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Netanyahu honors brother Yoni, who fell rescuing hostages at Entebbe

Lt. Col. Yoni Netanyahu was killed during "Operation Thunderbolt" to rescue 102 hostages at Entebbe, Uganda, on July 4, 1976.

The rescued Air France passengers and crew coming off an Israeli Air Force Hercules plane at Ben-Gurion Airport, July 1976. Credit: GPO.
The rescued Air France passengers and crew coming off an Israeli Air Force Hercules plane at Ben-Gurion Airport, July 1976. Credit: GPO.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife, Sara, and their younger son Avner attended a ceremony on Friday at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem honoring Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, who died while commanding soldiers in the operation to free 102 hostages at Entebbe airport in Uganda on July 4, 1976.

The prime minister and his brother Ido recited the kaddish mourning prayer and laid a memorial wreath on the grave of their older brother. They laid an additional wreath together with Yonatan’s IDF General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) colleagues.

Also attending the ceremony were Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, Cabinet ministers, MKs, former and current IDF commanders and friends of the family.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife, Sara, and their son Avner attend a ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem to honor Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, July 5, 2024. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

On June 27, 1976, Arab and German terrorists hijacked an Air France plane en route from Israel to Paris with 248 passengers onboard and forced it to fly to Uganda’s main airport in Entebbe. Uganda’s government provided cover for the hijackers, who were welcomed personally by dictator Idi Amin.

Initially, the terrorists separated the Israelis and Jews from the larger group of hostages and forced them into another room. On the first day, 47 non-Israeli hostages were released. The next day, 101 more non-Israeli hostages were allowed to leave.

Dora Bloch, 74, an Israeli-British dual citizen, was taken to Mulago Hospital in Kampala after choking on a chicken bone. After the raid, Uganda Army officers murdered her and doctors and nurses who apparently tried to intervene.

More than 100 Israeli and Jewish passengers remained as the hijackers threatened to kill them if their demands were not met.

Israel’s response was “Operation Thunderbolt,” led by Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu. His 29-man Sayeret Matkal unit was given the primary task of attacking the airport terminal and rescuing the hostages.

A paratroopers force was tasked with securing the civilian airfield, clearing and securing the runways, and protecting and fueling the Israeli planes. A group from the Golani Infantry Brigade secured the C-130 Hercules aircraft for the hostages’ evacuation, getting as close as possible to the terminal to board the hostages.

Another elite commando unit was tasked with destroying the squadron of MiG fighter planes on the ground to prevent possible interception by the Ugandan Air Force and hold off hostile ground forces.

The operation took place under cover of night and rescued 102 hostages. Yoni Netanyahu was killed and five Israeli commandos were wounded.

“Operation Thunderbolt” was renamed “Operation Yonatan” in his memory.

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