French report: Israel did not act on its own in Operation Entebbe
Le Monde daily unveils new details about the 1976 successful Israeli hostage-rescue mission in Uganda; French Foreign Ministry documents reveal that the operation was not completely secret and that at least three countries were privy to its details beforehand.
Throughout the article, the French newspaper discusses the entire story of the hostages—from the hijacking of an Air France plane June 27, 1976, to the moment the Israeli and Jewish hostages were released a week later in a bold and complex operation in the African country, which was ruled at the time by dictator Idi Amin.
According to Le Monde, the diplomatic documents cleared for publication shed a different light on the Israeli operation in several aspects. The Ugandan authorities, for example, did not know in advance that a plane had been hijacked and that it was making its way to Entebbe. The documents further reveal that the Israeli operation was not completely secret and that at least three countries—Kenya, Britain and Germany — were privy to its details beforehand.
Another point exposed in the newspaper’s interactive article is that two of three hostages were killed by friendly fire and that Israel never provided an explanation for the third hostage’s death.
According to the French newspaper, negotiations were held before the military operation between Somali Ambassador to Uganda Hasni Abdullah Farah (as the terrorists’ representative), Idi Amin (as an intermediary) and French Ambassador to Uganda Pierre-Henri Renard (who represented Israel and France).
The French ambassador also signed some of the diplomatic correspondences with the Foreign Ministry in Paris, which were published by Le Monde.
Q&A from the Le Monde report:
Question: Did Ugandan President Idi Amin know about the hijacking in advance and expect the Air France plane to arrive in Entebbe?
Explanation 1: The Ugandan authorities were only aware of the hijacked plane once it started flying towards Entebbe.
Explanation 2: Idi Amin arrived at the hijacked plane only two hours after it landed and was not permitted to approach it.
Question: Did Israel act on its own?
Explanation 1: Kenya served as a parking spot for the Israeli army’s planes after the operation and as a logistic base for Israel during the preparations for the operation.
Explanation 2: A British diplomat was present at the Entebbe airport during the operation.
Explanation 3: A German Lufthansa flight, which was scheduled to land in Entebbe, was cancelled.
Question: Was the Israeli operation flawless?
Explanation 1: Two of the three hostages who died during the operation were likely killed by Israeli bullets.
Explanation 2: The parents of one of the killed hostages, Jean-Jacques Mimouni, never received a clear explanation about the role the IDF played in his death.
On June 27, 1976, four terrorists—two Germans and two Palestinian—hijacked an Air France plane making its way from Israel to Paris. After stopping in Athens, Greece and in Benghazi, Libya, the plane headed towards Entebbe, Uganda, and the four terrorists were joined by three other Palestinians.
On July 4, the IDF launched a special operation to free the Israeli and Jewish hostages in Entebbe. The operation, conducted at the Entebbe Airport, lasted 20 minutes and left all seven terrorists killed, as well as one Israeli soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Yoni Netanyahu, commander of the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal and brother of Prime Minister Benjamin Netantyahu.
The successful operation shocked the Israeli public and the entire world, particularly due to the great distance between Israel and Uganda (about 3,800 kilometers) and the boldness of its planners and executors. In the following years, the operation was used as background for many films and books.