ENTEBBE, Uganda, Jun 27 – Skimming above the choppy waves through the dark the four planes swooped in low over Lake Victoria, packed with over 200 elite Israeli commandos on a daring raid to free hijacked hostages.
Landing soon after midnight at Uganda’s Entebbe airport on July 4, 1976, it took the paratroopers less than an hour to storm the base and free over 100 passengers aboard an Air France plane, an operation that has gone down in special forces legend. The plane had been hijacked a week earlier on June 27.
Four decades later, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to visit Uganda for the anniversary not only to mark the operation and boost now-friendly ties between Uganda and Israel, but also to pay a deeply personal tribute.
The commando leader, the only Israeli soldier killed in the raid, was his older brother, 30-year old Lieutenant-Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu.
As an operation, it was “a difficult one”, remembered Amir Ofer, then a sergeant major and now a businessman, visiting Uganda earlier this month as part of preparations to mark the anniversary.