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"Don’t You Move Your Fucking Hand, Or I’ll Shoot You” – Somalia Part 3

SOMALIA PART 3


U.S Marines securing the position in the Mogadishu port hours after landing there from the sea. December 1992

Reporting from Somalia Part 3 Previously on parts 1 & 2: After a challenging three-week assignment in war-torn Yugoslavia, where we covered the civil war in Croatia, I returned home and decided to get a haircut. While waiting at the barbershop, I stumbled upon a short article mentioning an Israeli arms dealer’s involvement in Somalia, East Africa, particularly in arms sales to the ruling military party. This story intrigued me, as it contained all the elements of an engaging narrative: refugees, famine, civil war, and arms dealers in the dangerous city of Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

My enthusiasm led me to pitch this compelling story idea to our New York head office, which approved it. From there, my journey began. We embarked on a flight from Tel-Aviv to Nairobi, connecting via London. Upon reaching Nairobi, we continued our journey on a single-engine 6-seater plane, landing on a remote airstrip just outside Mogadishu. At this desolate landing strip, we were greeted by Ibrahim, who led us in an armed convoy to his spacious villa located on a quiet street not far from the city center. Throughout our week-long stay in Mogadishu, Ibrahim graciously hosted us, providing both security and valuable insights into the humanitarian efforts to alleviate Somalia’s devastating famine.

Ibrahim facilitated our meetings with key figures, including the warlord Muhammad Aideed, allowing us to gain a glimpse into the lives of both Somali residents and refugees. We had the opportunity to engage with international aid workers who managed the camps and food distribution, learning about the challenges they faced in delivering vital supplies across the war-torn region.

The consensus among everyone, including the warlord, was an urgent call for American intervention to help quell the civil war and organize the distribution of food and medical aid. The stage was set for the arrival of U.S. Marines, and we were on-site to report on this crucial development.” Summary of previous part 1 Summary of previous part 2 We sensed that something significant was about to occur.



Satellite dishes ready to transmit news reports from the Alsahafi Hotel rooftop. Mogadishu December 1992 (Hanani Rapoport) Tension palpable in the air. Perhaps it was the increasing presence of foreign TV crews in the city or the preparations underway at the “Al Sahafi” hotel, the only one still functioning in the city, with satellite dishes on its roof ready to transmit news reports worldwide. Our New York news desk confirmed the imminent arrival of American troops. “Stay alert,” they advised, “and be prepared to break to the beach or port as soon as we receive more details.” We reached the port gate an hour before sunset,. Camera crews from numerous media outlets joined us, while the Somalis and UN soldiers erected protective barriers from containers, obstructing our view of the water. We understood that some crews were moving to the beach area to await the arrival of the Marines with their armored vehicles on landing crafts and hovercrafts, ahead of a wave of approximately two hundred naval commandos. Despite the waiting, midnight brought no action. We settled down on the concrete port dock, under the light of a full moon, fatigue creeping in. I clutched the Billingham bag as a makeshift pillow, my other hand resting on a small video camera I had brought along. In this surreal moment, I couldn’t help but reflect on the bizarre resemblance to a similar night during my IDF basic training twenty-two years ago, lying in the dark and awaiting an unknown adversary. This time, however, it was with a video camera, accompanied by Yossi and Amikam nearby and Martin by their side. I fell asleep… Suddenly, with the moon setting and dawn approaching… The U.S. Marines had landed from the sea, and we had been asleep. Panic surged as I searched for my crew. My fingers fumbled for the small camcorder’s power button, initiating a recording. In the moonlight, the scene was shrouded in shadows, and voices echoed. The American soldiers, taken aback by the unexpected sight of numerous foreign journalists sprawled across the pier, unleashed a chorus of screams.



A U.S marine at the port of Mogadishu December 1992 Photo Credit: Hanani Rapoport

I lay flat on my stomach, legs apart, hiding the recording camera. I was unsure how the Marines would react if they discovered a camera capturing the scene. Unbeknownst to me, further down the coast, another media crews had a similar oversight, their cameras’ lights illuminating the American landing from the sea in live broadcasts across the United States. We all lay exposed on the concrete piers by the water across a towering container wall which covered the landing troops.

The battle cries of the Marines sent shivers down my spine. Don’t You Move Your Fucking Hand, Or I’ll Shoot You” Attempting to move a leg, I found an American Marine barely a meter away, weapon trained on my head. The Marines’ faces were painted in camouflage, their facial features still indistinguishable in the dim light. I noticed the camera lying beside me, still recording, but it had been inadvertently turned on its side. Contemplating whether to adjust it, a silhouette wth a long weapon snapped at me, “Put your face in the dirt!”

This is what it looked and sounded back then on the dock when the Small hours of the night were Kissing the early dawn… American Marines Emerged from the sea.

Any attempt to modify the camera’s position was abandoned. For what felt like an eternity, we remained in this position as the American special forces secured the port area. The sun had yet to rise fully, but the first light was approaching. The noise of diesel engines hinted at the arrival of hovercraft and landing crafts transporting tanks and armored vehicles from the sea to the southern shore of the port. As the eastern horizon brightened with the rising sun, the Marine commander arrived at the port, politely yet firmly explaining the need to evacuate the media. The potential for a volatile situation with the locals was too high, and the Marines didn’t want the media caught in the crossfire. We began leaving as the first light enveloped the port, gradually making our way from what had now become an American naval base. Our cameras continued to roll, documenting the massive Galaxy cargo plane landing at the nearby international airport, also secured by the Americans and UN-Pakistanis. As we exited the harbor, Martin halted for a moment, facing our cameras. He began summing up the night’s events, providing context for the unfolding situation in Somalia. This was the report we sent to New-York which was the lead story of that day on NBC News from coast to Coast. Reported: Martin Fletcher


Video Credit: NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw December 1992 The Americans did not intend to rebuild the city. The locals were not interested either. Club-Med Mogadishu would probably not be opening here in the coming years despite the long beach, white sand, sunny weather all year round, fine Italian cuisine remnants of Italian colonialism of the early twentieth century, and live Lobsters jumping to the plate straight from the waters of the Indian Ocean. A paradise that will no longer be here …

We left Mogadishu back home after producing some eye-catching television reports that aroused interest and reactions. The network’s foreign news desks in both London and New York are pleased with the outcome of the trip; We were happy to be paid, again, to do what we loved to do so much – tell important, compelling human-interest stories. We flew out on a chartered cargo plane to Nairobi to catchup the next flight to London and on to Tel-Aviv.


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