Inquiry Panel Gets Testimony from the Head of the Shin Bet

The commission of inquiry into the Beirut refugee camp massacres met in top secret closed session yesterday to hear testimony from the head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency. His appearance before the three-member panel was not announced until this morning so as not to alert the media.

The identity of the director of Shin Bet is a closely guarded secret. The agency is Israel’s equivalent of the FBI and Britain’s M-15. The director of Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence agency, also appeared before the commission in closed session at an earlier time, it was disclosed today. His identity, too, is top secret.

So far, the commission held one public session when Defense Minister Ariel Sharon appeared before it Monday. He read a prepared statement and was subjected to close questioning for about two hours before commission chairman Justice Yitzhak Kahan ordered the remainder of the session behind closed doors.

The commission has also questioned army officers and Israel Television’s military correspondent who was in Beirut at the time of the massacre September 16-18. He testified that he had alerted Sharon to reports he heard from Israeli soldiers that Christian Phalangist units were murdering civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in west Beirut.

The commission disclosed that the army is trying to trace foreign doctors and other medical staff who were in the camps during the massacre to give testimony. It has also received reports from foreign journalists who were near the scene. The government press officer is assembling press clippings on the episode and Israel radio and television have provided the commission with relevant material in their possession.

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