This past July 4th marked Americans' celebration of 240 years as a nation, but it also marked an anniversary for America's friends in Israel - the 40th anniversary of the daring raid on Entebbe that found Israeli commandos rescuing more than 100 hostages from the clutches of murderous terrorists. The Jerusalem Post's Yonah Jeremy Bob provides these accounts of the mission, both from the raid's deputy commander and from a child who survived the ordeal:
...for Matan Vilnai – former minister, ambassador, and IDF general who was the deputy commander of the Entebbe rescue – the most tense moment of all was trying to land the commando force without authorization in Uganda, thousands of miles from Israel.
“The first critical moment was when we needed to land a group of heavy airplanes, which was already suspicious, because usually groups of airplanes do not fly together… and there was no GPS like today,” Vilnai told The Jerusalem Post on Monday during a two-day Hebrew University of Jerusalem conference marking four decades since the two rescues.
He credited the operation’s commander and sole IDF casualty, Lt.-Col. Yoni Netanyahu, for giving critical orders as they got off the Hercules transport – orders which he said likely led to Netanyahu’s death from a sniper who likely noted his hand signals, which distinguished him as the senior officer.
The entire operation took only 51 minutes from landing to take off with the rescued hostages. Vilnai gave huge credit to the Mossad, Entebbe planner Dan Shomron (then a brigadier-general and future chief of staff) and to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, who decided on the daring raid. It included not only taking out several Palestinian and German terrorists, but also Ugandan soldiers and Ugandan MiG aircraft so that no one could pursue them...
Benny Davidson was only 13 at the time of the Entebbe operation and was leaving his native Israel for the first time with his family to the US to drive cross-country as a bar mitzva present. He told the Post that the “highs and lows of that week were a microcosm of the highs and lows of our lives.”
Davidson said that, a few minutes after the Air France plane took off from Athens, “suddenly we hear a highpitched scream. My mom immediately grabbed my father’s hand and said ‘we’ve been hijacked.’ My father said ‘get over your anxieties, someone just isn’t feeling well.”
But “after a few seconds, we saw the stewardess with her hands up and the German female terrorist holding a gun to her head in one hand and a grenade in another hand,” recalled Davidson.
“There was tremendous noise and all hell broke loose..."