The Way It Used To Be
The Jerusalem Post recalls the rescue of Israeli hostages in Entebbe, Uganda thirty years ago. It's a story packed with derring-do. Israeli commandos, impersonating Idi Amin, retake the airport, rescue the hostages being held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Baader-Meinhof Gang, kill the enemy, refuel their aircraft from enemy stocks (their escape C-130 only had fuel to get there) and destroy the Ugandan airforce to prevent pursuit. What we moderns overlook is that practically all of it would be ruled illegal today.
They violated the airspace of neutral nations:
The plan to rescue the more than 100 hostages held at Uganda's Entebbe airport was certainly unprecedented. The elite team was used to covert operations on Israeli or nearby soil, where the terrain was familiar. But passing over Ethiopia and then Kenya, their final mission in Uganda would be an unparalleled 3,800 km. from Israel; the round-trip distance too far for the Hercules to handle without refueling.
They impersonated the head of state of a sovereign nation in his own country.
Later, soldiers would joke that the plan sounded like a script from Mission Impossible: The Israelis would land without arousing suspicion, pretend to be Ugandan guards traveling in an entourage of Land Rovers behind President Idi Amin in his famous black Mercedes, and overtake the terrorists with the element of surprise, despite hundreds of enemy soldiers in every direction.
They attacked the sovereign nation of Uganda without a declaration of war.
The Israelis were engaging the Ugandan soldiers and the periphery troops were ordered to destroy the Ugandan army's fighter planes, so they couldn't follow them out. At least 20 Ugandan soldiers were killed trying to stop the Israelis.
They stole fuel which rightfully belonged to someone else.
Meanwhile, Maj.-Gen. Matan Vilnai, who was in charge of the periphery operations and overseeing the Paratroops' soldiers, was stealing fuel for the Hercules from the Entebbe terminal fuel tanks at the time.
They engaged in the unsafe operation of an aircraft, grievously endangering civilians who had been hauled aboard the raiding aircraft without due process.
After some time, a female hostage shouted to Sneh, "Major! Major! I'm afraid I'm sitting on some military thing," he remembers. "She takes from under her [bottom] a mini-hand grenade," says Sneh. "This was the sort of grenade notorious for its low safety, used only by special forces units for special operations. I think it fell from Yoni's gear when he was rushed aboard. The wounded were loaded before the hostages - so I believe that 100 or so hostages trod on this grenade. You can imagine what could have happened if that grenade had exploded in the Hercules holding all those hostages."
They killed enemy militants with scant effort at giving them a chance to surrender, attempting to take them prisoner or attempting a peaceful resolution of the issue.
After he shot the first hijacker, two more hijackers in a second room were lying on the floor, their weapons pointed at the line of soldiers approaching along the wall. But in a flash, they suddenly heard Ofer on their other side, and rotated their guns towards him. "In exactly that moment, my commanding officer had reached the door, and saw the hijackers rotate. He shot them before they could shoot me in the back," he says. "A fourth hijacker was hiding behind a pillar and pointed his gun to shoot at Amos [Goren]. And a fraction of a second before him, Amos shot him. We checked his [the hijacker's] gun and he had already pulled the trigger - the piston had moved forward through the cylinder, but Amos's bullet hit the cylinder and the bullet didn't lock and fire. Even the best director could not have planned it better," says Ofer.
And they did it without the authorization of the United Nations. That was then. We know better now.