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Body of Ex-Israeli PM’s Kin Found

March 29, 2000

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Rescuers on Wednesday found and identified the bodies of two air force officers, including the grandson of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, whose F-16 fighter plane plunged into the Mediterranean during a training flight.

Maj. Yonatan Begin, 30, was piloting the plane with navigator Lt. Lior Harari, 24, when it disappeared from radar screens Monday night. Fragments of the plane and the two bodies surfaced near the crash site, 17 miles off the northern coastal village of Atlit.

The plane’s mission was to find a helicopter flying in the area. Neither Begin nor Harari notified ground control of any complications during the flight.

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.

Because the crewmen did not report any problems with the plane, commentators speculated that pilot error, possible vertigo, may have caused the crash. Vertigo can occur during night flights when a pilot loses his or her bearings and confuses the sky with the ocean.

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.

Yonatan’s father, Benny Begin, is a former legislator who made a failed bid for prime minister last May.

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