Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday met with the son of the Air France pilot who, along with his crew, insisted on remaining with Israeli and Jewish hostages after pro-Palestinian terrorists hijacked his flight and diverted the plane to Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976.
Pilot Michel Bacos died in March at the age of 95. His son Eric, met with Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem. Earlier, he accepted an honorary award on behalf of his father at the Israel Aviation Conference in Tel Aviv.
The prime minister’s brother, Yoni (Yonatan), was killed leading the Israeli commandos who flew to Entebbe and carried out a daring mission to rescue the captives.
Bacos told Netanayhu that even 40 years later his family owes a great debt and appreciation for the IDF operation and Yoni’s actions. He also confirmed to the prime minister that his father had requested that the Israeli national anthem be played during his funeral.
Netanyahu expressed his regret at the death of the pilot.
On June 27, 1976, Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Air France jet flying from Tel Aviv to Paris. The plane was diverted to Uganda, where the hijackers were welcomed by dictator Idi Amin.
The terrorists freed the non-Jewish passengers immediately upon arrival but the Air France crew members, with the captain at their head, refused the captors’ offer of release and instead chose to remain as hostages with the plane’s Jewish passengers.
On July 4, 98 of the hostages were rescued in an operation by elite Israeli commandos. Four hostages lost their lives along with the mission commander Yonatan Netanyahu, elder brother of the prime minister.
Michel Bacos was at the controls of Air France Flight 139 with 246 passengers and a crew of 12. The plane stopped in Athens to pick up more passengers, among them three Germans and a Palestinian who hijacked the plane and forced it to fly to Entebbe, Uganda, where more terrorists were waiting. When the terrorists separated the non-Jewish and non-Israeli passengers and let them go, Bacos refused to leave and insisted on staying with the Israeli and Jewish hostages.
For his bravery, Bacos was recognized by the government of Israel as well as of France, which awarded him the National Order of the Legion of Honor, the country’s highest honor.
He retired from Air France in 1982 and lived in the French city of Nice. He is survived by his wife, Rosemary, three sons and several grandchildren.