What happened during the real-life rescue mission of the hijacked airplane in Operation Entebbe?
In 1976, an Air France plane was hijacked by terrorists and held hostage in Entebbe, Uganda. This narrative recounts the incredible true story of Operation Entebbe - the daring rescue mission to save the hostages. Experience the heart-pounding minute-by-minute events of the secret operation that gripped the world! ⏱️🤯✈️
Operation Thunderbolt: How Israel's Commandos Stunned the World with the 1976 Entebbe Hostage Rescue
In June 1976, a daring raid by Israeli special forces on Uganda's Entebbe Airport captured the world's attention. In under 90 minutes, Israel pulled off one of history's most audacious hostage rescue operations, saving 103 Jewish hostages held at the mercy of terrorists over 2,500 miles away.
Codenamed Operation Thunderbolt, Israel's mission struck back against skyjacking terrorists while demonstrating the remarkable lengths Israel would go to protect its citizens. These narrative chronicles the events surrounding the 1976 hijacking crisis and Israel's bold response.
June 1976: Hijacking of Air France Flight 139
On June 27, 1976, Air France Flight 139 departed from Tel Aviv, Israel on a scheduled flight to Paris, France. During a stopover in Athens, Greece, two Palestinian terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) joined German leftist revolutionaries Brigitte Kuhlmann and Wilfried Böse in hijacking the flight once airborne.
Brandishing grenades and pistols, the hijackers diverted Flight 139 first to Libya and then to Entebbe Airport in Uganda, where they were welcomed by allies of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
At Entebbe, the Jewish passengers and Israeli citizens were segregated from non-Israelis and held in the airport terminal, now a makeshift prison. In total, the hostage count stood at 246 passengers and 12 Air France crew.
Palestinian Hijackers Issue Chilling Ultimatum
Supported by Ugandan troops, the hijackers issued their formal demands - $5 million and the release of 53 pro-Palestinian militants held in Israeli prisons, 40 of whom were Palestinian.
The PFLP announced that if these demands were not met by July 1st, they would begin executing hostages, starting with the Israeli citizens they marked for death. The lives of 94 innocents now hinged on how Israel chose to respond.
Israel Weighs Options: Negotiate or Rescue by Force
The Israeli cabinet fiercely debated simply negotiating with the terrorists versus attempting a high-risk rescue mission over 2,500 miles away in Africa. While reluctant to release prisoners, the government sought any peaceful resolution that could save lives.
But the mood drastically shifted as the released non-Israeli hostages described the dire situation and cruelty of the militants. When word came that Idi Amin was seemingly collaborating with the hijackers, Israeli leaders realized negotiation was futile.
Instead, they approved an unprecedented military solution - launch a commando raid on Entebbe Airport to free the hostages by force. The secret plan was codenamed Operation Thunderbolt.
Audacious Rescue Plan Comes Together
Planners selected the elite Sayeret Matkal special forces unit to storm the terminal and rescue the hostages. Critical intelligence was provided by the released passengers.
The daring mission now came down to landing undetected at Entebbe, deception and speed to surprise the terrorists, then successfully evacuate the hostages safely by air.
Raid Launches from Sharm el-Sheikh
On July 3rd, Israeli planes secretly departed the airbase at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt carrying 100 commandos and paratroopers. The force consisted of two Boeing 707 jets and several lumbering C-130 Hercules transports.
A stopover and refueling in Kenya went undetected. By 11PM, the strike planes entered Ugandan airspace and began their descent to Entebbe Airport. The rescue was underway.
Commandos Storm the Terminal
Touching down in the dead of night, elite commandos drove directly from the landed C-130s to the hostage terminal in a black Mercedes and Land Rovers to mimic Idi Amin's convoy. Their subterfuge ended when guards halted the vehicles, but the commandos quickly neutralized them.
Storming into the main hall, they shouted warnings for the hostages to stay down even as a firefight erupted with the terrorists and Ugandan soldiers. In the bloody chaos, two hostages perished before the terminal was secured.
Hostages Evacuated, Airport Secured
With the terrorists eliminated, the operators swiftly gathered the surviving and wounded hostages into the vehicles while a wider team secured the airport. As the clock ticked down, the hostages were sped to the waiting C-130s.
By midnight, the lead plane was taxiing back down the runway laden with the stunned but rescued passengers. In just 53 minutes on the ground, Israel had achieved its improbable mission.
Raid Claims One Casualty: Commander Netanyahu
Amid the bullets and explosions, the unit commander Lt. Col Yonatan Netanyahu was mortally wounded during the firefight. He was carried by his men to the evacuation plane, the one Israeli casualty of the successful raid. However, in retribution, Ugandan troops murdered one elderly hostage left behind at the hospital.
Finally airborne, the planes touched down in Kenya to refuel before landing triumphantly back in Israel with the freed hostages. The impossible mission proved a miraculous success against the odds.
Stunning World & Inspiring Israelis
Across Israel, euphoric crowds celebrated when news broke of the daring raid's success. The world looked on in awe at the remarkable feat of arms pulled off by the Jewish state's tiny military against a terrorist foe halfway across the continent.
The brilliantly executed mission typed Israel's reputation for both courage and tactical skill. Meanwhile, Uganda and Idi Amin were left severely discredited for colluding with terrorists against innocent Israeli civilians.
Honoring Operation Thunderbolt
Today, Israelis continue to take immense pride in the heroism their forces displayed at Entebbe. The sole casualty, Yonatan Netanyahu, became a national hero as the mission was renamed in his memory.
While initially condemned for violating Uganda's sovereignty, Operation Thunderbolt soon came to be regarded as a model of surgical counter-terrorism and hostage rescue planning.
The 1976 raid remains one of the most daring operations in history, demonstrating that Israel would go to incredible lengths to protect its citizens wherever they might be imperiled. The mission became the stuff of legend and still stands as a monument to Israel's resolve.
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