Posted: 3/12/2008


     A brave man died in Israel recently, Brigader-General Dan Shomron, commander of Operation Thunderbolt on June 27th, 1976, one of the most daring rescues in history.

     It was the famous Rescue in Entebbe, the international airport near Kampala, Uganda. Air France 139 an Airbus on route from Tel Aviv to Paris was refueling in Athens, Greece when it was taken over by members of the PLO and two German terrorists. It was flown to Benghazi, Libya, a terrorist haven for many years and then to Entebbe, near Lake Victoria where dictator Idi Amin provided more terrorist support. The French crew and non jews were released but captain Michel Bacos and his entire crew refused to leave. The highjackers demanded the release of 53 convicted terrorists in prison in Israel and elsewhere, or they would start murdering their hostages. The negotiations went on for the best part of a week.

    In the meantime The Mossad and the IDF Israeli Defence Force, with the support of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin planned a daring rescue mission. They had some lucky breaks. The released hostages who arrived in Paris gave information on numbers, locations and the arms of the highjackers, and the airport building had been built by Israeli contractors, who still had the blue prints and built a scale model on an Israeli Air base.

   Dan Shomron led the raid which consisted of 4 C130 transport planes with 200 heavily armed soldiers and 2 707s that gave support at nearby Nairobi, Kenya Airport. The flight took 7 hours and 40 minutes and the lead Hercules was led by Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, whose younger brother would eventually become Prime Minister. As the planes landed at Entebbe, 2 jeeps and a black painted Mercedes limousine, borrowed from an Israeli civilian and painted to resemble the personal limo of dictator Idi Amin, rolled down the ramp and raced for the terminal with its 105 hostages. All 8 terrorists and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed and 11 Mig jets of the Ugandan Air Force were destroyed on the ground. The  Israeli cabinet was informed just after the planes left Israel and supported their Prime Minister. The whole operation was over in less than an hour.

  Unfortunately 4 hostages were killed in the cross fire and Netanyahu was fatally wounded by a sniper in the control tower, and died on the flight home. The operation name was then changed to Operation Yonatan in his honour. Captain Michel Bacos was disciplined by his airline for refusing to be released early!!  Shomron eventually became IDF Chief of Staff but prior to that, in 1978 was responsible for the dismanteling of Israeli settlements as part of the Camp David Peace Accords

  Amin got the U.N Security Council to convene but his protests rightly fell on deaf ears after a speech by UN Ambassador Chaim Herzog.

  A number of movies and television dramas were produced in both Israel and Hollywood, including Victory at Entebbe in 1976 starring Anthony Hopkins, Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Dreyfuss. A year later, Raid on Entebbe, starring Peter Finch, Horst Buchholz, Charles Bronson and James Woods.

  Idi Amin, the worste of the African dictators until more recent worste African dictators was overthrown in 1979 and went to live in Saudi Arabia as their guest.