Aide to Eitan Contradicts Begin’s Testimony As to when He First Learned of the Beirut Massacres

An aide to Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan contradicted testimony given by Premier Menachem Begin last week to the commission of inquiry investigating the west Beirut refugee camps massacres of September 16-18.

Lt. Col. Zeev Zahcharin, head of the Chief of Staff’s Bureau, told the commission yesterday that Eitan had informed him, by telephone on Saturday morning, September 18, that he had talked to Begin that morning and briefed him on events in the Sabra refugee camp of the two preceding days. Begin testified when he appeared before the panel last Monday, that he had not spoken to Eitan until late Saturday because he had spent the entire day at his synagogue for Rosh Hashanah services.

Zahcharin also contradicted earlier testimony by Brig. Gen. Amir Drori, commander of the northern sector, that he had first heard that Christian Phalangist units were to be allowed to enter the Sabra and Shatila camps on Wednesday, September 15, a day after the assassination of Lebanon’s President-elect Bashir Gemayel, the Phalangist leader.

According to the aide, Eitan received his orders for the Phalangist actions from Defense Minister Ariel Sharon at 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 14, shortly after Gemayel’s death was ascertained, and had transmitted them immediately to Gen. Drori. Two senior military officers gave conflicting evidence to the commission last Thursday on the flow of information from army intelligence to the Defense Minister’s Office regarding the massacres. Col. Moshe Hevroni, assistant to military intelligence chief Gen. Yehoshua Sagui, said he briefed Sharon’s office on Friday, September 17.

But Col Reuven Guy, a member of the Defense Ministry’s national security unit, supported earlier testimony by, his superior, Avi Dudai, that he had no such report that Friday. Guy said that he first heard of the Beirut massacre “by way of rumor” Friday morning, September 17, not through proper channels, and passed the rumors on to Dudai. He said when he checked them with operations he was told that nothing exceptional had happened in the camps.

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