Marking an important moment On This Day in Jewish History: July 4th, 1976, the well-planned and executed counter-terrorism hostage rescue mission by the Israeli Sayeret Matkal, known as Operation Thunderbolt Entebbe, reached its climax.

A Hostage Situation in Entebbe, 1976

Seven days prior, on June 27th, a commercial airliner filled with 248 passengers became the target of a high-profile hijacking. This was executed by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and two members of the German Revolutionary Cells. Their goal was to liberate 40 Palestinian terrorists held prisoner in Israel, along with thirteen prisoners in four different countries.

The airliner had originally embarked from Tel Aviv intending to land in Paris. However, a detour in Athens led the plane to be rerouted to Entebbe, Uganda’s primary airport. Ugandan leader, Idi Amin, had knowledge of and endorsed the hijacking operation. Upon their arrival in Uganda, the hostages were held in an abandoned airport building, with the Israeli and Jewish non-Israeli passengers separated from the rest. Over the next two days, 148 non-Israeli hostages were returned to Paris, leaving behind 94 passengers, most of whom were Israeli, along with the twelve members of the Air France Crew as hostages.

Response: Operation Thunderbolt Entebbe

Based on the intelligence supplied by Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, the Israeli government was aware that the hijackers were threatening to kill the hostages if their demands weren’t met. What followed was a week of intense planning and strategic military maneuvering, resulting in around one hundred commandos being covertly transported into Uganda.

The mission’s pinnacle was a fast-paced, ninety-minute operation. All but four of the remaining 106 hostages were rescued successfully. Among the hostages who weren’t rescued, two were killed during the operation, and the third, who had been hospitalized, succumbed to their injuries shortly after. Five of Israel’s commandos were injured, and Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, the brother of future Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, was killed. Despite these losses, Operation Thunderbolt Entebbe was deemed a success. The mission ended with the deaths of all seven hijackers and forty-five Ugandan soldiers, and none of their demands were met.

Additional Information and Image Source

For more details and a visual recount of the mission, visit this Instagram post:

Image Source

For a more visual representation of Operation Thunderbolt, check out this link:

Text Source

For further reading on the Operation Thunderbolt Entebbe, this text resource offers a deeper insight: