Crazy Rescue Mission of Hijacked Airplane – Operation Entebbe


The date is June 27th, 1976 and an Air France
Airbus is taking off from Athens, Greece, enroute to Paris. Aboard the flight are 248 passengers, most
of them Israelis, along with 12 air crew. Amongst the passengers however are two Palestinian
and two German terrorists, and shortly after takeoff the three men and one woman reveal
concealed weapons and threaten to murder passengers if the flight is not immediately diverted. The aircrew radios their situation to ground
authorities and changes heading for Benghazi, Libya where the plane lands and is refueled. Seven hours later the plane departs and finally
lands in Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Outside the plane’s windows the hostages see
scores of Ugandan troops and are briefly relieved, believing themselves about to be rescued. Yet as the plane’s doors open up a Ugandan
army colonel strides up the emergency stairs and shakes hands with one of the terrorists-
the Ugandans are not here to liberate the hostages, they are here to protect the terrorists. Soon after, one of the hijackers contacts
international media with their demands: they want a ransom of $5 million for the release
of the airplane along with the release of 53 Palestinian and Pro-Palestinian militants
from prisons around the world. If their demands are not met they will begin
executing hostages on July 1st. Back in Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
phones US President Gerald Ford, asking him to contact the Egyptian government and request
their aid in negotiating with Ugandan President Idi Amim. Egypt, not particularly friendly to the Israeli
situation, promises to do what it can. Meanwhile the Israeli cabinet furiously argues
back and forth on whether they should give in to the terrorist demands or not, and prepares
to release the forty Palestinian prisoners that they are holding. The US and Britain however are adamant that
they will not negotiate with terrorists, and inform Israel that they will under no circumstances
release any of their prisoners. The American and British stance is a harsh
one, but a logical one- if these terrorists and their demands are surrendered to, then
it will only encourage further terrorism. Meanwhile Egyptian President Anwar Sadat attempts
to negotiate with Amim, but makes no headway. He then turns to the Palestinian Liberation
Organization and surprisingly gets Yasser Arafat to send his political aide to Uganda
to negotiate with the hostage takers, though the hijackers refuse to see him. A political situation is quickly becoming
untenable, but the Israeli government asks the hijackers for another week in order to
buy themselves more time. President Amim, who has been in contact with
an Israeli Defense Force officer whom he had a long personal history with, agrees to negotiate
with the terrorists after he is told that Israel is preparing to release their prisoners. The hijackers release 48 non-israeli hostages
on the 30th of June, and after agreeing to a deadline extension, release another 100
non-israelis, all of which are flown to Paris. This leaves 84 Israeli hostages, 10 french
hostages, and the aircrew of 12 who had refused to leave with the earlier released hostages. With their extra time, the Israeli government
breaks into furious discussions on how to proceed, with many wanting to agree with the
hijacker’s demands in order to gain a release of the rest of the hostages- yet others, mostly
those from the intelligence and military community, refute the idea, warning that this will only
encourage further terrorism. With pressure mounting and the US, Britain,
and now France adamant that they will not negotiate with terrorists, a final decision
is made: there will be no negotiation. Instead, the Israeli Defense Forces will mount
a rescue, leading to one of the most incredible military operations in history. With only a week left before the noon deadline
of July 4th set by the hijackers, IDF commanders convene an emergency meeting to determine
a strategy for the rescue. One idea is to have naval commandos air-dropped
into Lake Victoria, which borders the Entebbe International Airport where the hostages are
kept. Dropped into the lake, the commandos would
inflate rubber boats and ride them to the airport, where they would engage and kill
the hijackers, and then hold their position and ask President Amim for safe passage home. The plan is almost immediately shot down,
for one the Israelis are told that the lake is infested with Nile crocodiles, and there
are serious concerns about Ugandan President Amim’s support for any rescue operation. Rather than allow the rescuers to fly home,
he might order an attack on the Israeli forces instead which would lead to a slaughter. The Israelis have two major problems to overcome
in devising a realistic rescue attempt: first they need more solid intelligence on the airport
and its layout, and secondly they must get the assistance of an East African nation for
the raid, as the Israeli military lacks the capability to refuel four to six military
aircraft so far away from Israeli airspace. The Americans have a huge airborne refueling
fleet, but in order to get their tankers on station to support the Israelis, they too
would need the permission of several African nations to fly through their airspace, and
such a plan risks tipping off Amim to a pending rescue attempt. Instead the Jewish owner of a hotel chain
in Kenya, along with other prominent members of the Jewish and Israeli community in that
nation all pressure Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta to support the IDF raid, thus securing
Kenyan permission for the IDF task force to cross into their airspace and refuel at what
