Netanyahu: Death of Ilan Ramon's Son Is 'Terrible Tragedy'

'This is a painful and sad day,' says Defense Min.; Peres: What happened today was more than a tragedy.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined other national leaders who spoke of their shock and pain on Sunday at the death of Asaf Ramon, the son of the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, calling it a "terrible tragedy."

"Few are the moments when personal pain pierces the national heart with such force. Today, the whole nation is enveloped in endless sorrow for the death of Asaf, who fell from the heavens like his father, Ilan," said Netanyahu in a statement.

"This is a terrible tragedy for Rona [Asaf's mother] and all the Ramon family, and it is a terrible tragedy for the people of Israel."

Capt. Asaf Ramon was killed in a crash in the West Bank while flying an Israel Air Force F16-A. His father, Israel's first astronaut, was one of seven crew members killed when the U.S. space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry on February 1, 2003.

"I was excited when Ilan, the youngest pilot who blew up the reactor of death in Iraq, took with himself to space a memento from the death camps in the Holocaust," added Netanyahu.

He was referring to the small pencil drawing titled "Moon Landscape" by Peter Ginz, a 14-year-old Jewish boy who was killed at Auschwitz, that Ilan Ramon carried with him into space.

Earlier Sunday, Barak on Sunday described the pilot's death as "heartbreaking."

"This is a painful and sad day," said Barak. "The heart is breaking, we are all with Rona and the siblings. Nonetheless, we will continue to strengthen ourselves, while also extending our hand and continuing in every way to make peace."

Peres: Asaf, his father are symbol of everything good in Israel

President Shimon Peres spoke of Asaf Ramon's death in similar terms to Barak's.

"What has befallen us today is more than a tragedy, it is a fracture," said the president in a statement.

"I knew both of them: Asaf was a fighter, [and] the son of a fighter; a dreamer among dreamers. They are a symbol of everything that is good in the Jewish state, they were the most exceptional of the exceptional."

The Israel Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, informed the family of their loss; they were later visited by former IAF commanders and senior Israel Defense Forces officers, including the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.

The chief of staff later issued a statement expressing his sorrow.

"I received the bitter announcement of Captain Assaf Ramon's passing with teary eyes, as did the commanders and soldiers of the IDF, and the whole of Israel," he said.

"Only three months ago I stood with excitement, holding Rona on the ceremony grounds, while Asaf received his pilot's wings from Israel's president, Mr. Shimon Peres, as he excelled in the course."

Ashkenazi said this in reference to the IAF's grueling training course for pilots. In June, Asaf Ramon received a presidential honor and was given his pilot's wings by Peres.

The IDF chief added: "Captain Ramon walked the path of ethics, morals and drive for excellence that his father paved for him. The announcement couldn't be harder to receive. Our hearts are with Rona, this wonderful woman, and the entire family, embracing them with warmth and love."

"This is, unfortunately, a part of the price we pay for living in this beloved country."

Meanwhile, family and friends flocked to the Ramon family home to pay their condolences.

The young pilot's friends found it difficult to speak about him in the past tense.

"It's banal to say, 'What an amazing guy he was,' but it's really true," said Segal Sahar, who learned with Asaf Ramon. "He was simply a good person, he had everything but he was still modest. He had an innocence that not everyone has, a beautiful innocence."