On June 27, 1976, Air France Flight 139 was hijacked on its way to Paris, France from Tel Aviv, Israel. What followed was the most daring—and successful—rescue mission in Israeli history: Operation Entebbe.
Departing Tel Aviv, Israel with 248 passengers and 12 crew members, four terrorists climbed aboard and hijacked Flight AF139 during a refueling stop in Athens, Greece. The terrorists forcefully diverted the flight to Benghazi, Libya and then to Entebbe, Uganda where they would separate the Israeli hostages from the rest, who were flown to Paris, France.
The terrorists demanded $5 million dollars ransom and the release of 53 Palestinian terrorists, 40 of whom were in Israeli prisons. If the demands were unmet, the terrorists would execute the hostages.
A group of 100 elite IDF soldiers consisting of expert pilots, paratroopers and soldiers from the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal, took off for Entebbe in the night. The four C-130 planes, which carried 30-40% more than its maximum capacity—including two Land Rovers and a Mercedes—flew at unbelievably low altitudes to avoid detection by radar.
Approaching Entebbe, the soldiers timed the landing of the first plane at the same time a separate civilian aircraft was due in order to avoid detection by radar.
Upon landing, the IDF soldiers successfully used the Land Rovers and Mercedes to deceive the terrorists into believing that they were President Amin’s security detail and made their way to the terminal. Just moments before reaching the terminal, a Ugandan terrorist spotted the soldiers and began firing at the IDF soldiers.
Amidst an exchange of fire, the IDF troops killed all the Ugandan terrorists holding the civilians hostage in the terminal. Ugandan fire tragically killed three hostages and Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu, commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit.
Within 58 minutes of landing in Entebbe, 102 of the hostages were on a plane to Tel Aviv, Israel.
In memory of Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu, the operation has also been named Operation Jonathan.
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