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Thousands of victims of Tel al-Zaatar massacre still missing Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Thousands of victims of Tel al-Zaatar massacre still missing

Thousands were killed during the destruction of Tel al-Zaatar [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 August, 2016

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Forty years after thousands were killed in Lebanon's Tel al-Zaatar massacre, others still remain unaccounted for in one of the most tragic chapters of the country's civil war.

Forty years after a "heinous" massacre was committed against Palestinians and Lebanese in Tel al-Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp - north-east of Beirut - hundreds of victims' corpses remain  buried in unknown graves.

According to the Euro-Mediterranean Monitor for Human Rights, only eighty bodies were initially recovered after the massacre. Some other families managed to retrieve their loved ones by paying bribes to the very militias responsible for their deaths.  

The issue is one rarely spoken about in Lebanon, and according to testimonies the bodies of victims - including children - are still buried in shallow graves in parking lots, which previously marked the perimeter of the camp.  

Tel az-Zaatar was a collection of sixteen camps for Palestinian refugees with a population between 50,000 and 60,000 people.  

Right-wing Lebanese militias - with the support of former leader of the Syrian regime Hafez al-Assad - targeted the camp with 55,000 shells over 52 days.

Meanwhile, Syrian-backed forces kept the area under a tight siege until they gained control of the camp in August 1976.

There have been no serious investigations into the massacre and as a result dozens of parents still don't know the fate of their children.


Estimates about the death toll vary from 1,500 to 2,000 people - mostly civilians - but others suggest that the total number of victims from the beginning of the siege could be more than 4,000.

Although more than forty years has passed since the horrific massacre, the families of the victims have remained without their rights and haunted by the killings. There have been no serious investigations into the massacre and as a result dozens of parents still don't know the fate of their children.  

By failing to return the bodies to their loved ones for a proper burial, the Euro-Mediterranean Monitor for Human Rights says this encourages a culture of impunity for killers.

This could act as a springboard for further grave abuses against refugees and other vulnerable groups in the future.  
The group also said that as so long as the bodies remain in unknown graves and in public places it violates the sanctity and dignity of the victims and their families.

It urged all parties in Lebanon and the Beirut government to work together and end the families' torment, and allow the them to finally grieve their loved ones at a proper burial place. 

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