As a citizen of the USA I bristled when I first read that PLO leader Yasser Arafat had held my country responsible for the massacre of Palestinian civilians , men, women, and children, in west Beirut on Wednesday and Thursday of last week.
But then I began to think about the chain of circumstances which has led to this horror, which indeed it was.
Here is what has happened.
On Wednesday, Sept. 15, Israeli troops, in violation of a promise made to US President Ronald Reagan, advanced from their positions outside of west Beirut into the whole of west Beirut.
Eyewitness accounts by US and other Western reporters and diplomats say that as the Israeli forces entered the city they fired shells and mortar fire into the Palestinian refugee camps, Shatila and Sabra, on the southern side of west Beirut. Wounded began to enter a hospital located between the two camps.
Eyewitness accounts agree that the Israelis then set up a military perimeter around the two camps.
The same accounts agree that the camps were then entered by soldiers of two irregular Lebanese military formations. One of these is the self-styled Phalange recruited by the family of Bashir Gemayel which has been operating in the predominantly Maronite Christian part of Lebanon lying just north of Beirut. The other is a militia force under a Maj. Saad Haddad which has been operating in southern Lebanon just above the Israeli border.
The Haddad force has been trained, equipped, supplied, and paid by Israel. It was brought north with the Israeli army as that army moved up from Israel to Beirut.
The Gemayel family force has been subsidized and armed by Israel. It has held east Beirut for months. It was in position just to the east when Israeli forces moved into west Beirut. Part of the Israeli attacking force came through the Phalangist lines on its way into west Beirut.
Western eyewitness accounts agree that after the Israelis had set up their perimeter around the two camps troops of both Pha-langist and Haddad organizations entered the camps. The accounts agree that light weapons firing was heard from inside the camps on Thursday and Friday. They agree that units of both Gemayel and Haddad forces passed freely in and out of the camps through Israeli lines. Some reports say that on Friday hurried efforts appear to have been made to push rubble over bodies scattered around the camps.