Massacre Inquiry Panel Hears from Officers on Duty at the Time

Several lower ranking army officers on duty at the time of the Beirut refugee camps massacre appeared in open session today before the commission of inquiry. They were questioned by counsels for witnesses who had been notified by the panel last month that they may be harmed if the commission reached certain conclusions on the basis of their original testimony.

Today’s testimony concerned the procedures employed in communicating information from the scene in Beirut to higher echelons. Lt. Col. Reuven Guy, who was duty officer at the Defense Ministry on September 17, the day after the killings of civilians by Christian Phalangist units began in the Shatila and Sabra camps, was questioned closely on alleged shortcomings in the procedure.

One attorney charged that although Guy had drawn up a list of instructions to improve the communications procedure, he had not followed his own instructions. Guy insisted that he passed on reports of “trouble” in the camps to Avi Dudai, an aide to Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. Dudai was one of the earlier witnesses warned of possible harm.

Ilan Schiff, an attorney representing Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan, cross-examined Lt. Col. Avraham Kober who replaced Guy in the situation room on September 18. Kober said he received reports shortly after noon that day from David Kimche, Director General of the Foreign Ministry. He said Kimche told him that the U.S. special envoy in Beirut, Morris Draper, had complained of massacres in the refugee camps.

Kober insisted that he conveyed that report to Dudai and to Sharon and wrote it up in the log. According to the log transcript, Sharon responded that he had already spoken to the Chief of Staff in the matter.

The commission began its second round of hearings yesterday in closed session.

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