Reporters on the Job

INTERVIEWS IN A BATTLE ZONE: While doing interviews with Palestinians in the West Bank village of Salfit, the Monitor's Cameron Barr heard gunfire erupting over a nearby ridge. "The translator and I had to interrupt the interviews and proceed cautiously, because people were edgy," he says. "Women in doorways would motion us indoors on occasion. One of our interviewees was carrying an M-16, the sort of thing that attracts undue attention from Israeli snipers, so I was glad when he stepped behind a wall and out of sight."

Cameron and his translator walked in and out of Salfit, because the roads have been blocked by Israeli forces.

"Walking out, the Palestinian security forces were also extremely edgy. They were holding their AK-47s in the ready-to-fire position, watching us from trees. They told us that the Israelis were just up ahead. We walked in the middle of the road, holding up our passports. We rounded the corner, and sure enough, two Israel Defense Force jeeps were ahead. They were questioning a guy they'd run off the road. He was screaming at the soldiers, saying he was an American citizen and he would sue the IDF for scraping his car. When we approached and identified ourselves, the IDF gave him back his license and took off," says Cameron.

"Those no-mans-land walks - with people pointing guns behind you and who-knows-what up ahead - those are the moments when I think, 'I don't get paid enough for this.' "

TRAVEL IN SOMALIA: Commercial flights into Somalia are rare. Aid flights are slightly more common, but the sponsors put restrictions on the movement of journalists. For today's story (this page), the Monitor's Danna Harman hopped a khat flight. Khat is a stimulant that's released when the leaf is chewed. It's grown in Kenya and shipped to Somalia.

"After stepping on the scales, before boarding, I realized that I was worth more than my weight of khat. My fare was a good deal for the pilot," says Danna. But the flight was not exactly first-class seating. In fact, there were no seats on board the single-engine Beechcraft. She spent the two-hour flight lying on top of bundles of khat. "We had to keep our heads down, or they'd bang on the ceiling of the aircraft."

After landing, she and a British colleague rented a car for $50 per day. The price included a driver and two AK-47-totting bodyguards, one of whom she suspects was legally blind. "He was a real sweetheart but couldn't see how many fingers I held up. Fortunately, we didn't run into any trouble."

David Clark Scott

World Editor

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