Operation Thunderbolt: The raid on Entebbe

So, I was sucked into the YouTube rabbithole-y vortex last night and was searching up documentaries on hostage rescue mission(s), partly instigated by the extremely unfortunate happenings in Paris on friday.

Also, I get really pumped up when I see special forces in action because it’s insanely cool to watch.

Then, I land on this video.

I was absolutely glued. No other anti terror operation in history has as many elements as this. This operation was not just an anti terror one, but this was almost like a mini war on a country in its capital’s airport by a mere 200+ elite commandos of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF)‘s Sayaret Matkal. This has everything from plane hijacking to diplomatic maneuvering to changing allegiances to camouflage to commando raid.

It all begins when Air France Flight 139 is hijacked enroute to Paris, France from Tel Aviv, Israel. The hijackers (of a Palestinian origin) redirect the plane with it’s pilot held at gunpoint to Benghazi, Libya, a country which is supportive of the Palestinian cause and was led by the (now dead) dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

This is where the first crucial lead, critical to planning lands in Israel’s lap. The hijackers release a pregnant woman after she was unable to handle the prevailing conditions of the enclosed aircraft cabin. After she was released, the Israeli agents debrief her about the identities of the hijackers and other important and (possibly) critical ingredients of the impending operation.

Then a day later, the plane took off again, this time with it’s sights set for Entebbe Airport, Uganda. Now, the situation in Uganda was pretty messed up. There was this president of Uganda, a man named Idi Amin who wanted fame and attention as a powerful African leader. The Israelis played along and pleaded the Amin for an extension of the deadline for the release of the hostages. He then directed the hijackers to comply with the extension.

In a surprising twist to the tale, the considerate Idi Amin makes a decision that will prove to be a pivotal moment in the entire hostage situation. He orders the release of all but the hostages of Israeli origin in the aircraft. That brings the entire hostage count to a pretty manageable 80.

With these positive developments, the IDF gets a green signal from the government to go ahead with its mission. 4 C-130 Hercules undertake a super long sortie to traverse over 2000+ kilometers from Israel to Uganda.

Once in Entebbe, they camouflage themselves as a presidential convoy and actually manage to get past the primary Ugandan army cordon without even being stopped once for checking. Then, what happens next is textbook style execution of the mission with pinpoint accuracy. You have to watch it to believe it. The self motivation and confidence of these elite commandos is a force to reckon with.

All in all, only one officer of the IDF is killed and 79 hostages are rescued, with one being killed unfortunately in friendly fire.

The operation turned out to be a huge success and this sealed the Israeli Defence Force’s place among the world’s best.

This documentary is a treat to watch, especially for Special Forces fans like me.

I highly recommend you watch this documentary if you’ve got ~50 minutes of free time. It’s pretty intense.

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