Date Hebraica: 5 Tamuz, 5736
Data Inglês: 3 July, 1976
On the July 1 deadline, the Israeli government offered to negotiate with the hijackers in order to extend the deadline to July 4. Idi Amin asked the hijackers to extend the deadline until July 4, so he could take a diplomatic trip to Port Louis, Mauritius in order to officially hand over the chairship of The Organization of African Unity to Seewoosagur Ramgoolam . This extension of the hostage deadline would prove crucial in allowing Israeli forces enough time to get to Entebbe.
On July 3, the Israeli cabinet approved a rescue mission, Operation Entebbe, under the command of Major General Yekutiel "Kuti" Adam, Deputy Commander was Matan Vilnai. Brigadier General Dan Shomron was appointed to command the operation on the ground. After days of collecting intelligence and planning by Netanyahu's deputy Moshe "Muki" Betser, four Israeli Air Force C-130 Hercules transport aircraft flew secretly to Entebbe Airport, by cover of night, without aid of Entebbe ground control.
Their route was over Sharm al-Sheikh, and down the international flight path over the Red Sea. Near the south outlet of the Red Sea the C-130s turned right and passed south of Djibouti. From there they went to a point northeast of Nairobi, Kenya (likely across Somalia and the Ogaden area of Ethiopia), then turned west passing through the African Rift Valley and over Lake Victoria . They were followed by two Boeing 707 jets. The first Boeing contained medical facilities and landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. The commander of the operation, General Yekutiel Adam, was on board the second Boeing that circled over Entebbe Airport during the raid.
The Israeli ground task force numbered approximately 100 personnel and comprised the following:
- The Ground Command & Control Element
- This small group comprised the overall ground commander, Brig. Gen. Shomron, and the communications and support personnel.
- The Assault or "Takeover" Element
- Led by Lt. Col. Netanyahu, this force was composed entirely of commandos from Sayeret Matkal, and were given the primary task of assaulting the old terminal and rescuing the hostages. Major Betser personally led one of the element's assault teams, Matan Vilnai led another.
- The Blocking / Reinforcement or "Engagement" Element
- Securing the area, and preventing any hostile ground force from interfering with the C-130 Hercules aircraft and the actual rescue.
- Destroying the squadron of MiG fighter jets on the ground to prevent any possible interceptions by the Ugandan Air Force.
- Assisting in the ground refuelling of the air transports.
- Providing protection for and assisting in the loading of the hostages aboard the transports.
The Israeli forces landed at Entebbe an hour before midnight, with their cargo bay doors already open. A black Mercedes with accompanying Land Rovers was taken along to give the impression that the Israeli troops driving from the landed aircraft to the terminal building were an escort for a returning Idi Amin or other high-ranking official. The Mercedes car was borrowed from an Israeli civilian and apparently spray-painted black for the raid, on the understanding that it would be returned to the owner in its original colour.
The Mercedes and its escort vehicles were quickly driven by the Israeli assault team members to the airport terminal in the same fashion as Amin. However, along the way, two Ugandan sentries, who were aware that Idi Amin had recently purchased a white Mercedes to replace his black one, ordered this procession of vehicles to stop. Both of these sentries were immediately shot dead by the Israeli commandos. Fearing premature alerting of associates to the hijackers, the Israeli assault team was quickly sent into action.
The hostages were in the main hall of the airport building, directly adjacent to the runway. The Israelis sprang from their vehicles and burst into the terminal yelling, "Get down! Get down!" in both Hebrew and English. A 19-year-old French Jew named Jean-Jacques Maimoni (who chose to identify himself as an Israeli Jew to the hijackers even though he had a French passport), stood up, however. He was killed by the Israeli commandos, who mistook him for a hijacker. Another hostage, Pasco Cohen, 52, manager of an Israeli medical insurance fund, was also fatally wounded by gunfire, either from the hijackers or accidentally by the Israeli commandos. A third hostage, 56-year-old Ida Borochovitch, a Russian Jew who had immigrated to Israel, was also killed in the crossfire. At one point, an Israeli commando called out in Hebrew, "Where are the rest of them?", apparently referring to the hijackers. The hostages pointed to a connecting door of the airport's main hall, into which the Israeli commandos threw several hand grenades. They then entered the room and shot dead the three remaining hijackers, thus completing their assault.
Meanwhile, the other three C-130 Hercules had landed and unloaded armored personnel carriers, which were to be used for defense during the anticipated hour of refueling, for the destruction of grounded Ugandan jet fighters so as to prevent them from pursuing the Israelis after their departure from Entebbe Airport, and for intelligence-gathering.
After the raid, the Israeli assault team returned to their aircraft and began loading the hostages on board. Ugandan soldiers shot at them in the process. Without suffering any fatalities of their own, the Israeli commandos returned fire, finished the loading, and then left Entebbe Airport.
The entire assault lasted less than 30 minutes and all seven hijackers were killed. Yonatan Netanyahu was the only Israeli commando who died during the operation. He was killed near the airport entrance, apparently by a Ugandan sniper who fired at the Israeli commandos from the nearby airport control tower. At least five other Israeli commandos were wounded. Out of the 105 hostages, three were killed and approximately 10 were wounded. A total of 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed during the raid, and about 11 Ugandan Army Air Force MiG-17 fighter planes were destroyed on the ground at Entebbe Airport. The rescued hostages were flown to Israel via Nairobi, Kenya shortly after the fighting.
Dora Bloch, a 75-year-old hostage taken to Mulago Hospital in Kampala, was killed by the Ugandan government, as were some of her doctors and nurses for apparently trying to intervene. In April 1987, Henry Kyemba, Uganda's Attorney General and Minister of Justice at the time, told the Uganda Human Rights Commission that Dora Bloch had been dragged from her hospital bed and murdered by two army officers on Idi Amin's orders. Bloch's remains were recovered near a sugar plantation 20 miles (32 km) east of Kampala in 1979, after the Uganda-Tanzania War led to the end of Amin's rule.
Israeli firms were often involved in building projects in Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. One reason the raid was so well-planned was that the building in which the hostages were being held was built by an Israeli construction firm, who still had the blueprints, and supplied them to the government of Israel. Additionally, Mossad (Israel's intelligence service) built an accurate picture of the whereabouts of the hostages, the number of militants and the involvement of Ugandan troops from the released hostages in Paris.
While planning the military operation, the Israeli army built a partial replica of the airport terminal with the help of some Israeli civilians who had helped build it. It has been claimed by researchers that after arriving at the military base to begin work on the replica building (not being aware beforehand what they were to do), the civilian Israeli contractors were invited to dinner with the commander of the base. At the dinner, it was indicated to them that, upon completion of the replica, and in the best interest of national security, they would be held as guests of the military for a few days. During the entire operation an extremely high level of secrecy was maintained.
According to a July 5, 2006, Associated Press interview with raid organizer "Muki" Betser, Mossad operatives extensively interviewed the hostages who had been released. As a result, another source of information was a French-Jewish passenger who had been mistakenly released with the non-Jewish hostages. Betzer reports that the man had military training and "a phenomenal memory", allowing him to give information about the number and arms of the hostage-takers, among other useful details.
In the week prior to the raid, Israel had tried a number of political avenues to obtain the release of the hostages. Many sources indicate that the Israeli cabinet was prepared to release Palestinian prisoners if a military solution seemed unlikely to succeed. A retired IDF officer, Baruch "Burka" Bar-Lev, had known Idi Amin for many years and was considered to have a strong personal relationship with him. At the request of the cabinet he spoke with Amin on the phone many times, attempting to obtain the release of the hostages without success.