El Al Pilot Who Fought Munich Terrorists Dies

Uriel Cohen bravely tackled a grenade-wielding terrorist during an attack on Israeli tourists, saving countless lives.

Ari Soffer ,

The attack was claimed by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The attack was claimed by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine

A former El Al pilot who bravely tackled armed Arab terrorists in Munich, preventing a massacre of Israeli tourists, passed away Sunday.

Uriel Cohen passed away aged 90, leaving behind his wife, five children and 14 grandchildren.

On February 10, 1970, Cohen - who was then an El Al Captain - was present when a group of three terrorists opened fire on a bus at Munich airport filled with Israeli tourists en-route to London.

He was hailed as a hero for tackling one of the terrorists as he prepared to throw a grenade, saving countless lives.

Two other terrorists opened fire at the bus with machine guns before being wounded and captured by German police.

One person was killed in the attack - Haifa resident Arye Katzenstein - and 23 others were injured. Among the most seriously wounded was popular Israeli actress Hanna Maron, whose leg doctors were forced to amputate due to the severity of her injuries.

Assi Dayan, the son of Israel's iconic one-eyed defense minister Moshe Dayan, was also present on the bus, but emerged unscathed.

Cohen's funeral is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. today (Sunday) in Savyon cemetery in central Israel.

A veteran of the pre-state Irgun Jewish resistance group, Cohen had been wounded during the battle for Jerusalem in 1948.

Following the attack, El Al pilot Uri Binah praised Cohen's selflessness and courage. 

"One of the two (sic) terrorists pulled out the grenade and quickly approached the captain. Cohen bent over and grabbed the terrorist's hand, as he was (still) holding the grenade in his hand. I knew that at any moment it could explode.

"I shouted something to Assi (Dayan) and instinctively the two of us began to run from the scene, each one in a different direction. As we were running I saw Uri (Uriel Cohen) bending over the terrorist while still holding his hand. Then came two explosions. I saw the captain lying wounded, with the terrorist next to him."

In an official statement, El Al mourned Uriel Cohen's passing:

"The El Al family bows its head with the passing of airman Uriel Cohen, who acted with determination and courage to prevent terrorists from harming El Al passengers, and bravely took on a terrorist on an El Al flight in Munich in 1970. May his name be blessed."