Lebanon Rejects Israel’s Request That Two Pilots Be Returned

Israel has asked Lebanon to return to Israel the two pilots of the Phantom plane that crashed yesterday over Lebanese territory. The request for the return of the pilots as soon as possible was relayed through the International Red Cross Committee. As a first step Israel urged that a Red Cross representative visit the pilots immediately. The pilots were forced to bail out in the vicinity of Mt. Hermon.

(A report from Beirut said that Lebanese Premier Saeb Salaam confirmed that both Israel and Syria have requested that the pilots be returned to the respective countries. However, Salaam said that according to international regulations Lebanon will not return the pilots as long as hostilities continue.)

It has been learned that the plane was downed due to a fire that broke out in the Phantom that may have been due to an anti-aircraft missile fired by the Syrians. The pilots, however, who reported their decision to bail out did not mention that they were hit by any missile. It was also learned that when the pilots bailed out Israeli helicopters attempted to rescue them but that Lebanese mobile units were there ahead of the Israeli rescuers and the pilots were taken prisoners.

Meanwhile, Syrian artillery and tanks were active again today along the cease-fire line. There were no casualties. A Syrian soldier captured yesterday by Israelis on the Mt. Hermon peak was identified today as Staff Sergeant Sami Abu Hanna, 31. He belongs to the special commando units of the Syrian army.

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