By GREER FAY CASHMAN
President Shimon Peres paid condolence calls on Monday to the families of the six pilots and technicians killed last week in a helicopter crash in Romania.The fallen were Lt.-Col (res.) Avner Goldman, 48, from Modi’in; Lt.-Col.Daniel Shipenbauer, 43, from Moshav Kidron; Maj. Yahel Keshet, 33, from Hatzerim; Maj. Lior Shai, 28, from Tel Nof; Lt. Nir Lakrif, 25, from Tel Nof; and St.-Sgt. Oren Cohen, 24, from Rehovot.RELATED:IAF likely to boost Romania trainingHundreds mourn fallen airmenSpeaking at the Tel Nof Air Force base and in Rehovot, Peres told the families that the tragedy affected not only them, but the whole nation.“These were the finest sons of Israel,” he said.Peres, who had flown on various occasions with the fallen airmen, said that he felt very close to the families in their respective losses. The Israel Air Force is among the best in the world, he said, and much of that reputation is due to people of the caliber and quality of the fallen airmen.Peres, both a former defense minister and the father of a decorated combat pilot, said that the mountainous terrain of Romania was extremely difficult to navigate, but that there was no choice for Israel’s pilots and their crews if they wanted to gain the experience of being able to fly successfully in all conditions.AdvertisementTurning to Lakrif’s widow Maggie, who is four months pregnant, Peres said he hoped and prayed that the future of the children of tomorrow would be one of peace.Peres expressed particular sympathy for Maggie Lakrif, who was married for so short a time and will have to face the burden of raising her yetto- be-born daughter alone. Peres told her she had a heavy responsibility of passing on her husband’s legacy to their child.In addition, the president expressed regret over the terror attack on Eilat and the harm caused to innocent people in Israel and Jordan as a result.Israel and Jordan are partners in the struggle against terror, he said, and both are interested in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the hope that such negotiations will lead to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. What is happening now, said Peres, is a battle between the Arab moderates who want peace and the extremists who don't.
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