is today Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Further, Kenyan Minister of Agriculture Bruce
MacKenzie persuades President Kenyatta to allow Mossad agents into the nation so they
can collect information across the border in Uganda on the Entebbe airport. Within 24 hours Isareli Mossad agents have
crossed the border into Uganda en route to scout out the airport and its defenses. Other Mossad agents meanwhile have flown to
Paris, where they are conducting interviews with the released hostages. One of them, a French-Jewish passenger with
a military background has an extraordinary memory and is able to provide information
not just on the airport, but on the hijackers and the number and types of weapons they carry. All this information is relayed back to the
IDF, who have also contacted the Israeli construction company which had actually built the exact
terminal where the hostages were being kept years ago. Building a miniature replica of the terminal,
the Israelis begin to piece together where the hostages may be being kept and prepare
their strike force. The plan is risky, but simple- four C-130s
would take off from Israel and head to Uganda with a strike force of 100 commandos who would
assault the airport terminal, secure the airport against any Ugandan military forces responding
to the attack while the planes refueled, and then fly everyone home. The men are split into three elements: Ground Command And Control consists of a small
group including the ground commander, Brigadier General Dan Shomron and support and communications
personnel. The Assault element consists of a 29 man assault
force led by Lt. Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu and made up entirely of commandos from the
elite Sayeret Matkal unit. They will be the spearhead of the assault
and are tasked with breaching the terminal and rescuing the hostages. The Security element is the largest element,
and is made up for three parts. A force of paratroopers will secure the airport
field, clear and secure the runways, and protect the aircraft while they are fueling. The Golani force will secure the C-130 tasked
with rescuing the hostages and board them, while also acting as general reserves and
reinforcing where needed. The Sayeret Matkal force will clear the military
airstrip nearby and destroy a squadron of MIG fighter jets on the ground to prevent
any possible interceptions by the Ugandan Air Force. They will also repel any attack by Ugandan
military forces responding from the nearby city of Entebbe. The plan is set and with time nearly running
out late in the evening of July 3rd, just hours before the July 4th deadline, the strike
force loads into their waiting C-130s. The four plane flight takes off and flies
over the Red Sea at a height of no more than 100 feet (30 m). From their windows the soldiers can see waves
breaking below them as the airplanes roar along at almost four hundred miles an hour. The strike force is flying low and fast to
avoid radar detection by the Egyptians, Sudanese, and Saudi Arabians, fearing that if they are
detected the mission may be given away. Plus there is the added concern that any one
of these nations- not currently on friendly terms with Israel- may decide to intercept
the flight, the Israelis after all did not gain permission to penetrate or approach their
airspace. While flying at 30 meters lets the Israelis
avoid ground based radar, if any military aircraft happen to be in the sky they would
be very quickly detected by airborne radar, and so far out of range of Israeli jets, there
would be no hope of protecting the strike force from hostile attack. Nervously the pilots keep an iron grip on
their control sticks, at such low altitudes the smallest mistake will send them plummeting
into the ocean just a hundred feet below them, disintegrating the massive planes on impact. Trailing behind the strike force’s C-130s
are a flight of two Boeing 707s, civilian transports that have been retrofitted with
medical facilities and a command post for the commander of the operation, General Yekutiel
Adam. Hours later the planes have landed at Jomo
Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi, Kenya. One of the 707s, the medical support plane,
is left behind while the other five planes are refuelled and take off for the assault
on Entebbe International Airport. On approach to the airport the remaining 707
circles overhead, allowing General Adam to remain in contact with his forces on the ground. At 2300 hours the four C-130s all make a combat
landing on the airport’s runway, their cargo bay doors already open and ready to discharge
the men inside. In the darkness though the first plane almost
taxis straight into a ditch, but the other three land without incident. From one of the C-130s, a black Mercedes made
to look like President Amin’s personal vehicle rolls out , followed by two Land Rovers- all
bearing the insignia of the Ugandan president. Inside each vehicle are Israeli commandos,
hoping to be able to roll past two known security checkpoints. However as the vehicles approach, one of the
sentries orders the cars to stop- he knows that Amin has recently purchased a white Mercedes
and is suspicious. As the vehicle rolls to a stop, Lt. Colonel
Netanyahu orders the commandos inside to shoot the sentries. The commandos fire two shots at the sentries
using their silenced pistols and roll away, yet as one of the Land Rovers approaches they
realize the sentries are still alive. Orders are clear: there can be no sentries
left alive who may raise the alarm. The last land rover pulls to a halt and an
Israeli commando hops out, killing the two sentries. Upon hearing the gunshot from the commando’s
unsilenced rifle, the assault force fears that they’ve been given away, and the vehicles
