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Grandson of Ex-Israeli PM Missing

March 28, 2000

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Rescuers were searching Tuesday for the grandson of Menachem Begin, whose F-16 fighter plane plunged into the Mediterranean during a training flight.

Maj. Yonatan Begin was piloting the plane with a navigator aboard when it disappeared from radar screens Monday night. On Tuesday, Israeli rescue teams found fragments of the plane floating on the surface 17 miles off the northern coastal village of Atlit, said an army official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The plane’s mission was to find a helicopter flying in the area. Begin and navigator Lt. Lior Harari did not notify ground control of any complications, said the air force’s commander, Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliahu.

``The last report we received from the crew was apparently 15 to 20 seconds before it happened, when he (Begin) asked for more information from the flight controller about his direction to the target,″ Ben-Eliahu told a news conference. ``After that he disappeared from the radar screen and we lost all contact with him.″

The air force has been looking into the safety of F-16s after engine malfunctions reportedly caused several crashes. In the most recent one, on Feb. 2, an F-16 engine shut down in mid-flight. The pilot parachuted to safety.

Menachem Begin, Israel’s sixth prime minister, signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. He resigned in 1983 after hundreds of Israeli soldiers were killed in an invasion of Lebanon he authorized.

The missing pilot’s father, Benny Begin, is a former legislator who made a failed bid for prime minister last spring.

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