A step-by-step history of the Israeli army’s 1976 rescue of hostages at Entebbe airport in Uganda.
David (Military History/Univ. of Buckingham; 100 Days to Victory: How the Great War Was Fought and Won, 2013, etc.) draws on a wide range of sources to give a detailed picture of the hijacking and the top-secret operation that returned almost all the hostages to safety. The drama began with Air France Flight 139 departing Tel Aviv for Paris. At a stopover in Athens, four terrorists boarded the plane, seized control, and diverted it to Uganda. They demanded the release of prisoners, mostly Palestinians, held by Israel and several other countries. David shows the hostages’ ordeal, the meetings of the Israeli cabinet and military leaders, and the international response to the event, spread out over eight tense days. His sources include interviews with the hostages and their rescuers, official documents, memoirs by several of those involved, and declassified government communications. The narrative gains interest by the roles of several international figures, including Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and the sinister Ugandan president Idi Amin, who is as much the villain of the story as the hijackers. The rescue wasn’t perfect by any means; the plan broke down shortly after Israeli forces landed at the airport. Their commander, Yoni Netanyahu (the current prime minister’s brother), was killed almost immediately. His troops killed the terrorists and a number of Ugandan soldiers. Three hostages died of friendly fire; a fourth, taken to a local hospital before the raid, was later murdered by Amin’s thugs. David paces the narrative effectively, cutting back and forth among Entebbe, Tel Aviv, and Israeli military establishments with occasional looks at events in other world capitals. While the “good guys” and “bad guys” are obvious from the beginning, the author resists the temptation to paint too simple a picture.
With high tension and as many plot twists as any fictional thriller, this book is hard to put down.