Israel Refutes Russian Report that Pilot Shot down in 1970 still Alive
Israeli officials and Israel Air Force veterans on Wednesday rejected an official report published by the Russian defense ministry that an Israeli pilot who was shot down over the Suez Canal in July 1970, survived the crash and was taken to the then-Soviet Union, reported Haaretz newspaper.
But the paper cited Israel Radio as saying that its joint investigation of the case with Yedioth Ahronoth daily "found much circumstantial evidence that support the Russian account. It has also become clear that Israel has no evidence that can refute the report.
The Phantom pilot, Shmuel Hetz and his navigator Menachem Eini, were shot down while leading an air strike against Russian-installed and operated SAM missile batteries west of the Suez Canal in July, 1970. Eini ejected from the warplane and was captured, seriously injured, by the Egyptians, according to the paper.
Eini was returned to Jerusalem after the 1973 Middle East war. He later wrote that he did not know what happened to Hetz.
Although initial reports indicated that both airmen had ejected from the plane, remains believed to be those of Hetz were later found and buried in a military cemetery, said Haaretz.
But 24 years later, Russian Colonel Vitali Yeremenko told the radio that the plane had landed almost intact in the deep sand dunes of the area, and Hetz, along with the plane, were taken to Moscow.
The account was published last summer in a book by the Russian defense ministry's Institute of Military History.
Reserve Air Force Brigadier-General Ran Pecker, who replaced Hetz as the Phantom squadron commander, told the radio Wednesday that "Hetz apparently did not eject ... because it appeared that there was a failure of the ejection system. A Phantom like that that hits the ground ...is damaged to such an extent that no one can stay alive after that."
Pecker said he had no doubt that the Russian account was published in order to restore the damaged pride of the Soviet air force and air defense systems that suffered heavy losses in Egypt during the war of attrition that followed the 1967 Six Day War - Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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