No one expected Israel to take the risk, but 39 years ago today, they set out on our most ambitious rescue mission to date: releasing 103 hostages in 90 minutes. Terrorists had hijacked a plane and diverted it to Entebbe, Uganda, where they held Jewish and Israeli passengers hostage. Our soldiers managed to reach the airport undetected, and take the terrorists by surprise. Today, Operation Entebbe remains a timeless example of our soldiers determination.
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 stopover in Athens via Benghazi 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 all 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 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 11href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Entebbe#cite_note-news.bbc.co.uk-5" style="background: none; color: #0b0080; text-decoration: none; white-space: nowrap;">) 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.