On June 27, 1976, Air France Flight 139, carrying 248 passengers and a crew of twelve, took off from Athens, heading for Paris. Soon after the 12:30 p.m. takeoff, the flight was hijacked by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and members of the German "Revolutionary Cells (RZ)" (Wilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann) The terrorists commandeered the flight, diverting it to Benghazi, Libya. The plane left Benghazi, and at 3:15 it arrived at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
At Entebbe, the four hijackers were joined by three "friends" supported by the pro-Palestinian forces of Uganda's President, Idi Amin. The hijackers were led by the German, Böse. They demanded the release of 40 Palestinian terrorists held in Israel and 13 other detainees imprisoned in Kenya, France, Switzerland, and Germany–and if these demands were not met, they threatened to begin killing hostages on July 1, 1976 . Eventually that deadline was extended to July 4th.
The hijackers held the passengers hostage in the transit hall of Entebbe Airport and released all the hostages except for Israelis and Jews whom they threatened to kill if Israel did not comply with their demands.
Upon the announcement by the hijackers that the airline crew and non-Israeli/non-Jewish passengers would be released and put on another Air France plane that had been brought to Entebbe for that purpose, Flight 139's Captain Michel Bacos told the hijackers that all passengers, including the remaining ones, were his responsibility, and that he would not leave them behind. Bacos' entire crew followed suit. A French nun also refused to leave, insisting that one of the remaining hostages take her place, but she was forced into the awaiting Air France plane by Ugandan soldiers. A total of 83 Israeli and/or Jewish hostages remained, as well as 20 others, most of whom included the crew of the Air France plane.
It was one of the most daring, spectacular rescues of modern times. For nearly a week, pro-Palestinian skyjackers had held 105 hostages—mostly Israeli—at Uganda's Entebbe Airport. Now, with time rapidly slipping away and the deadline merely hours off, death seemed ever more certain for the terrified captives. Then suddenly three Israeli C-130 Hercules transports, guns flaring, appeared in the dark sky over the airport. Shortly after midnight on July 4th 1976 Israeli Planes landed at Entebbe and began their now famous rescue.
The entire assault lasted less than 30 minutes and all six of the hijackers were killed. Yonatan Netanyahu, the Prime Minister's older brother and team leader was the only Israeli commando killed during the operation. He was shot near the airport entrance, apparently by a Ugandan sniper who fired at the Israeli commandos from the nearby control tower. At least five other Israeli commandos were wounded. Out of the 103 hostages, three were killed and approximately 10 were wounded. A total of 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed during the raid, and about 11 Ugandan Army Air Force MiG-17 grounded fighter planes at Entebbe Airport were destroyed. The rescued hostages were flown out to Israel via Nairobi shortly after the fighting.
|Yoni Netanyahu of Blessed Memory|
The government of Uganda later convened a session of the United Nations Security Council to seek official condemnation of the Israeli raid, as a violation of Ugandan sovereignty. The Security Council ultimately declined to pass any resolution on the matter.
In his address to the Council, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Chaim Herzog said:
We come with a simple message to the Council: we are proud of what we have done because we have demonstrated to the world that a small country, in Israel's circumstances, with which the members of this Council are by now all too familiar, the dignity of man, human life and human freedom constitute the highest values. We are proud not only because we have saved the lives of over a hundred innocent people—men, women and children—but because of the significance of our act for the cause of human freedom.For refusing to depart when given leave to do so by the hijackers, Captain Bacos was reprimanded by his superiors at Air France (gotta love the French) and suspended from duty for a period.
Chaim Herzog's words still ring true. That act of rescuing 100+ hostages still ring true. The Act of fighting for freedom still rings true. The lesson of Entebbe is the lesson of 1776, freedom is important enough to fight for. Both the US and Israeli governments would be well served to remember that lesson a little more often.
On the 25th anniversary of the raid Prime Minister Arial Sharon spoke:
"In these confusing times, when there are those who question our capabilities or the justness of our cause, we return to those few hours when Israel stood up and in the face of the entire community of nations, waged a battle against violence and terrorism, proving that we can win. These days, when we are in the midst of an ongoing battle against terrorism, violence and incitement, and when we are making a joint national effort to return to political negotiations without fire, we must rekindle the spirit of that operation. The secret of our strength lies in such spirit and faith, and if we learn how to renew it we will be able to meet all the challenges that still lie ahead."Thirty-seven years ago it was a different world. Israel stood up to terrorists and their daring raid was celebrated across the world. Today it is the terrorists who are celebrated, that is if they are mentioned at all.
Much of the intervening years was filled with Western appeasement of terrorism. We negotiate, we give in to their demands, we refuse to call them terrorists, we celebrate terrorists like Arafat and Abbas, we even blame terrorist acts on the victims.
Entebbe was the almost a final act of Western defiance, with every act of appeasement, with each acquiescence to terrorist demands, terrorism is suckling at the teat of Western lack of resolve. In the end, the west is feeding the monster that will cause its destruction.