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Operation Entebbe

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Operation Entebbe   >   What Happened   >   Preparation

   
 

Preparation for the Raid on Entebbe


Soon after the hijacking, the Israeli military began preparing for a possible rescue operation which became known as "Operation Entebbe", "Operation Thunderbolt" or "Operation Thunderball". Even putting aside the issue of the terrorists and hostile Ugandan military forces on the ground, it was clear that such a rescue mission would be extremely challenging, because of the great distances involved and the large number of hostages. The fact that about half the hostages were released, leaving only around 100 hostages to be rescued, did however somewhat ease these concerns.

Mossad, the Israeli intelligence organization, was able to furnish the Israeli military with critical information, without which a rescue mission would have been impossible. Most importantly, this included blueprints of Entebbe Airport which had originally been constructed by an Israeli contracting firm, thus allowing the construction of replica buildings for training the troops. Additionally, interviews with the released hostages, one of whom was French-Jewish passenger who had been released by mistake and who had military training and "a phenomenal memory" provided detailed intelligence on the situation at Entebbe Airport.

It was decided that the mission would be carried out by commandos of Sayeret Matkal, an elite special forces unit, carried in C-130 Hercules aircraft, and accompanied by a Boeing 707 to be used for medical and communications support. As a ruse to approach the airport buildings, one Hercules would carry a black Mercedes and Land Rovers, which would be used to trick the Ugandan guards into believing that Idi Amin or another high-ranking official was visiting the airport. Since no suitable black Mercedes was available in Israel, a differently-colored Mercedes car was apparently borrowed from an Israeli civilian and spray-painted, on the understanding that it would be returned in its original color.

C-130 Hercules

During preparation for the mission, the Israelis maintained an extremely high-level of secrecy, even going so far as to detain (as "guests" of the military) the civilian contractors who had constructed the replica buildings used in training.

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