July 4, 2012 was the 36th anniversary of the breathtaking Israeli ‘Raid on Entebbe’ that freed 105 hostages in Uganda, but lost one Israeli soldier – Jonathon Netanyahu, the brother of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Here are some excerpts of an interview about the Raid with Brig. Gen. (res.) Joshua Shani who was the lead pilot in Operation Entebbe”
On June 27, 1976, a Paris-bound Air France flight from Tel Aviv, via Athens, was hijacked and diverted to Entebbe, Uganda. Two of the hijackers were members of the German Baader-Meinhof Gang, and two were from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They demanded the release of 53 jailed terrorists in Israel.
On the third day of the crisis, the terrorists separated Israeli and Jewish passengers from the others. The captors freed the non-Jews and sent them to France the next day. Quietly, while the rest of the world talked but did nothing, the Israel Defense Forces planned a rescue mission.
Through the eyes of Brig. Gen. (res.) Joshua Shani:
“We began our journey from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, which at the time was under Israeli control. The takeoff from Sharm was one of the heaviest ever in the history of this airplane. I didn’t have a clue what would happen. The aircraft was crowded. I was carrying the Sayeret Matkal assault team, led by Yonatan Netanyahu. I was also carrying a Mercedes, which was supposed to confuse Ugandan soldiers at the airport, because Idi Amin, the country’s dictator, had the same car. And I also found room to pack Land Rovers and a paratrooper force.”
“We had to fly very close to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, over the Gulf of Suez. We weren’t afraid of violating anyone’s air space — it’s an international air route. The problem was that they might pick us up on radar. We flew really low — 100 feet above the water, a formation of four planes. The main element was surprise. All it takes is one truck to block a runway, and that’s all. The operation would be over. Therefore, secrecy was critical.”
“At some places that were particularly dangerous, we flew at an altitude of 35 feet. I recall the altimeter reading. Trust me, this is scary! In this situation, you cannot fly close formation. As flight leader, I didn’t know if I still had planes 2, 3 and 4 behind me because there was total radio silence. You can’t see behind you in a C-130.”
I stopped in the middle of the runway, and a group of paratroopers jumped out from the side doors and marked the runway with electric lights, so that the other planes behind me could have an easier time landing. The paratroopers went on to take the control tower. The Mercedes and Land Rovers drove out from the back cargo door of my airplane, and the commandos stormed the old terminal building where the hostages were. While coordinating the assault, Yonatan Netanyahu, Sayeret Matkal’s commander, was fatally shot by a Ugandan soldier. READ THE REST
This is an excellent reenactment of the near-perfect raid and rescue operation. Makes you wonder why Jimmy Carter didn’t allow our military to do the same thing in Iran.