roar to the airport terminal at high speed. Meanwhile armored personnel carriers are being
hurriedly unloaded from the other C-130 planes. One force of armored vehicles hurries to the
main entrance to the airport to set up a defensive position should Ugandan military forces respond
from the city. The other immediately roars to the adjacent
military airfield and begins to rake the eleven Ugandan Migs with cannon fire. Ugandan pilots rush out from their barracks
in a panic, but upon seeing their planes being destroyed by heavy cannon fire, flee from
the airfield. In moments all that remains of the Migs are
smoking wrecks riddled with heavy caliber machine gun fire. On the flight line the security element has
fanned out around the C-130s as the planes begin to refuel from on-board fuel tanks. The mood is tense and suddenly gunfire is
heard from the direction of the airport control tower as the Golani force comes under fire
from Ugandan army forces. Back inside the terminal, the commandos burst
into the building. One of the soldiers uses a bullhorn and screams
in both English and Hebrew, “Stay down! Stay down! We are Israeli soldiers!” Unfortunately a 19 year old boy stands up
in the confusion and is immediately cut down by the commandos, who believes that he is
one of the hijackers. Another hostage is also fatally wounded by
the commandos in the confusion, but the rest dive to the floor and keep their heads down. One of the hijackers, the German Willfried
Bose, rushes into the hall holding the hostages and brandishes his AK at them, but a moment
later seems to have a change of heart. Instead of firing at them, he orders the hostages
to seek shelter in the bathroom, then turns and starts firing at the commandos. In moments he is cut down by Israeli gunfire. One of the commandos asks the hostages where
the rest of the hijackers are, and the hostages all point at a door inside the terminal’s
main hall. The commandos quickly form an assault team,
lining up on either side of the door and toss in three hand grenades. As soon as the grenades explode, the commandos
burst through the doors to discover the wounded and stunned hijackers, who are immediately
shot dead. With the building secure, the commandos rush
the hostages to the exit and hurry them along to a waiting C-130. Outside though the Golani force is under assault
by a platoon of Ugandan soldiers, most of which have holed themselves up in the airport
control tower. From their vantage point the Ugandan soldiers
begin to fire down at the hostages as they are being loaded onto their C-130, but the
Israeli armored vehicles respond with their automatic cannons. Cannon fire blasts the concrete structure,
eliminating many of the Ugandans hiding within, but return fire wounds five of the commandos,
and kills the assault element’s commander, Lt. Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu. In response the Israelis fire a rocket propelled
grenade into the tower and strafe it with machine gun fire, effectively silencing any
opposition within. Loading the rest of the hostages and Netanyahu’s
body into the planes, the assault force is quickly in the air. The entire operation has lasted only 53 minutes,
with the assault itself only lasting 30 minutes. Seven hijackers, 33 to 45 Ugandan soldiers
and eleven Ugandan Migs have been lost to the Israeli commandos, and only three hostages
have been killed with ten wounded. The C-130s fly to Nairobi and link up with
the waiting medical plane, which immediately begins to treat the wounded as it climbs into
the sky and heads for home. In the aftermath of the raid Israel faced
international condemnation from many states, with a resolution raised in the UN by Benin,
Libya and Tanzania condemning Israel for what it called provocative actions, though it was
not put to a vote. The Ugandan and Israeli representatives were
summoned before the UN Security Council after a complaint was filed by the Chairman of the
Organization of African Unity charging Israel with an act of aggression. The Ugandan foreign minister claimed that
the hostage situation was nearing a peaceful diplomatic resolution, while the Israeli ambassador
charged Uganda with being fully complicit in the hijacking. In the end a general resolution condemning
international terrorism and calling for stronger civil air security- without condemning Israel’s
actions- was raised, but failed to pass in the general assembly. Most western nations would go on to praise
the Israeli raid, with representatives of the UK and the USA congratulating Israel on
an “impossible operation”. Uganda’s President Amim however was furious,
and threatened direct military action against Kenya for their support of the operation. In response the US dispatched the supercarrier
USS Ranger and her escorts to the Indian Ocean and based it off the Kenyan coast, ready to
respond if Uganda followed through with its threats. While he did not take direct military action
against Kenya, Imam did order the murder of one of the hostages who had been left behind,
Dora Bloch a 74 year old Israeli woman who had been taken to a hospital after choking
on a chicken bone. Ugandan military officers showed up at her
hospital room and dragged her out of bed before fatally shooting her, along with several Ugandan
doctors and nurses who tried to intervene. Amin would also go on to order the killing
of hundreds of Kenyans living in Uganda in retaliation, with as many as 245 Kenyans killed
by July 11th and 3,000 fleeing the nation as refugees. Was the decision to use military force the
right call for Israel, or should diplomacy have been tried to the end? Should terrorists be negotiated with? Let us know in the comments! And as always if you enjoyed this video don’t
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