Defense Minister Ariel Sharon has been recalled to submit to cross-examination before the Israeli board of inquiry that is investigating the massacre of Palestinian refugees in West Beirut, the panel announced today.
Sharon was recalled to appear before the board by Maj. Gen. Yehoshua Saguy, the chief of military intelligence, who along with Sharon is one of nine senior Israeli officials who has been warned he may be harmed by the investigation's conclusions, according to Bezalel Gordon, the spokesman for the board.
It was not immediately clear why Saguy demanded the reappearance of his civilian superior. Sharon and other government ministers have maintained they had no reason to believe a massacre might result from their decision to allow Lebanese Christian militia units into the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in September and that they received no warnings about the decision from their intelligence services.
Saguy's previous testimony before the inquiry board was not public.
Sharon is the only one of the nine officials to receive the warning who was recalled under a provision of law allowing for cross-examination of witnesses by other witnesses. Five other officials who were similarly warned asked to reappear before the inquiry board to give additional testimony.
Lawyers representing the nine officials met with the three-member panel today to plan a schedule for the additional testimony.
Gordon said testimony in the investigation will resume Sunday with an appearance by Mordechai Gur, an opposition Labor Party member of the Israeli parliament. Gur, a former Army chief of staff and a critic of Sharon, asked to testify before the panel in closed session, Gordon said.
This will be followed by testimony by other witnesses called by some of the nine officials who received the warnings, Gordon said. He said the last stage will be the cross-examination of Sharon and the voluntary appearances of the other five officials.
These five are Lt. Gen. Rafael Eitan, the Army chief of staff; Maj. Gen. Amir Drori, the Army's northern commander; Avi Dudai, Sharon's personal assistant; the head of Israel's intelligence service, the Mossad, who by law cannot be named in public, and Saguy.
Sharon, along with Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, turned down an invitation to reappear for additional testimony but said he would submit a written statement to the panel.
Gordon said no Israeli citizen who has been called by the inquiry board has refused to testify. He said non-Israelis who have declined invitations to appear before the panel include representatives of the International Red Cross in Beirut, some medical workers at the Gaza Hospital, which is in the area of the massacre, and Thomas Friedman, the New York Times' bureau chief in Beirut.
The inquiry board is investigating Israeli responsibility for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees by Christian Phalangist militiamen. The nine officials have all been warned they may be found to have been negligent in their duties by failing to anticipate the danger of widespread bloodshed when they authorized the militia units to enter the refugee camps and failing to act quickly enough to stop the killing.