Son of fallen Israeli astronaut killed in F-16 crash

Monday, September 14, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

Israel suffered a national tragedy on Sunday when the son of Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was killed when his F-16 fighter jet crashed near the Judean town of Hebron.

Ilan Ramon perished in 2003 with the rest of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia as it broke up upon reentry over the US. His son, Assaf Ramon, vowed to follow in his father's footsteps. Earlier this summer, Assaf graduated Israel's Air Force flight program with honors and became an F-16 pilot, just as his father was when he participated in the 1981 raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.

The circumstances surrounding Assaf's crash remain unclear, but investigators believe some form of human error, possibly a loss of consciousness, was the culprit. He was engaged in a training exercise with another F-16 at the time of the accident.

On Monday, as a shell shocked nation looked on, Assaf was buried next to his father in Nahalal in northern Israel. His distraught mother said she had no more strength to endure such tragedies.

International media outlets that are typically hostile toward Israel took a surprisingly sympathetic approach to the story.

France's top newspaper Le Monde referred to Assaf as "the son of an Israeli national hero," and expressed its condolences to the Israeli people; CNN noted that Ilan Ramon had become an admired figure in the US following the Columbia tragedy, and that Assaf's death had "stunned many Americans"; even Arab media like Al Jazeera refrained from taking shots at Israel and simply reported the story in a matter-of-fact manner.

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