Two Fabled Pilots Emerge from Anonymity
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Two of Israel’s most revered air force pilots emerged from anonymity today and talked about the Israeli bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor and the rescue of hostages from Uganda.
Zeev Raz led the eight F-16 warplanes in the 1981 bombing of the reactor. Amnon Halivni flew a Hercules transport that helped carry home passengers of an Air France plane that was hijacked to Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976.
Their names were made public in an announcement that they are to receive public service awards from the Israeli Association of Periodical Press, a journalists’ group. Before today, their names were not generally known, but their flights were legendary.
Raz, 45, is a senior telephone company official. Halivni was an El Al pilot used by the air force to make the 2,200-mile flight to Entebbe. Now 58, he owns a factory.
Raz told Israel radio the mission to Iraq ran into trouble just after takeoff when the planes were seen by King Hussein of Jordan, who was at the Red Sea port of Aqaba.
″We came a little too close to Aqaba,″ he said. Hussein reported what he saw, but ″the information didn’t reach whomever it was supposed to reach,″ he said. ″That’s one of the miracles that happened during this flight.″
Halivni told Maariv that the Entebbe experience had made him sentimental about being Israeli. ″Whenever I see the Israeli flag, my eyes fill with tears,″ he was quoted as saying.
On Israel radio, Halivni said the rescue of the more than 100 hostages from captivity by Palestinians, Ugandans and members of a German radical group set a new standard in the war against international terrorism.
″We threw down the gauntlet and showed the world a different norm - that we don’t abandon soldiers in the field, and not civilians either,″ he said.