Op Entebbe: The Daring Israeli Mission Modi Recalled In His Speech
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian PM to visit Israel, where he was warmly received by his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu. In his address, PM Modi recalled Netanyahu’s elder brother Yoni’s sacrifice in a war on this day, in 1976.
Forty-one years ago, current Israeli PM “Bibi”Netanyahu, then a student in the US, received a phone call from his younger brother, who informed him of their elder brother Yonatan or ‘Yoni’’s death.
Israel PM Recalls News of His Brother’s Death
According to a report by The Guardian, the 30-year-old Yoni was then the newly appointed head of Israel’s exclusive ‘Sayeret Matkal’ commando unit. Hours before his untimely death, Yoni had led a blitzkrieg in an attempt to save over 100 Israeli hostages at Entebbe in Central Uganda. While Israelis the world over were celebrating the release of the hostages and the military operation’s success, the Netanyahu brothers mourned Yoni’s death – he had been killed in the onslaught.
Bibi, then 26 years old, was determined to break the grim news to his parents himself, and drove down to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where his father was a professor. The Guardian quoted him as saying, 40 years hence, sitting in the office of the Israeli PM:
Soon after, the Netanyahu family flew back to Israel for Yoni’s funeral, who had already been honoured as a military hero.
The Build-Up to Operation Entebbe
On 27 June 1976, Air France Flight 139, carrying 247 passengers and 12 crew, travelling from Tel Aviv to Paris via Athens, was hijacked by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a secular Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967) and two Germans from the Revolutionary Cells (a self-proclaimed “urban guerilla” organisation, active between 1973 and 1995).
According to a report by The Spectator, the militants demanded the release of approximately 40 pro-Palestinian militants jailed in five countries within 48 hours.
A Historic Blitzkrieg
On 4 July 1976, Operation Entebbe, a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission by Yoni Netanyahu’s team of commandos from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was successfully executed at Entebbe Airport.
The Guardian report states that the IDF was prepared with four Hercules (a military transport aircraft) and two Boeing 707 jets, one of which would serve as a command post, and the other as a field hospital, as they anticipated many casualties.
The operation took place in the dead of night. According to a BBC report, 20 Ugandan soldiers were killed, along with all seven of the hijackers in the onslaught. In the 90-minute operation, 103 Jewish and Israeli hostages were released.
On Operation Entebbe’s (or ‘Thunderbolt’, as it was also called) 39th anniversary, the Israel Defense Forces shared some photos from the historic blitzkrieg:
(With inputs from The Spectator, BBC, The Guardian)
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