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Human Error Possible Cause of Israel’s Worst Air Disaster

Investigators are leaning toward human error as the possible cause of this week’s air disaster in northern Israel.

As Israel continued to bury the 73 soldiers and crew killed in the mid-air collision of two military helicopters, members of the investigating commission, led by David Ivry, former Defense Ministry director general, visited Moshav Sha’ar Yishuv, the site of Tuesday night’s crash.

An air force official said the two helicopters were hovering over the moshav while awaiting clearance to cross the Lebanese border to take the soldiers to the security zone in southern Lebanon.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai, speaking at a briefing this week, said weather and technical difficulty had been ruled out as possible causes of the worst air crash in Israel’s history.

Funerals for 35 servicemen were held Thursday in cemeteries across the country. Twenty-five were buried the previous day.

Nine of the crash victims will be buried Friday.

Funerals have not yet been scheduled for four soldiers, whose remains have not yet been positively identified, but who were on the list of those who boarded the helicopters.

A national day of mourning was observed Thursday.

Schools across the country held special assemblies to help students deal with their grief.

In Jerusalem, thousands responded to a call from Israel’s chief rabbis, and filled the Western Wall plaza to recite Psalms and pray for the lost lives.

Knesset members and other government officials attended funerals across the country.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in the funeral of Staff Sgt. Yonatan Amedi at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.

Amedi, 20, who lived in Maale Adumim, outside the capital, was named after Netanyahu’s older brother, Yonatan, who was killed in the 1976 Entebbe rescue raid in Uganda.

The premier said both his brother and Amedi gave their lives for their country. He pledged to do his utmost to bring about peace, and ensure the future of the country.

President Ezer Weizman visited the bereaved families. Earlier this week, the president urged Israelis to be patient in waiting for the conclusions of the team investigating the crash.

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