Events marking 40 years since Operation Entebbe have started, with Israel Defence Forces (IDF) chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot warning that the country will continue facing threats of terrorism for many years.
According to the The Times of Israel, Eisenkot observed that terrorism was “a spreading phenomenon” and noted that “we will continue to grapple with terror for many years to come.”
Earlier in the week, seven “children of Entebbe” attended a special commemoration ceremony with former president Shimon Peres, who served as defense minister during the operation.
On July 4, 1976, close to 100 Israeli commandos, led by future Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Shomron, Maj. Gen. Yekutiel Adam, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Peled and Lt. Col. Yonatan (Yoni) Netanyahu, launched one of the most daring rescue operations ever code named Operation Thunderbolt. They rescued 103 out of the 106 hostages being brought back alive and only one fatality among the Israeli forces — Yonatan Netanyahu.
Speaking at an event marking Operation Entebbe on Wednesday, Gadi Eisenkot said the raid was “a milestone in the fight against terror,” The Times of Israel reported.
“Since then we have dealt with different forms of terror but with the same objective, to sow fear,” he said.
“Effective action is based on intelligence-gathering and operational capabilities, and today we must also deal with the need to try and separate terrorists from the [civilian] population.”
Peres Peace center commemorates Raid on Entebbe
Monday’s event, held at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, “had the atmosphere of a bittersweet reunion, full of hugs, reminiscing and some tears.”
The seven “children of Entebbe”, who were young in 1976 but now have their own children, presented an award to Sorin Hershko, a soldier from the rescue team who was severely wounded during the operation and paralyzed for life.
Peres was joined by Dalia Rabin, the daughter of Yitzhak Rabin, who was prime minister during the incident.
Plans for the operation in 1976 started when 246 people were taken hostage by Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorists on June 27, 1976, on an Air France flight from Israel to Paris. The plane was diverted first to Athens — where another 58 people were brought aboard, along with four more hijackers — and finally landed in Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
Four decades later, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to visit Kenya and 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.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING AFP