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Entebbe Diary

Entebbe Diary

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Published by Jimmy Leonard

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Published by: Jimmy Leonard on Mar 31, 2014
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Entebbe Diary
by Maj. (Res.) Louis Williams
The name "Entebbe" and the operation with which it is associated enjoy a special place in the annals of the ongoing war against terrorism. To the people of Israel, and to many others, it was a declaration that free men need not submit to terrorist blackmail and extortion, no matter how impossible the alternatives may seem.Entebbe iary is dedicated to the scores of men who flew to !frica and back, and to the hundreds more who, by their unstinting efforts in  planning and preparation, made the mission possible, and whose hearts went with their comrades to Entebbe."The basic assumption in our work is to prepare in the best possible fashion, so that we may stand uietly on the ay of #udgment, when it comes, in the knowledge that we did everything we could in the time that we had." $$ %ieutenant &olonel #onathan 'etanyahu, killed in action, Entebbe,  #uly (, )*+
At 6:45 on the morning of June 27, 1976, Singapore Airlines flight 763 landed at Athens Airport en route from Bahrain ia !u"ait# $f the fie disem%ar&ing passengers, four headed for the transit area to 'he'& in for Air (ran'e 139 to )aris, then settled do"n to a long "ait in the transit lounge# At *:59 on the same morning, +aptain i'hel Ba'os, at the 'ontrols of Air (ran'e 139, too& off from Ben -urion Airport on "hat promised to %e a routine flight to )aris ia Athens# As the Air%us made its final approa'h to Athens, the %oarding passengers, 5* in all, "ere %eing pro'essed through passport and 'ustoms formalities# .o%od/ "as on dut/ at the metal dete'tor in the passenger 'orridor and the poli'eman at the fluoros'ope "as pa/ing little attention to the s'reen at his side# 0n the line passing through to the %us that "ould ta&e them a'ross the tarma' to flight 139, "ere a t"ent/fie /ear old "oman traeling on an 'uadorian passport in the name of $rtega and, a fe" pla'es %ehind her, a /oung %londhaired man "hose )eruian passport identified him as A# -ar'ia# (urther %a'& in the line "ere t"o dar&s&inned /oungsters "ith Bahraini and !u"aiti trael do'uments#  he Air%us 'ompleted its approa'h to flight path ed 19 and tou'hed do"n at 11:3, to tai to its par&ing spot, disgorge its 3* Athens%ound passengers and ta&e on its 5* ne"'omers# At 12:2 the flight "as air%orne and 'lim%ing steadil/ to its 'ruising height of 31, feet# he ste"ards and ste"ardesses "ere alread/ %us/ in the galle/s preparing lun'h for the 246 passengers# ight minutes after ta&eoff, $rtega and -ar'ia and their t"o Ara% 'ompanions made their moe# he /oung "oman left her first'lass seat and too& up station at the front of the 'a%in8 in the tourist 'ompartment, the
/oungsters "ere alread/ on their feet "ith guns in their hands# he %lond /oungster, a reoler in one hand and a grenade in the other, %urst through the unlo'&ed 'o'&pit door# ithin minutes of the ta&eoer of flight 139, Ben -urion Airport management and the Air (ran'e station manager "ere a"are that radio 'onta't "ith +aptain Ba'os had %een lost# he ne"s "as passed on to the )rime inister, the inister of ransport and the efense inister all of "hom "ere at the regular Sunda/ +a%inet session# At 13:27, 0( $perations Bran'h put into motion the preplanned pro'edures for 'oping "ith possi%le emergen'ies at Ben -urion Airport# 0( +entral +ommand promptl/ moed to esta%lish a 'ommand post at the airport, and to alert the ne'essar/ arm/ units# Shortl/ after 14: hours, Air (ran'e 139 radioed Bengha;i 'ontrol to"er, in <i%/a, demanding to hae fuel aaila%le for at least four hours on"ard flight, and re=uesting that the lo'al )opular (ront for the <i%eration of )alestine representatie %e summoned to the airport#  he immediate destination "as no" 'lear, %ut eer/thing indi'ated the the plane "ould %e traeling on  and Ben -urion Airport "as a possi%ilit/# At 14:5*, the airliner tou'hed do"n in Bengha;i and "as dire'ted to a remote run"a/# .o%od/ "as allo"ed off the plane "ith the e'eption of one /oung "oman "ho su''eeded in 'onin'ing %oth the terrorists, and a hastil/ summoned <i%/an do'tor, that she "as pregnant and in danger of mis'arr/ing# he "oman, "ho "as in fa't on her "a/ to her mother>s funeral in an'hester, ngland, spent an anious fe" hours in the airport terminal, and "as then put on a plane to ngland# ean"hile, in Jerusalem, )rime inister a%in passed a note to the +a%inet Se'retar/ to 'onene, in his offi'e after the +a%inet session, a small team of ministers: efense inister )eres, (oreign inister Allon, ransport inister ?aa&o%i, Justi'e inister @ado& and inister "ithout portfolio -alilee# hi'heer "a/ the Air (ran'e 139 episode "ould deelop, these "ere the men "ho "ould hae to ta&e the de'isions#  he meeting, "hi'h 'onened at 16:5, de'ided er/ =ui'&l/ on a num%er of immediate measures# ?igal Allon "as to 'onta't his (ren'h 'ounterpart and demand that the (ren'h goernment do eer/thing in its po"er to o%tain the release of the passengers8 139 "as after all an Air (ran'e plane# -ad ?aa&o%i "ould approa'h the international 'iil aiation authorities "ith a similar re=uest, and "ould esta%lish liaison "ith the families of the hostages and the 'ommuni'ations media# All the arms of 0sraeli se'urit/ "ould ta&e all the ne'essar/ steps in the eentualit/ that the plane "as destined for 0srael# After a long "ait on the deserted run"a/ at Bengha;i, the Air%us, haing ta&en on 42 tons of fuel, started its engines, gathered speed and, at 21:5 on the eening of June 27, "as air%orne# At Ben -urion Airport, "here it "as no" &no"n that 77 0sraeli nationals "ere on %oard the plane, 0( +hiefofStaff orde'hai otta -ur phoned Shimon )eres, "ho de'ided to 'ome to the airport himself# 0t "as slo"l/ %e'oming 'lear that the air'raft, "ith its range of 25 miles, "as heading a"a/ from the iddle ast in a southerl/ dire'tion# .eertheless, all the se'urit/ preparations "ere &ept in for'e# ith onl/ a fe" minutes fuel left in its tan&s, Air (ran'e 139 landed at nte%%e, in Cganda, at 3:15 lo'al time on the morning of June 2*# he units at Ben -urion Airport "ere ordered %a'& to their %ases, and the 'ommand post dis%anded# hateer "ould happen from here on, it "ould not re=uire ela%orate preparations at Ben -urion Airport#
Monday, June 28
onda/ June 2*, "as a da/ of =uestions  %ut no ans"ersD as nte%%e the final destination, or onl/ a refueling station in the on"ard flight of Air (ran'e 139E ere the Cgandans un"illing hosts or a'tie partners in the hiFa'&ingE 0di Amin, the Cgandan di'tator, had not %een ea'tl/ friendl/ to 0srael sin'e ar'h, 1972, "hen he had %een refused a s=uadron of )hantom Fets "ith "hi'h to %om% !en/a and  an;ania, and had 'ountered %/ epelling all 0sraelis from his 'ountr/# $n the ground in nte%%e, the situation "as 'learer# At da/%rea&, the hostages had %een a%le to see, through the "indo"s of the plane, seeral additional terrorists, as "ell as Cgandan soldiers massing on the la"n alongside the run"a/# 0di Amin had put in a personal appearan'e during the morning, arousing a %rief optimism on %oard the Air%us# But, at midda/ the hostages had %een transferred to the $ld erminal %uilding through a 'ordon of Cgandan soldiers, "hose "eapons "ere pointing ominousl/ at them# <ater in the afternoon, Amin had paid a isit and made a spee'h in support of the )opular (ront for the <i%eration of )alestine# espite the un'ertainties, some steps "ere ta&en in 0srael# he (ren'h -oernment had %een 'onta'ted, and had a''epted responsi%ilit/ for the safet/ of the passengers, and for the diplomati' efforts that "ould %e made to o%tain their release#  ransport inister ?aa'o%i persuaded the press and the ele'troni' media not to pu%lish lists of names8 the 'han'e eisted, ho"eer slim, that some of the 0sraeli hostages might %e mista&en for 'iti;ens of other 'ountries# he ilitar/ +ensor "as roped in to delete an/ inadertent hints that 'ould help the hiFa'&ers# efense inister )eres told his assistants, in an afternoon session, that if Amin "as helping the hiFa'&ers, this "ould %e a dangerous pre'edent8 so far, no air'raft hiFa'&ing had enFo/ed the oert assistan'e of an/ president, arm/ or state# 0f this "as the 'ase, and it did su''eedno air'raft "ould %e safe again in Afri'an s&ies#  herefore, it "as ital to &no" "hat "as the a'tuall/ happening at nte%%e# ithin the 0( no 'ommand de'isions "ere %eing ta&enor "ere 'alled for# .eertheless, in the Foint air and ground staffs of +om%ined $perations, =uestions "ere %eginning to %e as&ed and ideas raisedalmost as a matter of routine# here "as no pro%lem inoled "ith the range8 up to ar'h 1972, Ger'ules air'raft of the 0A( had flo"n regular flights "ith supplies for the 0sraeli mission in Cganda# But the Air (or'e needed to &no"  against an/ eentualit/  "hether an/ 'hanges had %een made on the run"a/s and other airport installations, and "hether an/ anti air'raft measures had %een ta&en at the airport or on its approa'hes# here "ould also %e a need for information a%out normal pra'ti'es "ith run"a/ lights, radar and all other details 'on'erning a''ess to an international airport# At the end of the da/, the %iggest =uestion of all remained unans"ered: hat "ere the hiFa'&ers going to demand in return for the release of their pri;eE
Tuesday, June 29
At da"n on June 29, the onl/ aaila%le ne" information "as a %rief des'ription of the hiFa'&ers, "hi'h had 'ome in from aFor -eneral ehaam @eei in <ondon# @eei, the )rime inister>s adisor on terrorism, had %een in urope "hen the hiFa'&ing too& pla'e, and "as as&ed to remain there to 'oordinate 'onta'ts "ith the (ren'h goernment and efforts to o%tain an/ releant data#

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