Operation Thunderbolt, more formally known as Operation Entebbe, was a counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission, led by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), which took place in 1976 at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
Palestinian and German terrorists hijacked an Air France flight, forcing it to land in Uganda, where they held the passengers and crew hostage. The terrorists demanded the release of several Palestinian and pro-Palestinian militants who were being held in Israeli custody.
The IDF launched a daring raid on the airport, flying commandos deep into enemy territory to rescue the hostages.
The operation was a success, with the hostages being freed and most of the terrorists killed.
However, several hostages and several IDF soldiers were also killed during the operation. The operation was widely hailed as a success and a major victory for the IDF and for counter-terrorism efforts around the world.
Air France Flight Hijacked
On June 27, 1976, an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists.
The plane, with 248 passengers and 12 crew members on board, was forced to land in Entebbe, Uganda, where it was held by the terrorists in the airport terminal.
The hijackers, who belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the German Revolutionary Cells, demanded the release of several Palestinian and pro-Palestinian militants who were being held in Israeli custody, as well as a ransom of $5 million and the release of 53 political prisoners held by various countries.
The hijackers separated the Jewish and Israeli passengers from the others and held them as hostages.
The Ugandan President, Idi Amin, supported the hijackers and allowed them to use the airport as a base for their operations.
Complicated Mission Plan Takes Form
Before the raid on Entebbe was launched, a significant amount of operational planning took place. The Israeli government formed a special task force to plan and execute the rescue mission, which was led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres.
The task force had to consider various factors such as the location of the hostages, the layout of the airport, the number and armament of the hijackers, the readiness of the Ugandan military and the possibility of civilian casualties. They also had to plan the logistics of flying a commando unit from Israel deep into enemy territory, to the airport in Entebbe.
In order to prepare the operation, the task force used various sources of information, including satellite imagery, reconnaissance flights, and intelligence provided by friendly foreign governments. They also used mock-ups of the airport terminal to train the commandos in the layout of the building and the positions of the hijackers.
The task force also had to consider the element of surprise and timing, the commandos carried out the operation at night, when the airport was less busy and the Ugandan military was on low alert. They also had to plan for the possibility of failure and the need for a quick and organized retreat.
Overall, the planning that went into the operation was extensive, and involved a great deal of coordination and attention to detail. The success of the operation was in large part due to the careful planning that preceded it.
Elite Commandos Launch the Raid
On July 4, 1976, a team of Israeli commandos, led by Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu (the older brother of the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) was flown in a long-range C-130 Hercules transport plane to Entebbe airport, deep inside enemy territory.
The commandos landed at the airport and quickly secured the perimeter of the terminal building, where the hostages were being held. They then entered the building, killing or capturing the hijackers and rescuing the hostages.
The operation was completed within approximately 45 minutes.
The hostages were then quickly taken to the waiting planes, and flown back to Israel. In total, 102 hostages were rescued and flown back to Israel, with only four hostages and one commando dying in the operation. The hijackers and several Ugandan soldiers were killed during the raid.
The operation was widely hailed as a success, both for the skill and bravery of the commandos, as well as the careful planning and execution of the mission. It is still considered one of the most successful counter-terrorism operations in history.
Aftermath of Operation Thunderbolt
Operation Entebbe was widely hailed as a success, both for the skill and bravery of the commandos and the careful planning of the mission.
It is still considered one of the most successful counter-terrorism operations in history.
The operation had a significant impact on the international community and the war on terror. It was seen as a major victory for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and for counter-terrorism efforts around the world.
It also served as a warning to terrorist groups and rogue states that the international community would not tolerate hijackings and hostage-takings.
On the other hand, it had a negative effect on the relationship between Uganda and Israel, after the Ugandan President Idi Amin had supported the hijackers and allowed them to use the airport as a base for their operations.
Following the raid, Amin expelled the Israeli ambassador and broke off diplomatic relations.
In conclusion, the operation was a high-risk, high-reward venture that ended as a huge success, both in terms of rescuing the hostages and in terms of the message it sent to terrorist groups and rogue states.