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June 27: The Entebbe Raid

Lawrence Bush
June 27, 2010

idi_aminOn this date in 1976, an Air France Airbus departing from Tel Aviv with 248 passengers and 12 crew members was hijacked by two Palestinian militants and two German revolutionaries after making a stop in Athens. The plane ended up in the Entebbe Airport in Uganda, where three more hijackers got on board. They sorted the passengers into groups of Jews and non-Jews and eventually released the latter. Uganda’s dictator Idi Amin was in league with the hijackers, or at least highly supportive of them as they demanded the release of 40 Palestinians from Israeli jails and 13 others imprisoned in Kenya, France, Switzerland and Germany. If these demands were not met, they threatened, they would begin killing passengers on July 1. Israel postponed this deadline with an offer to negotiate, and then mounted a commando raid on July 4th that freed the hostages. All seven hijackers were killed, as well as three of 105 hostages and one Israeli soldier — Jonathan Netanyahu, the brother of the current prime minister. Up to 45 Ugandan soldiers were also killed while resisting the two hundred or so Israelis involved in the raid. A fourth Jewish hostage, age 75, was later murdered by the Ugandan government in a Kampala hospital. The Entebbe raid heightened the legend of Israeli military effectiveness and marked the beginning of the end for the reign of Idi Amin, who fell from power two years later.
“I looked inside their [the freed hostages’] plane and saw all the expressions in the world, from total hysteria and crying to singing.” — Lt Col Joshua Shani

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.