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The hostages were quickly escorted on board the Hercules transports, which headed home to Israel via a brief stop in Nairobi, Kenya, for refueling and medical treatment for some of the wounded.
It took less than an hour to thwart the plans of the PFLP.
The operation was so bold that the Israeli cabinet only decided to proceed within hours of the deadline while the mission had already begun and planes were already en route. Overall commander, Brigadier-General Dan Shomron later described the daring and extreme difficulties of the rescue mission: “You had more than one hundred people sitting in a small room, surrounded by terrorists with their fingers on the trigger. They could fire in a fraction of a second. We had to fly seven hours land safely, drive to the terminal area where the hostages were being held, get inside, and eliminate the terrorists before any of them could fire.”
The eight hijackers died. One account puts the number of Ugandan troops killed at 20, another at 45. Three hostages were killed during the gunfireexchange, one was wounded and at least five Israeli commandoes were wounded. Israeli Commando Surin Hershko was shot and paralyzed. One passenger, Dora Bloch, a Jewish British citizen, who was hospitalized earlier for stomach pains was murdered the next day by Ugandan soldiers.
The rescue operation, was renamed Operation Yonatan in honor of its commander, Yonatan Netanyahu, 30, who was cut down by a Ugandan sentry.Netanyahu believed from the outset that the plan could be accomplished and his confidence influenced government leaders and his fellow commandos. On that day, one of Israel’s greatest soldiers had fallen.
On that day which also happened to be the American bicentennial, forces that threatened freedom were routed by courage and daring. In the UN General Assembly, some praised the mission, others condemned and criticized. No matter. All words aside, heroic actions spoke on that triumphant day.
Thirty six years later, as the threat of terrorism continues to loom large, the rescue at Entebbe stands as a model of victory and of how it is achieved.
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