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The Commandos of Operation Entebbe: Storming the Terminal

Set of Operation Entebbe (Photo: GPO/Sa'ar Ya'acov)

In the third installment of a five-part series on Operation Entebbe, the soldiers who carried the mission out enter the terminal. Yediot Achronot's story continues as the men enter the airport terminal, fight in darkened corridors, and lose their leader, Yonatan "Yoni" Netanyahu:

"We kept moving, walking faster. We already walked past the control tower, which was looming over us to the left. In front of us, we saw the big structure of the terminal. Out front were large crates scattered around. The walls and the plaza outside were faintly lit by yellow flashlights. We were now only several steps away from the terminal building: the most critical stage of the operation. All we had to do was storm it, get to the hostages quickly, and hit the terrorists before they would have a chance to pick up their weapons."

At this point, another incident occurred, which to this day is a point of contention among the commandos.

"At the corner of the building, Muki stopped, fired a few bullets at a figure that appeared down the hall, and got held up changing his magazine. Yoni, who was running in the open area parallel to us, called out, 'Betzer, come on!' The holdup was unnecessary and unclear. We were standing behind Muki and waiting for him to finish changing his magazine," says Alex Davidi, a staff sergeant in Muki's team.

Yiftach Reicher-Atir, the deputy Sayeret Matkal commander who also led his own team, remembers, "I was moving quickly with Muki and Yoni towards the building. Near the entrance, Muki stopped and started shooting into the building. I didn't see any target, and Yoni yelled to Muki that he should continue advancing and even made a step towards the building, as if he was going to go past Muki. I went past Muki myself and entered the room I was assigned to raid."

Betzer himself explains, "I saw a terrorist—ostensibly a German one—coming outside, looking at us, crouching and preparing to open fire at us. I fired the second half of my magazine at him and didn't hit him. He jumped back into the passengers’ hall. I stopped for a second to change my magazine. I didn't announce that I was changing my magazine (as is standard in such operations —ed.), because I wanted to lead."

Amir Ofer led the troops instead. "Officers and soldiers immediately got past Muki, who was standing still, and continued on their missions without waiting for him to keep leading. Seconds later, I saw Yoni fall and someone yelled, 'Yoni was hit.' I saw all of this through the corner of my eye, and it happened a few dozen meters away from me while I was running as fast as I could to reach the building..."

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