Reporters on the Job
• Visitors Not Welcome: Correspondent Nicholas Blanford visited two of the 16 bases where pro-Syrian Palestinian fighters are holed up in Lebanon for today's story (see story). It wasn't his first visit to these locations.
"I was there about a year and a half ago. The reception was never that cordial. But you could sort of talk your way in. Now, the Lebanese Army usually stops you before you can get close," he says.
Nick was able to get to the entrance of one camp about nine miles south of Beirut. He asked to speak to the base commander. As he was talking to a guard, "a rough-looking bunch of men, wearing head scarves and heavily armed, emerged quickly from a footpath and took up firing positions around us and on the road, as if they expected the Lebanese Army to come barrelling in," says Nick. He was able to spend about an hour interviewing the base commander at the entrance.
The second base he visited, in the eastern Bekaa valley, was even less hospitable.
"We parked the car 100 yards from the entrance near a big rock quarry. A sign in Arabic on the metal gate said 'Entrance Forbidden.' " Nick and two of his colleagues walked slowly toward the base, shouting as they went so as to not surprise anyone. "A wiry, middle-age fighter came running down the hillside toward us. He yelled at us to put our hands in the air while pointing his AK-47 at us," says Nick.
"He was really suspicious. He made my colleagues sit on the ground cross-legged, hands on their heads as I accompanied him to the car for his search. He went through our backpacks," he says.
The base commander was radioed and he arrived in a Range Rover with tinted windows. "He was more relaxed, but didn't answer many questions. The first fighter kept his gun trained on us the whole time," says Nick.
– David Clark Scott