The Entebbe Story

Entebbe Airport
on the ramp in front of control tower at Entebbe Airport.
27th June 1976 – Air France Flight AF 139 carrying 248 passengers and 12 crew, was hijacked by 4 terrorists while en-route from Tel Aviv – via Athens – to Paris.

In Athens 4 terrorists boarded the plane, re-directing it to Bengasi in Libya, where it was re-fuelled, then flown to Entebbe in Uganda.  Passengers and crew were held hostage in the old airport terminal at Entebbe.  Selection occurred next day with the separation of Jewish and non-Jewish passengers – All non-Jewish passengers, were later released.  Captain Michel Bachus and his flight crew chose to remain as hostages.

The ‘masterminds’ of the hijacking demanded millions of dollars and the release of 53 terrorists – with the Ultimatum that ALL hostages would be killed if demands were not met.  Israel maintained negotiations with them, while quietly planning to fly a team of elite commandos 4000 km to Entebbe, in a daring rescue mission codenamed ‘Operation Thunderbolt’.

Rami Sherman

Rami Sherman

RAMI SHERMAN, Retired IDF Major, Commander and Operations Officer, is part of this Inspirational Story.  The son of Holocaust survivors, he was born and raised on Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan in Northern Israel, near the Syrian border.  Rami joined the Israel Defence Force in 1972, becoming part of an elite Unit named Sayeret Matkal – known simply as ‘The Unit’.

As Operations Officer, Rami was part of the first assault group of 33 officers and soldiers, who fought to free the hostages in the Old Terminal.  He was also responsible for leading the rescued hostages to the waiting Hercules.  As the son of Holocaust survivors, he said this part of the rescue caused emotions he found hard to put in words.

4th July 2016 marked the 40th Anniversary of Operation Thunderbolt, which was renamed Operation Yonatan one week after the mission, in honour of Yoni Netanyahu (z” l) who was killed in the Operation.  An official commemoration was held at Entebbe Airport, with dignitaries from Israel and Uganda attending.

Captain Michel Bachus, pilot of the hijacked plane, was Christian.  He and his crew remained behind in solidarity with the Jewish hostages, and along with their Israeli Army rescuers, showed exemplary courage in life-threatening circumstances, by doing what was right in the face of something that was terribly wrong.

. . . Captain Bachus was held in high regard for the integrity he displayed during the hostage crisis.  He said he would do the same thing again, if given the same choice.  He passed away in March 2019 aged 95.  The Israeli National Anthem ‘Hatikvah’ [The Hope] was played at his funeral, as he had requested.

Bruce Mackenzie, a Kenyan official with Christian values, persuaded the Kenyan government to lend vital assistance to the Israel Defence Force, making what seemed an impossible mission, miraculously achievable.

Israel’s actions dramatically reduced hijackings worldwide and inspired the people of Uganda to ultimately overthrow the brutal dictator, Idi Amin, who was complicit in the hijacking.




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