God’s Hostage Rescue Operation – Part I

by David Schnittger

The world awakened on America’s bicentennial to the news of an astounding hostage rescue operation that had just transpired. Operation Entebbe or Operation Thunderbolt, was a successful counter-terrorist-hostage-rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on July 4, 1976.


A week earlier, on June 27, an Air France plane with 248 passengers had been hijacked by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The hijackers had the stated objective to free 40 Palestinian and affiliated militants imprisoned in Israel and 13 prisoners in four other countries in exchange for the hostages.

The Ugandan government supported the hijackers, and dictator Idi Amin personally welcomed them. After moving all the hostages from the aircraft to a disused airport building, the hijackers separated all Israelis and several non-Israeli Jews from the larger group and forced them into a separate room. Over the following two days, 148 non-Israeli hostages were released. Ninety-four, mainly Israeli, passengers along with the 12-member Air France crew, remained as hostages and were threatened with death.

The IDF acted on information provided by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. The hijackers threatened to kill the hostages if their prisoner release demands were not met. This threat led to the planning of the rescue operation. These plans included preparation for armed resistance from Ugandan troops.


The operation took place at night. Israeli transport planes carried 100 commandos over 2,500 miles to Uganda for the rescue operation. The operation, which took a week of planning, lasted 90 minutes. Of the 106 remaining hostages, 102 were rescued and three were killed. The other hostage was in a hospital and was later killed by the terrorists. Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one, unit commander Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed. Netanyahu was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister. All the hijackers and 45 Ugandan solders were killed and 11 Soviet built MIGs of Uganda’s air force were destroyed.

Operation Entebbe, which had the military codename Operation Thunderbolt, is sometimes referred to retroactively as Operation Jonathan in memory of the unit’s leader, Yonathan Netanyahu.  Operation Entebbe is considered the most daringly successful hostage rescue operation in modern times. However, I want to explore a hostage rescue operation of ancient times that was far more impressive in terms of its scope and objective. We will explore God’s Hostage Rescue Operation in subsequent articles.