JERUSALEM (Dec. 15)
Premier Shimon Peres cabled President Reagan to express Israel’s grief over the air disaster in Gander, Newfoundland, in which 248 American servicemen died last Thursday. “We are shocked and deeply grieved at the terrible tragedy — the young men who lost their lives in the plane crash were serving the cause of maintaining world peace,” Peres wrote.
The dead men had served with the 101st Airborne Division stationed in the Sinai as part of the Multinational Force and Observers which polices the peninsula under the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. The chartered plane, an Arrow Air DC-8, in which the men were returning home left Wednesday from Cairo. Eight crew members were also killed.
After refueling in West Germany the plane crossed the Atlantic and landed in Gander for another fuel stop. After an apparently routine takeoff Thursday morning, the plane fell to the ground tail first a half mile from the runway and exploded in flames. Two terrorist organizations claimed responsibility for the disaster, but investigators discounted the claims as grand standing.
In his cable to Reagan last Thursday night, Peres also said that “I would like to convey the sincere condolences of the government and people of Israel to the American people and the bereaved families.”
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin sent a similar message to U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Levy cabled the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commander of the Sinai Multinational Force.