This is the incredible story of one of the most heroic rescues of modern times, an incident that has become a virtual legend without equal in the archives of anti-terrorist operations. There can be few readers who are not already familiar with the spectacular rescue by Israeli forces at Entebbe Airport, Uganda during July 1976. A rescue that has been committed to both film, documentary and the written page. This captivating book by William Stevenson records in minute detail the hour by hour events throughout the period of this critical event, beginning with the actual in-flight hijacking of Air France Flight 139 en route from Athens to Paris, carrying over 262 passengers and crew. A hijacking endorsed and supported by the then President of the Republic of Uganda, Idi Amin. Possibly the first time that any modern nation and it's leader actually became the protector and spokesman for terrorists and political blackmailers. The writer taking time to document the 'behind the scenes' sponsorship and relationship between the hijackers, Uganda, Libya and Palestinian terrorist groups towards this methodically planned and carefully executed act of air piracy by Palestinian terrorists. The book continues at a rapid pace and is difficult to put down. It may appear dated but it's relevancy to our day is unquestionable. From the outset, the book shows in alarming clarity the political climate of the time in that no country other than Israel was prepared to do little other than negotiate with the terrorists. What is meant by this is that no other country was prepared to take on the responsibility of a rescue mission of any description. (One is left to ponder how much the heroic actions of the Israeli armed forces during this incident have had on the change in Worldwide perception of dealing with hijackings and terrorist attacks of this nature which had previously served to bully and hold to ransom democracies across the globe.) The book illustrates that with the sudden early release of some 47 passengers, coinciding with the separation of the Israeli/Jewish hostages from the others, the obvious agenda of the terrorist mission became only too apparent. Israel and Israelis were the target. This excellent book reconstructs the critical events throughout this incident, including the terrorists' demands, ultimatums and deadlines towards the bartering of the innocent passengers for convicted terrorists being held in custody. The individual make-up of the terrorist group is also examined, as are the political and military reactions of those on the Israeli side, together with the military preparations for the rescue mission. This is a rivetting read of how, just hours before the deadline for the execution of the hostages expired, Israeli commandos travelled silently over 2,500 miles from Israel to Entebbe, landed in darkness at the airport, fought with Ugandan troops & the terrorists and rescued some 103 hostages taking them back to the safety of the Jewish state. On this scale, as an operation of pure heroism this surely must stand alone. As a military task it was considerable, almost miraculous. To travel such a distance across International boundaries to carry out such an action is surely without precedent. One can only stand back in admiration for those rescuers described in this book. The writer describes how sadly, the Israeli operational leader Colonel Yehonatan Netanyahu, was killed during the rescue. Known among his friends, family and compatriots as 'Yoni', the heroism of this leader of the young Jewish state is legendary. Words alone are difficult to find & perhaps inadequate to pay tribute to 'Yoni' and his men. As an ex-serviceman myself, I can only say that everyone that I have served with holds them in the highest reverence and honour. (Most readers will be aware that Yoni's brother, Benjamin Netanyahu, later became Israeli Prime Minister.) This indeed is an essential addition to anyone's library on Middle East history. In a time when security and safety during air travel is again at the forefront of everyone's minds following the September 11th atrocities, this is a stirring reminder of how the heroism of ordinary people will not, and indeed cannot, submit to the demands of those who would hold the innocent to ransom amid threats of violence. Highly recommended.
This book is detailed on the strategy and operations behind the one of the most heroic rescue operations in history- and as such is an exciting read on espionage and counter-terrorism. But it also helps to illustrate that what Operation Thunderbolt was all about is that Israel does have the most powerful reasons for it's existence. Without Israel the hostages at Entebbe would have died or become hostages in a terror war aimed at destroying all that is good on the face of the earth. The hostages were Jews-incarcerated by the German and Arab terrorists only because they were Jews.
There was certainly something obscene 31 years after the Holocaust about Germans shouting orders at Jewish hostages and waving guns over their heads, while engaging in 'selektzia' - selection of the prisoners of terror, with all those with Israeli names ordered into a different section of the building. The Arab terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were were led by a German man and woman from the Marxist German terrorist group the Baader Meinhof Gang. Their behaviour reminded at least one hostage, himself bearing tattooed numbers from a concentration camp of Nazis.
The terrorists who hijacked the Air France Flight 139 were executing a meticulously conceived plan by an international terrorist network controlled by the Soviet Union and directed by terrorist regimes such as that of Libyan mass murderer Muammar Gaddafi. The terrorist operation was endorsed by the then President of Uganda, Idi Amin Dada, who hosted the terrorists and their operation and gave it every assistance. After the massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Idi Amin had sent a message to the United Nations expressing his joy and appreciation of the murders, adding praise for Hitler's extermination of six million Jews.
The author points out a warning that is more pertinent today than ever. "If terrorism succeeds against Israel, then it is only a matter of time before every democracy faces the same threat on a global scale". As American statesman Daniel Moynihan said at the time of Operation Thunderbolt "Israel has become the metaphor for democracy as much as the utterly as much as the utterly unprincipled attacks by terrorists on Israeli civilians has become a metaphor for the general assault on democracy and decency which is the sustaining ethos of totalitarianism in our time". Words which are even more true today than at the time they were spoken. Following the rescue operation at Entebbe, Israel was excoriated by the Communist and Arab bloc and Uganda for what was labelled bizarrely as an 'attack on the Third World", completely ignoring the fact that Amin's Uganda had been the aggressor by facilitating the criminal piracy and hostage-taking. And yet the world made a lot more sense in 1976. most of the free world knew Israel was quite justified in rescuing her own innocent civilians If such an operation had taken place today, the anti-Israel vultures of the world led by Islamic and Leftist opinion makers would have made sure of a world fit of hysteria and hatred against Israel, such as those that take place whenever Israel takes steps to protects it's population from genocidal Islamic aggression. An Israeli mother, one of the hostages together with her family asked one of the German hijackers a question as pertinent to pro-Palestinian agitators and terror-instigators as ever today : "Let's suppose that you and the 'Front' and all the other enemies of Israel in the Arab countries and elsewhere succeed in destroying Israel, heaven forbid, and the surviving Jews will be dispersed all over the world again-what will you do? Hijack planes to help the Jewish people return to their homeland, or do you only do that for the Palestinians?" RIP to the brave hero of the Operation who died while performing this heroic rescue of his people , Yonatan Netanyahu and to Dora Bloch, an elderly surviving Israeli hostage butchered by the Ugandans , after she was accidentally left behind.