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Ronald Reagan Administration: Statement on the Murder of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

(September 18, 1982)

I was horrified to learn this morning of the killing of Palestinians which has taken place in Beirut. All people of decency must share our outrage and revulsion over the murders, which included women and children. I express my deepest regrets and condolences to the families of the victims and the broader Palestinian community.

During the negotiations leading to the PLO withdrawal from Beirut, we were assured that Israeli forces would not enter west Beirut. We also understood that following withdrawal, Lebanese Army units would establish control over the city. They were thwarted in this effort by the Israeli occupation that took place beginning on Wednesday. We strongly opposed Israel's move into west Beirut following the assassination of President-elect Gemayel, both because we believed it wrong in principle and for fear that it would provoke further fighting. Israel, by yesterday in military control of Beirut, claimed that its moves would prevent the kind of tragedy which has now occurred.

We have today summoned the Israeli Ambassador to demand that the Israeli Government immediately withdraw its forces from west Beirut to the positions occupied on September 14. We also expect Israel thereafter to commence serious negotiations which will, first, lead to the earliest possible disengagement of Israeli forces from Beirut and, second, to an agreed framework for the early withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

Despite and because of the additional bloody trauma which adds to Lebanon's agonies, we urge the Lebanese to unite quickly in support of their government and their constitutional processes and to work for the future they so richly deserve. We will be with them.

This terrible tragedy underscores the desperate need for a true peace in the Middle East, one which takes full account of the needs of the Palestinian people. The initiative I announced on September it will be pursued vigorously in order to achieve that goal.

Sources: Public Papers of the President