The combat forces were airlifted by four C-130 cargo aircraft from the Ophir airport in southern Sinai on the afternoon of Jul. 3. The airlifters arrived at Entebbe and landed at the airfield after a seven-hour flight…
Today marks 44 years since Operation Entebbe, one of the most daring hostage rescue missions in history.
On Jun. 27, 1976, a group of terrorists hijacked an Air France Airbus airliner after a short layover in Athens while it was making its way from Ben-Gurion to Paris. The terrorists forced the Airbus to land at the Benghazi airport in Libya after having taken control of the. Once refueled, the hijacked aircraft continued southward, and landed at Entebbe airport in Uganda, about 50 kilometers from the capital Kampala, on the morning of June 28. The plane had 148 passengers on board. As explained by Israeli Air Force website in the article Operation Entebbe, President of Uganda Idi Amin embraced the hijackers, deploying his troops to help them. To release the hostages the terrorists demanded in return the release of 52 prisoners held in Israel, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Kenya.
The political echelon assigned the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to carry out a military operation to free the hostages after several diplomatic attempts to free them were thwarted. The IDF’s special ops unit “Sayeret Matkal” executed a special operation with the participation of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). After swiftly laying out a plan and carrying out training on an operational model, the operation was underway. The combat forces were airlifted by four C-130 cargo aircraft from the Ophir airport in southern Sinai on the afternoon of Jul. 3. The airlifters arrived at Entebbe and landed at the airfield after a seven-hour flight. The combat forces stormed the airfield, and released the hostages who were held in the terminal. Two Boeing 707 aircraft were also in the air during the operation. One served as an airborne hospital and the other as a relay and command post, from which the deputy chief of staff and the IAF commander controlled the operation.
The C-130s took off from Entebbe at the end of the operation. On their way back, they landed for refueling at the Nairobi airport in Kenya. The operation ended on the morning of Jul. 4, 1976, when the aircraft landed with the hostages in Israel.
Originally codenamed Operation Thunderbolt, the mission would later be known as “Operation Yonatan” in memory of Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu Z”L, commander of “Sayeret Matkal” during the operation, who was the only IDF soldier killed during the mission.
Photo credit: Israeli Air Force