Sabra was once a low-income neighborhood in West Beirut, adjacent to Shatila, a refugee camp established, in 1949, for displaced Palestinians. Over the years, the boundaries between Sabra and Shatila blurred, to the point that they are referred to now as the “Sabra and Shatila camps.”
At present, these camps provide shelter for refugees from Syria, Bangladesh, and Egypt, as well as for impoverished Lebanese whose living standards have suffered as a result of the country’s economic crisis.
During the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the Palestinian refugee camp was heavily damaged. Sabra and Shatila were decimated during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Between September 16–18, 1982, an estimated 700 to 5,300 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians were murdered in the camps, a massacre carried out, with the approval of the military command of the Israel Defense Forces, by Christian Maronite militiamen (known as the Phalange) under the command of Elie Hobeika. The United Nations General Assembly condemned the massacre, on December 16 of that year, officially declaring it an act of genocide.
One of the most significant locations in Sabra and Shatila is the Gaza Hospital building, which for many years was a shelter and home for people escaping conflict zones.
This hospital was built, in 1975, by the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
The hospital was one of the few structures left standing after the Sabra and Shatila Massacre and the 1982 Lebanon War. During the war, the medical staff was evacuated, and the hospital buildings were converted into a shelter for survivors of the massacre.
The Gaza Hospital remains to this day—a symbol of survival in Sabra and Shatila—serving as a shelter for those who continue to escape war, and who, against all odds, seek to establish some form of normalcy.