Operation Entebbe was a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on 4 July 1976. A week earlier, on 27 June, an Air France plane with 248 passengers was hijacked by a hijacker of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External Operations (PFLP-EO) under orders of Wadie Haddad, who had earlier broken away from the mainstream PFLP of George Habash.
The PFLP-EO hijackers consisted of two Palestinians and two members of the German Revolutionary Cells. The hijackers had the stated objective to free 40 Palestinian and pro-Palestinian militants imprisoned in Israel and 13 prisoners in four other countries in exchange for the hostages.
The flight, that had originated in Tel Aviv with destination of Paris, was diverted after a stop-over in Athens via Tripoli to Entebbe, the main airport of Uganda. The local government supported the hijackers and dictator Idi Amin personally welcomed them. After moving all hostages from the airplane to a disused airport building, the hijackers separated the Israelis from the larger group and forced them into a separate room. Over the following two days, 148 non-Israeli hostages were released and flown out to Paris.Some 94 mainly Israeli passengers, along with the 12-member Air France crew, remained as hostages and were threatened with death.
The names of the 5 Israelis killed
The IDF acted on intelligence provided by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. The hijackers threatened to kill the hostages if their prisoner release demands were not met. This threat led to the planning of the rescue operation. These plans included preparation for armed resistance from Ugandan military troops.
The operation took place at night. Israeli transport planes carried 100 commandos over 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to Uganda for the rescue operation. The operation, which took a week of planning, lasted 90 minutes. 102 hostages were rescued. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one, the unit commander, Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed.
All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed, and thirty (some say 11) Soviet-built MiG-17s and MiG-21s of Uganda’s air force were destroyed. Kenyan sources supported Israel, and in the aftermath of the operation Idi Amin issued orders to retaliate and slaughter several hundred Kenyans present in Uganda.
Operation Entebbe, which had the military codename Operation Thunderbolt, is sometimes referred to retroactively as Operation Jonathan in memory of the unit’s leader, Yonatan Netanyahu. He was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel
Dora Bloch (Pictured here), a 75-year-old Israeli who also held British citizenship, had been released by the hijackers due to illness and taken to Mulago Hospital in Kampala. After the raid she was killed by officers of the Ugandan army, as were some of her doctors and nurses, apparently for trying to intervene.
In April 1987, Henry Kyemba, Uganda’s Attorney general and Minister of Justice at the time, told the Uganda Human Rights Commission that Bloch had been dragged from her hospital bed and killed by two army officers on Amin’s orders.Bloch was shot and her body dumped in the trunk of a car that had Ugandan intelligence services number plates. Her remains were recovered near a sugar plantation 20 miles (32 km) east of Kampala in 1979, after the Ugandan–Tanzanian War ended Amin’s rule. Amin also ordered the killing of hundreds of Kenyans living in Uganda in retaliation for Kenya’s assistance to Israel in the raid.
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