June 22, 2007

Today in Jewish History - Tammuz 6

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On July 4, 1976, as America was celebrating its bicentennial, Israeli commandos performed a spectacular raid to rescue 100 Jews held hostage at Entebbe airport in Uganda. One week earlier, an Air France flight was hijacked by Palestinian terrorists, who landed the plane in Uganda with the support of dictator Idi Amin. The terrorists threatened to kill the Jewish hostages if the Israeli government did not release convicted Palestinian terrorists. (Amazingly, the flight crew all voluntarily chose to stay with the Jewish captives rather than be released; upon their return to Paris, they were reprimanded by Air France executives and temporarily suspended from duty.) The government of Israel refused to negotiate with the terrorists, and quickly planned a rescue mission. Conveniently, Israel had the blueprints for the building in which the hostages were held -- it was built by an Israeli construction firm. Two hundred Israeli soldiers were flown to Entebbe; they brought along a black Mercedes disguised to look like Idi Amin's personal car. The raid took a total of 58 minutes, in which all the terrorists were killed, and all but three of the hostages were safely rescued. The raid, dubbed Operation Thunderbolt, was subsequently renamed Operation Yonatan -- after Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, the leader of the raid, and the only Israeli soldier killed.