On June 27, 1976, an Air France 139 flight from Tel Aviv to Paris landed briefly in Athens, Greece. As the plane took off to continue the journey, four passengers suddenly woke up from their seats. They had pistols and grenades in their hands.
And shortly after taking control of the aircraft, one of them ordered the pilot to the Libyan city of Benghazi. Among the four kidnappers were two Palestinian nationals and two Germans.
One of the four, Bridget Kullman, pulled out a grenade pin and threatened to blow up the plane if anyone disobeyed, said Jian Haratov, a passenger on the plane.
After landing at a seven-hour break in Benghazi and the plane filled with fuel, the hijackers ordered the pilot to take the plane to Entebbe airport in Uganda.
At the time, Uganda was ruled by dictator Idi Amin who was fully supportive of the kidnappers. The hijackers met their counterparts at Entebbe airport.
Idi Amini supported the Palestinian militant group against Israel.
They separated Jewish passengers and demanded the release of 54 Palestinian prisoners held in prisons in various countries around the world. They also threatened to kill the passengers if their demands were not met.
Entebbe is located about 4000 kilometers from Israel. Thus, the rescue operation may not have been possible. Angry people in the city of Tel Aviv had begun marching.
Some of the captives were people close to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. there was a lot of pressure to ensure that passengers were released in any way.
‘Jewish passenger isolation’
Sarah Davidson, one of the abducted passengers, says the hijackers divided the passengers in two. “They wrote down the names of the people and ordered them to go to another room and in time they realized that those mentioned were only Jews. ”
47 non-Jewish passengers were released. And they were airlifted to Paris by special plane. There, Mossad spies spoke with them and learned much about the Entebbe Airport.
A Mossad spy boarded a plane in Kenya and traveled to Entebbe to photograph the airport. In particular the passenger area of the airport where the passengers were held, hostage. The area was also developed by an Israeli company.
A map of the passenger area was obtained from the company and they began planning how to carry out the attack.
The campaign includes strong soldiers.
200 commandos from the Israeli army were selected to take part in the campaign. But the commanding team was facing many challenges. What if the lights went out at night at the airport? or if Idi Amin’s troops had parked their vehicles on the runway? There were several challenges to consider.
The Israeli government indicated that it was important to negotiate with the hijackers and take their time to prepare for the commando operation. bar Lev, a former army officer believed to be a friend of Idi Amin was chosen to hold talks.
He had several conversations with Idi Amin. However, the passengers were not rescued. Further, Idi Amin traveled to Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, to attend an African Union summit. and the move provided more time for Israel to organize.
The plane was filled with fuel.
The biggest challenge was to go 4,000 miles and return the same miles. So, the plane was filled with fuel and another plane if again.
Brigadier General Dame Shamron was given the task of leading the operation and Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Netanyahu was given the task of overseeing the operation.
Israel had three options, the first is to get air support to carry out the attack, the second is to reach the area by boat and the third is to reach Uganda by road from Kenya.
And finally, they decided to use a plane to get to Entebbe, and Ugandan troops were informed that Idi Amin was returning from abroad.
On July 4, 4 planes landed on the Sinai Peninsula in Israel. They crossed the Red Sea 30 meters above sea level to avoid being caught on the radar of Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia. Along the way, Israeli commandos wore uniforms resembling Ugandan soldiers’ uniforms.
Prime Minister Rabin informed the cabinet of his plan after the plane took off. After a seven-hour flight, the first flight landed at Entebbe airport around 7 p.m.
They had six minutes the plane landed and began to take action against the hijackers. And that’s when the lights on the runway started. The door opened eight minutes before the plane landed.
Shortly after the plane landed, the pilot stopped in the middle of the road and the paratroopers were ready. The squadron was required to provide emergency lighting for future flights.
A Mercedes-type car was removed from inside the aircraft. it was similar to that of President Amin. It was followed by two Land Rover commandos. The car started moving faster towards the exit area. The commandos were instructed not to fire until they reached the exit.
Israeli forces thought Ugandan troops would understand that Idi Amin had gone to meet the abductees. But Israeli forces were unaware that Idi Amin had started using a white car a few days ago and that is why Ugandan soldiers who were guarding the exit area began firing. And instantly they were shot by Israeli commandos with silent guns.
Just after the shots were fired, the commander told everyone to get out of the cars and walk to the passenger area. Commandos used speakers to tell passengers in Hebrew and English that they were Israeli soldiers and had gone to rescue them.
They told the passengers to stay on the ground and asked the captives where they were in the Jewish language.
The passengers pointed to one door that led to the main hall. The commandos entered the hall throwing grenades.
The kidnappers also started firing shortly after seeing Israeli commandos.
All the hijackers were killed in the shootout while three passengers died.
About the same time, two more Israeli planes arrived with troops. The fourth plane was carrying passengers. It was brought to Entebbe without anyone.
And within 20 minutes, passengers were being transported in a Land Rover. At that moment, Ugandan troops opened fire and turned off the airport lights.
Only one Israeli soldier was killed in the operation. He is also Lieutenant Colonel Netanyahu. The brother of the current prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Troops carried Netanyahu, who was wounded, to a plane and the plane took off in the 58th minute after landing in Entebbe.
Netanyahu died on the way. But the operation also resulted in the deaths of 7 kidnappers and 20 Ugandan soldiers. One passenger could not return, as he was lying in a hospital in Kampala.
On the morning of July 4, 102 passengers rescued by Israeli commandos arrived in Tel Aviv via Nairobi. And all of this was considered the most courageous campaign in Israel’s history.
“When we landed at Ben Gurion Airport, a group of Israelis was present to greet us with great respect. Prime Minister Rabin and his cabinet had come to greet us,” said Lieutenant Colonel Moore.