Rememebering the Entebbe Raid


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July 4, 1976 marked America’s bicentennial and, in neighboring Montreal, Canada, the Summer Olympic Games were riveting the attention of the world.

In Israel, however, somber if not depressing events were affecting the populace.  The country was still mourning the loss of 3000 of its best young men and women who fell in the Yom Kippur War; a war which pointedly exposed its vulnerability – in sharp contrast to the days that followed the Six Days War of 1967, when the Jewish nation experienced an overwhelming sense of euphoria.

On the economic front, 1976 saw an inflation rate of 31.5% (compared to 4% in 2011), and more people were leaving Israel than arriving.  As if all of this was not enough, in April of 1976 Arab-Israelis rioted in the Galilee prompting the Israeli daily Maariv to describe it as the “Darkest day in the history of relations between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel.”

To Israel’s north, a civil war was raging between Yaser Arafat’s Sunni-Muslim Palestinian terrorists and the Christian militias.  The conflict soon became one of   Christian against Muslim, as the Sunni-Lebanese entered the fray and gave their support to the Palestinians.

Then, on June 27, 1976, four Arab terrorists (members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-PFLP) and German terrorists (from the Baader-Meinhoff gang), hijacked an Air France Paris-bound flight from Tel Aviv, following a stopover in Athens, Greece.  The terrorists diverted the plane to Dictator Idi Amin’s Entebbe airport in Kampala, Uganda, after having refueled in Benghazi Libya.

Upon their arrival in Uganda’s Entebbe airport on June 28, 1976 the German terrorists, in a move reminiscent of Nazi concentration camp selections, released the Air France crew and all of the non-Jewish passengers.  The terrorists then demanded the release of 53 convicted Arab-Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel and abroad, setting a 48-hour deadline, after which execution of the 105 Jewish and Israeli hostages would begin.

In Israel, relatives of the hostages demonstrated outside Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s residence demanding the government take action to save the hostages. The Rabin government, forced to act, announced that it would enter into negotiations with the terrorists (a taboo in Israel at that time); thereby buying the precious time needed to consider the seemingly impossible military options.  The terrorists, in the meantime, issued a new ultimatum – setting the deadline at 13:00 hours on Sunday, July 4, 1976.

Israel hurriedly dispatched intelligence officers to interview the released non-Jewish hostages, asking them about the number of terrorists; the terminal location and where the hostages were being held; and what weapons the terrorists possessed (it was later learned they were supplied by Ida Amin).  Fortunately for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) planners, an Israeli construction company and its architects had the layout and blueprints of the Entebbe terminal.

Brig. General Dan Shomron was selected to command the full mission (he would later become the IDF Chief-of-Staff), while Lt. Colonel Yonathan (Yoni) Netanyahu (elder brother of the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu) was chosen to command the actual field operation.

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  • http://oldretiredpettyofficer.blogspot.com/ ORPO1

    I was serving aboard USS Independence CV-62 in the Norfolk Naval Ship Yard. I was in the duty section so no fireworks except for the news of this operation. I was almost 22 at the time.

  • Raymond in DC

    With all due respect to the US attack on Bin Laden's compound by our Navy Seals, the Entebbe operation still sets the standard for boldness. The operation – developed only over days, requiring the accumulation of current intelligence, training and all the rest, then carried out over long distance – still inspires. It proved a major setback to Baader-Meinhof, leading to their defeat a few years later.

    In a generally unknown epilogue to the operation, Israeli operatives subsequently returned to Uganda to "repo" Amin's Israeli-made executive jet.

    ORPO1 tells of serving on the Independence when he received the news. Me, I was in Washington marking the Bicentennial but only learned of the rescue from a newspaper box near the mall.

  • EW-SW070476

    My experience regarding the Entebbe Raid ("MIvza Yonatan") started on Sunday morning, July 4th (I was living in the UK, then): planning to arrive at my synagogue at 08:30, I'd set my radio alarm for 08:00. However, the clock was running 3 minutes late, so I woke up to the radio news broadcast finishing with the words " .. and are back safely in Israel."
    'Who are back safely in Israel?' I asked myself. I arrived at the synagogue at 08:20 – and asked around; none of my fellow-congregants knew – they hadn't heard the news at all.
    I arrived home at 09:02 – immediately switched on the news – but no mention at all of the raid. I had to leave the house prior to ten am; did not have access to a radio all morning, and returned home at 1:10 pm – again too late for the news.
    I finally heard the news at 5pm. In a state of amazing euphoria, I went to a fare-well party: a friend was emigrating to Israel. During the party I met a girl – who is now my wife (we've been married 34 years, having met 35 years ago – on July 4th!!)

    • GKC

      Hopefully you gentlemen will continue to contribute your perspective. Thanks.

  • Atikva

    Am Israel Hai!

  • tagalog

    "Rememebering?"

  • UCSPanther

    Idi Amin's tantrum when he found out that his men were defeated by the IDF commandos was something to behold.

  • findalis

    On that day the Israelis stole the frosting off of the US's birthday cake and reminded the world of the true nature of FREEDOM

  • alexander

    "Entebbe raid, was a most daring and glorious moment in Israel’s history" …….? – I think it was a most daring raid in the world's history. Bravo Israel!!! Chapeau bas!!!

    • Julie Davis

      Yes! In all history. I watch the movie made about the raid every time it airs on TV.
      I live in California, but given a choice, I would live and study in Isreal. I really enjoyed
      finding out Amins custom plane was later taken.
      Respectfully,
      Julie Davis

  • Supreme_Galooty

    Indeed, this spectacular success gave Jimmy, The Georgia Pimple the vague notion that he could be as effective some few years later – much to his chagrin and the discomfiture of many Americans. As for Isreal, it thrives in a world where it is surrounded by millions whose lives are consumed by hatred – hatred not just of Jews and Isreal, but hatred of all that is life giving.

    "We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house." – Moshe Dayan

  • Michael Shaw

    Kurt Waldhiem, then U.N. Secretary General, condemned the Israeli raid on Entebbe which is not surprising coming from a Sturmabteilung (a.k.a. "brown shirts') Nazi Party member.

  • Sara Guter-Davidson

    I was there with my husband and our 2 sons. Our country saved our lives and instead of 4 people who were sentenced to death by terrorists – we are now 13 happy people in Israel.
    There are some incorrect facts in the article – but the main thing is that the platform of this operation is so BIG that all the hundreds soldiers, security forces, civilians and on the top of all our Government with Yitzhak Rabin as the Prime Minister – all can stand proudly on it and say: YES WE DID IT!

    • Julie Davis

      I am so happy you made it out alive. I am an American, but I have always wanted to
      know more about Isreal and it's faith. I don't know where to begin, but I do know the
      values held by your people are above and beyond those of most other countries.
      If I win the lottery before I die, your county is the first I would visit. I have so much
      respect for you courage and your determination in spite of all you've been through.
      Thank you for sharing your story. Julie Davis juliedavis@sti.net

  • eejay

    I seriously doubt the Summer Olympics were "riveting the attention of the world" on July 4, since they didn't even open until July 20, 1976.