Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni at Entebbe airport in Uganda yesterday. Netanyahu, now Israeli Prime Minister, visited Entebbe, making him the first prime minister of Israel to visit the region. (PHOTO: COURTESY/ REUTERS)
Entebbe operation: The Kenyan connection that made raid a success
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin netanyahu was expected in Kenya yesterday evening in a visit that coincided with the legendary hostage rescue in Entebbe, Uganda. Forty years later the Entebbe operation still reads like a scene from a Hollywood movie. Indeed, movies have been shot and books written on the heroic exploits of the Israeli commandoes. The raid was even taught at military colleges including the respected Sandhurst as a model special forces operation. But the rescue plan could not have worked without Kenya’s help. The planes landed in Kenya for refuelling and the injured were also treated here. That the army and the General Service Unit were used to secure the airport clearly shows the Kenyan connection in the whole operation.Operation Entebbe looked like a scene from a Hollywood Movie. Under the cover of darkness, a plane carrying Israeli commandos escaped the enemy radar to land at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The men in uniform had a delicate mission. The commandos were here to rescue their citizens who were being held hostage at Entebbe airport. Without wasting time, they raced across the airport, burst into the terminal building that was holding 103 passengers and crew of an Air France plane, which had been hijacked a few days earlier. “Get down. This is IDF (Israeli Defence Forces),” the commandos ordered. The commandos mercilessly gunned down six of the ‘hijackers’ who attempted to stop them. The Entebbe raid had just began. It was the night of July 3, 1976. The events that followed were later used to recreate various training manuals for the military in the world. The hijackers were from a group known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It is believed that the hijackers had been granted permission to land the French plane in Entebbe by President Idi Amin. They were determined to hold the hostages until their demands to have their compatriots released from jails in Israel and elsewhere were accepted. Runway lights Yonatan Netanyahu, who was leading the strike force had been shot in the encounter. But this did not derail their mission. It is not clear whether the three planes used in the mission were able to land and exit without runway lights. This is not the only mystery surrounding the raid 40 years later. Yesterday, Yonatan’s brother Benjamin Netanyahu, now Israeli Prime Minister, visited Entebbe, making him the first prime minister of Israel to visit the region. The commandos rescued the hostages, who were badly shaken at the time, whisked them to a cargo plane and flew them out of Uganda into safety.
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