Reporters on the Job

Hearing Rumors, Reading the Signs: Correspondent Nicholas Blanford says that the rumor mill goes into overdrive when hundreds of journalists are roving around trying to figure out what is going on, as is the case outside the refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon, where the Army and militants are fighting (see story).

On Wednesday afternoon, the key question was how much longer the cease-fire would hold. Tuesday, a suspension in the battle had allowed thousands of refugees to move out of the camp. "People were leaving, many not carrying anything," Nick says. "They were packed into all sorts of vehicles – from flatbed trucks to old cars that had people hanging on wherever they could."

Fueling the exodus was word that transportation was being arranged to get residents to other locales. People would start out in an overstuffed vehicle and then spill out at a checkpoint, where municipal buses were stationed to take people to another refugee camp in Tripoli or to other municipal buildings like schools, Nick says.

But by Wednesday afternoon, the steady flow of refugees had slowed, a sign that the cease-fire might be coming to an end.

"The Army was getting more jumpy and pushing onlookers away," Nick says. "We also saw armored personnel carriers going toward frontline positions near the entrance of the camp. One Army truck was stuffed full of barbed wire, so it looked like barriers were going to go up, making it hard for any more people to leave the camp."

No one is sure how many people have left the camp, Nick says, though estimates range between 16,000 and 20,000. "Still," he notes, "that means that some 15,000 to 20,000 people are still inside."

– Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

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