Palestinian refugee camp, Tal Az-Za’tar, was a besieged Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, as more than 55,000 targeted the camp killing thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese refugees over 52 days.
The camp was established in northeast Beirut, in 1949, after the Palestinian Nakba, on an area of only one square kilometer.
The camp was known for farming, especially planting citrus and vegetables, and most of the refugees worked in farming. However, in 1968, the agricultural produce declined and the northeast Beirut became one of the most industrial areas in Lebanon.
The number of refugees in the camp was 20,000 Palestinian refugees and 15,000 Lebanese citizens in 1976 before the massacre.
In January, 1976, during the Lebanese Civil War, the camp was under siege by the Lebanese rightist militias, until a massive attack was initiated by the Tigers militia on the camp, and the neighboring Jisr el Basha, and Nabaa area on June 20.
On August 12, around 5,000 shells hit the camp, destroying 70% of the houses. On July 1, the Palestinian parties tried to break the siege imposed on the camp, but their attempts failed as local Lebanese forces interfered. On July 4, the same attempt failed for the same reasons.
The number of victims in the camp increased as malnutrition, gangrene, tetanus, and bleeding spread among the refugees, including children, while the camp clinics lacked the necessary medicine. This forced doctors to resort to amputation in many cases.
As a severe widespread famine stormed the camp, the Palestinian refugees called upon Muslim scholars to issue an Islamic fatwa that would allow them eat the bodies of the martyrs to avoid starving to death. Estimates about the death toll vary 3,000 people – mostly civilians – but others suggest that the total number of victims from the beginning of the siege could be more than 4,000.
Although more than forty years has passed since the horrific massacre, the families of the victims have remained without their rights and haunted by the killings. There have been no serious investigations into the massacre and as a result dozens of parents still don’t know the fate of their children.