Michel Bacos, the pilot of the Air France flight from Tel Aviv which was hijacked in 1976 and landed in Entebbe, has died at age 95.
Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, where Bacos lived, announced the news on social media on Tuesday.
“He refused to abandon his passengers, who were taken hostage because they were Israeli or of Jewish origin, risking his own life,” Estrosi wrote. “Michel bravely refused to surrender to antisemitism and barbarism and brought honor to France.”
President Reuven Rivlin said Wednesday that Bacos was “a quiet hero and a true friend of the Jewish people. May his memory be a blessing.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted that the pilot “stayed with the hostages through all their hardships, until IDF soldiers – led by my brother Yoni z”l – freed him in a daring operation. I bow my head in his memory and salute the Michel’s bravery.”
On June 27, 1976, Bacos was the captain of Air France Flight 139, from Tel Aviv to Paris, with a stop in Athens. After the plane departed Greece, four hijackers took control of the cockpit and forced Bacos at gunpoint to head for Benghazi, Libya, and then Entebbe, Uganda.
The terrorist “sat behind me with his gun pointed at my head,” Bacos told Ynet in 2016. “Every time I tried to look in a different direction, he pressed the barrel of his gun against my neck.”
Several days later, the terrorists split up the hostages between those who were Israeli or Jewish and those who were not. Bacos demanded the hijackers give him access to both groups.
Tributes to Bacos began to pour in on Wednesday as news of his death spread.
“He refused to leave the Jewish passengers behind and stayed with them until they were rescued by the IDF,” wrote Dani Dayan, the Israeli consul-general to New York. “He passed away in France at the age of 95. We salute you, Captain.”
Death of a hero: Michel Bacos, the captain of Air France flight 139 hijacked to Entebbe in 1976. He refused to leave the Jewish passengers behind and stayed with them until they were rescued by the IDF. He passed away in France at the age of 95. We salute you, Captain pic.twitter.com/5LHYVRMIkH
— Dani Dayan (@AmbDaniDayan) March 27, 2019
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