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Sunday, May 30, 1999 Published at 19:03 GMT 20:03 UK


World: Middle East

Navy suicide follows Israeli submarine find

The Dakar sunk after leaving the UK port of Plymouth in 1968

A former commander of the Israeli navy, Michael Barkai, has committed suicide shortly after the discovery of the wreckage of a submarine in which his brother died 31 years ago.


The BBC's Hilary Andersson: "Israel has been obsessed with this story"
Mr Barkai, who distinguished himself in the October 1973, served as an admiral from 1976 until 1979.

His family said he had terminal cancer and might already have been contemplating suicide when he heard on Friday that a search team had located the submarine Dakar, which sank in 1968 with 69 Israeli crewmen on board.

He then shot himself shortly after hearing the news.

Mr Barkai's brother, Avraham, was deputy commander of the Dakar when it disappeared in the Mediterranean on a voyage from Britain to Israel.

Deep sea grave

The submarine was discovered by an American marine research company off the Greek island of Crete at a depth of about two miles.

Israel has spent millions of dollars on repeated attempts to locate the submarine and families of the crewmen have pressured the authorities to recover their loved-ones remains for burial.

The Dakar disappeared in 1968 during its voyage from Plymouth in the UK to Haifa, Israel.

Its loss sparked speculation that it may have been sunk by Soviet or Egyptian torpedoes.

Water pressure

An alternative theory is that it dived too deep and was crushed by massive water pressure.

The Israeli Navy confirmed that a large hole had been found in the Dakar's hull, but said that it could still not determine the cause of the sinking.

Correspondents say the news of the Dakar's discovery has been given almost blanket coverage by the Israeli media.

Outgoing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu used one of his last cabinet meetings to press the navy to recover the wreck, but experts say that the submarine lies beyond the reach of current salvage technology.



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