Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Sunday, 13 September 2009 17:36 UK

Jet crash kills Israel hero's son


Site of the crash which killed the son of Israel's first astronaut

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet has crashed in the West Bank, killing the pilot.

The 21-year-old pilot, Assaf Ramon, was the son of Israel's only astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who died in the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.

Sunday's crash took place in a hilly area south of the city of Hebron, military officials said.

The jet was on a routine training flight, they added. There is no word on why it went down. Search and rescue crews are at the scene.

Ilan Ramon - who was a former fighter pilot himself - is regarded as a national hero in Israel, and media broke into their normal broadcasts to report his son's death.

Assaf Ramon and a portrait of his late astronaut father, in 2004

An unidentified Palestinian told Israeli TV that the plane had flown low over the southern West Bank before crashing.

"There was a huge fire," the eyewitness said.

Lt Assaf Ramon graduated from the Israeli air force pilot's course earlier this year.

The military statement said he had excelled in his training course, and had been given his wings by President Shimon Peres.

The Columbia disaster occurred on 1 February 2003.

The space shuttle disintegrated during re-entry over the US state of Texas, killing all seven astronauts on board.

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