thunderbolt

Operation Thunderbolt | World History | Free PDF Download

 

BACKGROUND

  • On 27 June 1976, Air France Flight 139, an Airbus A300B4-203 departed from Tel Aviv, Israel, carrying 246 mainly Jewish and Israeli passengers and a crew of 12.
  • The plane flew to Athens, Greece, where it picked up an additional 58 passengers, including four hijackers.
  • It departed for Paris at 12:30 pm. Just after takeoff, the flight was hijacked by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External Operations (PFLP-EO), and by two Germans, Wilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann, from the German Revolutionary Cells.

 BACKGROUND

  • On 27 June 1976, Air France Flight 139, an Airbus A300B4-203 departed from Tel Aviv, Israel, carrying 246 mainly Jewish and Israeli passengers and a crew of 12.
  • The plane flew to Athens, Greece, where it picked up an additional 58 passengers, including four hijackers.
  • It departed for Paris at 12:30 pm. Just after takeoff, the flight was hijacked by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External Operations (PFLP-EO), and by two Germans, Wilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann, from the German Revolutionary Cells.

 BACKGROUND

  • The hijackers diverted the flight to Benghazi, Libya. The plane left Benghazi and at 3:15 pm on the 28th, more than 24 hours after the flight’s original departure, it arrived at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
  • At Entebbe, the four hijackers were joined by at least four others, supported by the forces of Uganda’s President, Idi Amin.
  • On 28 June, a PFLP-EO hijacker issued a declaration and formulated their demands: In addition to a ransom of $5 million USD for the release of the airplane, they demanded the release of 53 Palestinian and Pro-Palestinian militants.

PROBLEMS

  • On 30 June, the hijackers released 48 hostages. The released were picked from among the non-Israeli group – mainly elderly and sick passengers and mothers with children.
  • Forty-seven of them were flown to Paris, and one passenger was treated in hospital for a day. On 1 July, after the Israeli government had conveyed its agreement to negotiations, the hostage-takers extended their deadline to noon on 4 July and released another group of 100 non-Israeli captives who again were flown to Paris a few hours later.
  • Among the 106 hostages staying behind with their captors at Entebbe airport

OPERATION PLANNING

  • Many sources indicate that the Israeli cabinet was prepared to release Palestinian prisoners if a military solution seemed unlikely to succeed.
  • Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and defence minister Shimon Peres spent one week disagreeing on whether to give in to the hijackers’ demands (Rabin’s position) or not, to prevent more terrorism (Peres’ position).
  • On 3 July, at 18:30, the Israeli cabinet approved a rescue mission,presented by Major General Yekutiel “Kuti” Adam and Brig. Gen. Dan Shomron. Shomron was appointed as the operation commander

OPERATION THUNDERBOLT

  • When Israeli authorities failed to negotiate a political solution, they decided that their only option was an attack to rescue the hostages.
  • While planning the raid, the Israeli forces had to plan how to refuel the Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft they intended to use while en route to Entebbe. The raid could not proceed without assistance from at least one East African government.
  • Kenyan Minister of Agriculture Bruce MacKenzie persuaded Kenyan President Kenyatta to permit Mossad to collect intelligence prior to the operation, and to allow the Israeli Air Force access to the Nairobi airport

TASK FORCE

  • The Mossad built an accurate picture of the whereabouts of the hostages, the number of hijackers, and the involvement of Ugandan troops from the released hostages in Paris
  • The Israeli ground task force numbered approximately 100 personnel, and comprised the following:
  1. The ground command and control element – This small group comprised the operation and overall ground commander.
  2. The assault element – A 29-man assault unit led by Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu – this force was composed entirely of commandos.
  3. The securing element – tasked with securing the civilian airport field, clearing and securing the runways, and protection and fuelling of the Israeli aircraft in Entebbe.

ATTACK

  • The Israeli forces landed at Entebbe on 3 July at 23:00 IST.When the C-130s landed, Israeli assault team members drove the vehicles to the terminal building in the same fashion as Amin.
  • Fearing the hijackers would be alerted prematurely, the assault team quickly approached the terminal.
  • The Israelis left their vehicles and ran towards the terminal. The hostages were in the main hall of the airport building, directly adjacent to the runway.
  • Entering the terminal, the commandos shouted through a megaphone, “Stay down! Stay down! We are Israeli soldiers,” in both Hebrew and English.

ATTACK

  • Jean-Jacques Maimoni, a 19-year-old French immigrant to Israel, stood up and was killed when Israeli company commander Muki Betzer and another soldier mistook him for a hijacker and fired at him. Another hostage, Pasco Cohen, 52, was also fatally wounded by gunfire from the commandos.
  • In addition, a third hostage, 56-year-old Ida Borochovitch, a Russian Jew who had emigrated to Israel, was killed by a hijacker in the crossfire.
  • After the raid, the Israeli assault team returned to their aircraft and began loading the hostages. Ugandan soldiers shot at them in the process.

ATTACK

  • The Israeli commandos returned fire with their AK47s,inflicting casualties on the Ugandans. During this brief but intense firefight, Ugandan soldiers fired from the airport control tower.
  • At least five commandos were wounded, and the Israeli unit commander Yonatan Netanyahu was killed.
  • The Israelis finished evacuating the hostages, loaded Netanyahu’s body into one of the planes, and left the airport.The entire operation lasted 53 minutes – of which the assault lasted only 30 minutes.
  • All hijackers present and Ugandan soldiers, were killed. Out of the 106 hostages, 3 were killed, 1 was left in Uganda and approximately 10 were wounded. The 102 rescued hostages were flown to Israel via Nairobi, Kenya, shortly after the raid.


World History | Free PDF