West Bank Commander Killed in Helicopter Crash
JERUSALEM (AP) _ The commander of Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and three other officers were killed today when an army helicopter crashed while landing at a base outside Jerusalem.
Maj. Gen. Nehemiah Tamari, 47, was believed the highest-ranking officer to die in the occupied territories and at least the third general killed in the line of duty. The crash was an accident, the army said.
Israel radio said the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at the Egyptian resort of Taba may recess earlier than planned today so the delegation chief, Amnon Shahak, who is the armed forces deputy chief of staff, can attend Tamari’s funeral on Thursday.
Tamari, who took charge of what Israel calls the Central Command a year ago, was on his way back from a late-night flight to the Jordanian border in the northern Beit Shean valley.
He was investigating a suspected infiltration attempt, which turned out to be false, a military source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Israel radio reported an infiltrator at the site where Tamari visited, near Kibbutz Hamadya about 50 miles north of Jerusalem. But the man, caught this morning at the kibbutz fish ponds, was unarmed and in civilian dress.
Initial investigations indicated there was poor visibility at the landing pad at the army’s Central Command headquarters, which is located on the northern edge of the Israeli-annexed portion of Jerusalem that Israel seized from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East war.
The helicopter hit an antenna, fell and burst into flames, Israeli reporters said.
The other victims were identified as Maj. Ofir Kaufman, Tamari’s aide-de- camp, and two pilots, Capt. Ofer Yoeli and Capt. Assaf Asher.
Tamari was a paratroop veteran of two Arab-Israeli wars. Later he headed an elite commando unit, and some Israeli reports have said he commanded undercover units before being appointed head of Central Command.
He is survived by a wife, two sons and a daughter.