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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 20:02 GMT
Israeli astronaut laid to rest
Israeli Air Force officers ride in the back of a military jeep with the flag-draped coffin containing the remains of astronaut Ilan Ramon
Israel is mourning its first man in space
Israel's first astronaut, killed when the US space shuttle Columbia broke apart, has been buried in a private ceremony in northern Israel.

Colonel Ilan Ramon, a former fighter pilot, was one of seven crew members killed when the shuttle disintegrated on re-entering Earth's atmosphere on 1 February.

Rona Ramon, wife of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon holds their daughter Noah while sitting alongside Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during a state ceremony, 10 February 2003
The astronaut was given state honours on Monday
His funeral was attended only by family, friends and fellow air force officers, as well as two representatives from the US space agency Nasa.

A day earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon praised the astronaut's bravery in a ceremony to welcome Colonel Ramon's remains back from the US.

The astronaut has been a source of great national pride in Israel, with much public enthusiasm when the Columbia blasted off on 16 January.

Israeli 'symbol'

Four Israeli air force F-16 warplanes flew over the cemetery at Nahalal - a farming community in the Jezreel valley of northern Israel - as Colonel Ramon was laid to rest.

"I want him to rest there on the hill, watching and protecting you," a friend and fellow air force pilot, Colonel Ram Shmueli, quoted Colonel Ramon's wife Rona as telling him on the way to the funeral.

Ilan Ramon, 48, was the son of an Auschwitz survivor, who grew up to become a fighter pilot in the Israeli air force and fought in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.

Colonel Ramon's wife Rona and their four children have been living in Texas for several years as he prepared for the flight.

Mr Sharon was among top officials who welcomed home the astronaut's remains at a ceremony at an airbase near Tel Aviv on Monday.

In life, as well as death, he was a symbol of the "absolute link" between Israel and its "very best friend the United States," Mr Sharon told mourners.

"He represented Israel as we like to see it."


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10 Feb 03 | Middle East
05 Feb 03 | Americas
01 Feb 03 | Middle East
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