Operation Entebbe

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Operation Entebbe was a hostage-rescue mission carried out by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on July 4, 1976.[1] A week earlier, on June 27, an Air France plane with 248 passengers was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and supporters and flown to Entebbe, near Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Shortly after landing, all non-Jewish passengers were released.

The IDF acted on intelligence provided by Israeli secret agency Mossad. In the wake of the hijacking by members of the militant organizations Revolutionary Cells and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, along with the hijackers' threats to kill the hostages if their prisoner release demands were not met, the rescue operation was planned.[2] These plans included preparation for armed resistance from Ugandan military troops.[3]

The operation took place at night, as Israeli transport planes carried 100 elite commandos over 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to Uganda for the rescue operation. The operation, which took a week of planning, lasted 90 minutes and 103 hostages were rescued. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one, the commander, Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed. All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed, and 11 Soviet-built MiG-17's of Uganda's air force were destroyed.[4] A fourth hostage was murdered [5] by Ugandan army officers at a nearby hospital.[6]

The successful rescue, named Operation Thunderbolt, is sometimes referred to as Operation Jonathan in memory of the unit's leader, Jonathan Netanyahu. He was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, currently the Prime Minister of Israel.[7] As a direct result of the successful operation, the United States military developed highly trained rescue teams modeled on the Entebbe rescue. The most visible, though unsuccessful attempt to imitate it was Operation Eagle Claw, a failed attempt to rescue 53 American embassy personnel held hostage in Tehran, during the Iran hostage crisis.[8][9]

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