We were all knocked to the dining room floor today by the blast of the second of three rockets during an attack on the Hotel Alexandre, which has become the center in East Beirut for diplomats, foreign journalists and Israeli military officers.
The third rocket burst in the air over the Alexandre's roof, wounding British Embassy official Eric Nelson with metal fragments. Nelson, who was reported to be in fair condition tonight at a city hospital, was the only one of the hundreds of guests, including families with children, hurt during the attack.
For the first time since Israel invaded Lebanon June 6, East Beirut came under heavy shelling today during artillery duels between the Israeli Army in the southern hills that ring this city and the Palestinian guerrillas and regular Syrian forces from their lowland positions. The eastern sector of Beirut is controlled by Israel and Lebanese Christians.
The rocket attack came when the hotel dining room was filled with several dozen midday diners. The first rocket flew over the hotel and exploded in the tenements behind it. Minutes later, the second exploded on the roof edge of a three-story apartment building adjacent to the hotel's entrance. Fragments of metal and glass were spewed into the rooms on the fifth floor of the seven-story hotel.
Nelson was on the roof with about a dozen reporters, cameramen and photographers watching the artillery duels when he was wounded by the third rocket.
Israeli soldiers are continually coming in and out of the hotel, eating in the dining room and fraternizing with their favored reporters. Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon also has visited the Alexandre, raising fears among guests that it could become a target.
U.S. Senators Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) stayed overnight at the hotel Friday during a fact-finding tour in Lebanon.