‘The force of the blast could have killed us,’ says wounded Israeli pilot

Following the weekend confrontation in the north, two pilots said they could have been killed. One of them, severely injured, is on the road to recovery.

By: World Israel News Staff 

“[We heard] an explosion and realized we were hit,” two Israeli pilots recounted during their post-mission questioning, The Jerusalem Post reported, citing a Channel 2 broadcast on Sunday. “It’s a very uncomfortable feeling, this loss of control. This is not a long process and there is no time. Mere seconds. We knew that we must be quick and abandon [the jet] because we suffered physical injury and also because the plane had been hit and stopped functioning.”

Major General Amikam Norkin, commander of the Israel Air Force (IAF), on Sunday visited the pilot who was severely wounded the previous day when his plane was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft missiles and lauded him for his quick and decisive action, which Norkin said saved the lives of the two aviators. The pilot’s condition has been upgraded from severe to moderate, according to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

The second pilot was treated in the hospital for light injuries.

The IAF aviators were forced to bail out of their aircraft Saturday morning when Syrian anti-aircraft missiles hit their plane. The pilots were attacking Syrian military targets in response to the infiltration of Israeli airspace by an Iranian drone controlled from Syria.

“From the moment that you understood that you needed to abandon the jet, you made the right decision, and by doing so you not only saved your own life, but also that of the navigator, Major A.” Norkin told the pilot.

In transcripts published on Israel’s Hadashot news Sunday, the airmen said they had mere seconds to eject from the plane after a missile exploded alongside them.

“There is no long process and also there is no time. A few seconds. The understanding [was] that we need to quickly abandon, as a result of the physical damage to us and also as a result of the damage to the plane that ceased to function,” one of the pilots was quoted as saying.

‘We salute our pilots, soldiers and commanders’

At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had spoken with the navigator and “was pleased to hear that he is standing up, with all that entails. I was also pleased to hear that there has been an improvement in the condition of the pilot.”

He wished both a quick and full recovery. “We salute our pilots, soldiers and commanders, especially the chief-of-staff. They are guarding the State of Israel and we are proud of them,” he stated.

Netanyahu further stressed that Israel “dealt severe blows to the Iranian and Syrian forces. We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of action have not changed one bit; we will continue to strike at every attempt to strike at us. This has been our policy and it will remain our policy.”