors from the massacre said that the militiamen were working under the light of flare bombs fired by Israeli troops around the camps.
An Israeli inquiry into the massacre found that then Israel Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, who architected the invasion, was indirectly responsible for the massacre and he resigned a year later.
I still remember how dozens of Palestinians living in an abandoned hotel near our apartment in Beirut franticly fled toward the sea in September 1982, days after the massacre, shouting "Saad Haddad's army is coming." They were referring to Saad Haddad, a former Lebanese army officer who established a pro-Israeli militia in a zone on the border with Israel.
Twenty-four years later history is repeating itself with the leaflets and Israeli invasion. It seems to be repeating itself with massacres too since after 56 civilians were killed this week in Qana.
I hope it will be the last massacre.
Beirut August 2, 2006.