• Isaac Simon

Operation Thunderbolt (Entebbe) is Completed, 1976

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

On This Day in Jewish History: July 4th, 1976




The counter terrorism hostage rescue mission by the Israeli Sayeret Matkal, Operation Thunderbolt, in Entebbe is completed.


A week earlier on June 27th, an airliner carrying 248 passengers was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as well as two members from German Revolutionary Cells. The hijackers intended on freeing 40 Palestinian terrorists and associated militants held prisoner in Israel along with thirteen prisoners in four different countries.


The flight’s initial departure was from Tel Aviv with a planned arrival in Paris. However the flight was diverted following a stop in Athens by way of Benghazi to Entebbe, Uganda’s main airport. Uganda leader, Idi Amin was both aware and in full support of the operation. Upon landing in Uganda, the hostages were placed in a building of the airport that was no longer in use and separated the Israelis and a few Jewish non-Israeli passengers, distancing them from the rest of the group in a separate room. Over the next 48 hours, 148 non-Israeli hostages were flown out to Paris. The remaining ninety-four passengers, most of whom were Israeli as well as all twelve members of the Air France Crew, were held hostage.


Acting on intelligence provided by the Mossad, the hijackers pressed the death threats, insisting that the hostages would be killed if Israel failed to release the Palestinian prisoners. What followed was seven days of intense planning, followed by strategic geopolitical military strategy, with some one hundred commandos transported into Uganda covertly.


The rescue mission culminated in a ninety minute operation. 102 of the 106 remaining hostages were safely rescued. Of the three that weren’t, two were killed in the operation and the third was hospitalized and passed shortly thereafter. Five of Israel’s commandos were wounded and Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, the brother of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu was killed. The Operation, which by all means was successful, resulted in the death of all seven hijackers and forty-five Ugandan soldiers - none of their demands were met.



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