BEIRUT – Adel Makki rushed into the street in Beirut’s Shatila Palestinian refugee camp Saturday to hand out sweets when he learned of the death of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli leader Palestinians blame for a massacre of hundreds there and in the nearby Sabra camp.
“I was relieved when I found out that Sharon was dead. I think the (eight) years he spent in a coma were punishment from God for the crimes he committed,” he said.
Over three days, beginning on Sept. 16, 1982, hundreds of men, women and children were massacred in Sabra and Shatila on the southern outskirts of Beirut.
Some 500 more simply vanished without a trace— among them Makki’s uncle.
Israel had invaded Lebanon three months before, and the brutal killings, attributed to Israel’s Lebanese Phalangist allies, were carried out as Israeli troops surrounded the camps.
Sharon, who was defence minister at the time, was forced to resign after an Israeli commission of inquiry found he had been “indirectly responsible” for the massacres.
Ten-year-old Ahmad Khodr al-Gosh said Saturday: “I took a piece of candy because the assassin is dead. He killed hundreds of women and children. We are now relieved.”
The narrow alleyways of the impoverished Shatila camp came to life when the news broke.
People poured out of their miserable dwellings to celebrate the passing of Sharon, who died Saturday in a hospital near Tel Aviv after spending eight years in a coma.
“You want to know how I feel? I want to sing and play music, that is how,” said Umm Ali, a 65-year-old woman clad in black whose brother Mohammad died in the massacre.
“I would have liked so much to stab him to death. He would have suffered more,” she said of Sharon, as she walked slowly, linking arms with a young relative.
Many residents of Sabra and Shatila said Sharon should have been prosecuted, echoing the statements of many compatriots in the Palestinian territories and rights watchdogs.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch, said “it’s a shame that Sharon has gone to his grave without facing justice for his role in Sabra and Shatila and other abuses.”
Shopkeeper Mirvat al-Amine agreed that Sharon should have been put on trial but she is also confident that he will meet divine justice.
“Of course I am happy that he is dead. I would have liked to see him go on trial before the entire world for his crimes but there is divine justice and he cannot escape that.
“The tribunal of God is more severe than any court down here,” she said.