While in Israel on Taglit-Birthright Israel we had the opportunity to get a first hand account on the Raid on Entebee. Maxi Kazin was one of the special force soldieries who participated in the raid which saved hundreds of lives. Operation Entebbe was a hostage-rescue mission carried out by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on 4 July 1976. A week earlier, on 27 June, an Air France plane with 248 passengers was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists and supporters and flown to Entebbe, near Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Shortly after landing, all non-Jewish passengers were released.
The IDF acted on intelligence provided by the Israeli secret agency Mossad. In the wake of the hijacking by members of the militant organizations Revolutionary Cells and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, along with the hijackers’ threats to kill the hostages if their prisoner release demands were not met, the rescue operation was planned. These plans included preparation for armed resistance from Ugandan military troops. The operation took place at night, as Israeli transport planes carried 100 commandos over 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to Uganda for the rescue operation. The operation, which took a week of planning, lasted 90 minutes and 103 hostages were rescued. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one, the commander, Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed. All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed, and 11 Soviet-built MiG-17s of Uganda’s air force were destroyed. A fourth hostage was murdered by Ugandan army officers at a nearby hospital.
The rescue, named Operation Thunderbolt, is sometimes referred to as Operation Jonathan in memory of the unit’s leader, Netanyahu. He was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, who served as the Prime Minister of Israel from 1996 to 1999 as well as since 2009. As a result of the operation the United States military developed highly-trained rescue teams modeled on the Entebbe rescue. The most visible attempt to imitate it was Operation Eagle Claw, a failed rescue of 53 American embassy personnel held hostage in Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis.