On this day: hostages in Entebbe

July 27 1976: Air France flight seized

By Anna Slater, June 27, 2011

On July 27 1976, pro-Palestinian hijackers seized an Air France flight that was en route to Israel. 250 passengers were on board and most were Jewish or Israeli citizens.

The hijackers, two from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and two from Germany's Baader-Meinhoff Gang, diverted the plane to Entebbe, Uganda, where it arrived on June 28. They were met by other Arab terrorists.

Their request was as shocking as it was simple: the release of 53 militants held in jails across Israel and four other countries by 11am Thursday July 5, or they would blow up the airliner and its passengers.

Uganda's president, Idi Amin arrived at the airport to praise the hijackers, giving a speech in support of the PLFP, and to supply them with extra troops and weapons.

On July 1, the hijackers released the people who had non-Jewish ties – but some 100 still remained.

Three days later, a dramatic rescue mission dubbed "The Thunderbolt" took hijackers by surprise. After a 2,500 mile trip from Israel, troops stormed the entire building in a battle that lasted just 35 minutes. 20 Ugandan soldiers were killed along with three of the hostages.

Leader of the operation, Colonel Yoni Netanyahu – the brother of Israel's current Prime Minister - was shot and killed during the rescue mission. The operation was renamed from "Operation Netanyahu" in honour of him.

Then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said: "This operation will be described in the annals of military history, in legend and in national tradition."

What the JC said: A dramatic account of Sunday's hijacking of the Air France airbus over Greece has been given in London by 38-year-old Mrs Patrician Hyman, a passenger on the aircraft. Who was allowed to leave because she is six months pregnant...After the airbus landed at Benghazi, in Libya, the hijackers announced threateningly that any one daring to approach the emergency exit through which supplies were being loaded on to the aircraft would be severely punished. Mrs Hyman added: "They did not say what the punishment would be and did not threaten anyone, but I am sure everyone felt they many what they said.

See more from the JC archives here

Last updated: 8:20am, June 27 2011