(JTA) — Michel Bacos, the Air France pilot who refused to leave his Jewish passengers behind after his plane was hijacked to Entebee, Uganda, in 1976, has died.
Bacos remained with the Jewish and Israeli passengers, as did his crew, until they were rescued in a secret operation by the Israeli military. He died Tuesday in Nice, France, at the age of 95.
Palestinian terrorists hijacked Air France Flight 139 flying to Paris from Tel Aviv and diverted it to Entebee on June 27, 1976. The terrorists freed all the non-Jewish passengers, but Bacos and his crew opted to remain with the Jewish and Israeli hostages. They were rescued a week later, on July 4. Three hostages and mission commander Yonatan Netanyahu, the current Israeli prime minister’s older brother, were killed during the rescue.
Bacos was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor. Israel also recognized his actions, as did Jewish organizations such as B’nai Brith International and the American Jewish Committee.
Bacos visited Israel several times, including attending memorial ceremonies for Yonatan Netanyahu, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, in a statement posted Tuesday on social media announced Bacos’ death.
“He refused to abandon his passengers, who were taken hostage because they were Israeli or of Jewish origin, risking his own life,” she wrote. “Michel bravely refused to surrender to antisemitism and barbarism and brought honor to France.”