At this point, General Amir Drori telephoned Ariel Sharon and announced, “Our friends are advancing into the camps. We have co-ordinated their entry.” To which Sharon replied, “Congratulations! Our friends’ operation is approved.”
For the next 40 hours the Phalangist militia raped, killed, and injured a large number of unarmed civilians, mostly children, women and elderly people inside the “encircled and sealed” camps. These actions, accompanied or followed by systematic roundups, backed or reinforced by the Israeli army, resulted in dozens of disappearances.
The Israeli army had full knowledge of what was going on in the camps right up until the morning of Saturday 18 September 1982, and its leaders were in continuous contact with the militia leaders who perpetrated the massacre. Yet they never intervened. Instead, they prevented civilians from escaping the camps and arranged for the camps to be illuminated throughout the night by flares launched into the sky from helicopters and mortars.
The count of victims varies between 700 (the official Israeli figure) and 3,500 (in the inquiry launched by the Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk). The exact figure can never be determined because, in addition to the approximately 1,000 people who were buried in communal graves by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or in the cemeteries of Beirut by members of their families, a large number of corpses were buried beneath bulldozed buildings by the militia members themselves. Also, particularly on 17 and 18 September, hundreds of people were carried away alive in trucks towards unknown destinations, never to return.