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Conflict Incident Report

Fall of Tal el-Zaatar and Jisr el-Basha

Associated Timeline/Case: 
The Two-Year War: February 1975– December 1976
Date of incident: 
June 22, 1976 to August 12, 1976
Death toll: 
4 280persons
Actors/Parties Involved: 
Lebanese Kataeb Party
National Liberal Party (NLP)
Christian militias

Christian militias launched an attack against the Palestinian camps of Jisr al-Basha and Tel al-Zaatar. The attack was led by the PNL, with the support of other Christian militias and splinter groups of the Lebanese Army. The Kataeb joined after June 27. For 53 days, the militias launched more than 70 attacks, using 155-millimeter mortar shells—sometimes at a rate of three bombs per minute—and resorted to a few dozen armored tanks. Jisr al-Basha fell on June 29, 1976, and Tel al-Zaatar on August 12, 1976.

When Tel al-Zaatar fell, between 1,000 and 1,500 Palestinians were killed; some were summarily executed, including a number of them who had already evacuated the camp and were reaching West Beirut. However, the distinction between armed elements and civilians is unclear. Many bodies were mutilated, and a number of women were raped.

Between 11,000 and 15,000 civilians were evacuated from Tel al-Zaatar, through the ICRC and the Arab League, and more than 400 wounded were handed over to the ICRC. While several thousand civilians and fighters from the camp were killed and thousands injured as a result of the shelling, many—particularly children—died because of the shortage of medication and water.

The number of total casualties since the beginning of the siege varies between 2,200 and 4,280 Lebanese and Palestinian, including those killed the day the camp fell. This was the largest massacre in the war that was yet to happen.

After the camp attacks, the Lebanese Forces (LF) came into creation. Its president was Bachir Gemayel, representing the Kataeb, and its vice president was Dany Chamoun, representing the PNL.