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Saturday, July 4, 2009

WFRL Remembers Yoni...

June 6, 1967

My beloved ones,
God knows we didn't want all this! To be at war -- so real and yet so impossible to accept. Common sense cries: No, no!
Yesterday I saw Bibi. Was it really only yesterday? An eternity seems to have gone by since then. But only yesterday I was laughing in his company. Only yesterday I was home for a few hours, only yesterday I embraced Tuti. Only yesterday!

Tuti my love,
That's it. A battle has ended. We left the expanses of sand strewn with the bodies of the dead, filled with fire and smoke, and now we are once again in our own country. I am eaten up with worry for you. Perhaps in a few days, when it's all over and we're together again, perhaps then we'll smile… Tonight, and maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, we'll be shooting again, and again there'll be dead and wounded.
~ Yoni

Today in history
4 July 1976
The Entebbe Rescue

On June 27, 1976, four terrorists forced an Air France Airbus to land in Uganda, in the heart of distant Africa. They quickly demanded that Israel release 53 convicted terrorists. The hijackers freed the French crew and non­Jewish passengers, while retaining 105 Jewish and Israeli hostages. A 48­hour deadline was set before executions would begin.

Faced with little choice, the Israeli government announced that it would enter into negotiations. This bought the precious time needed to consolidate a seemingly impossible military option. A new ultimatum was issued for 13:00 on Sunday, July 4.

The only airplane capable of a rescue operation was the C­130 Hercules. On July 1, the mission's overall commander, Brig. General Dan Shomron (later to become the IDF Chief­of­Staff), presented his plan to the IDF Commander and Israel's Defense Minister. The next day they all witnessed a full­scale dress rehearsal. The incredible was deemed possible.

Shomron's plan was based on several advantages that the Israelis had over the terrorists. The Entebbe airport at which the hostages were being held was built by an Israeli construction firm, which was able to provide Shomron with blueprints. Moreover, the released, non-Jewish hostages were able to describe the terrorists, their arms, and their positioning. As a result, the IDF decided to send in an overwhelmingly powerful force: over 200 of the best soldiers the army had to offer participated in the raid, all of them heavily armed.

Finally, the element of surprise was probably the biggest edge that Israel held. According to Shomron: "You had more than 100 people sitting in a small room, surrounded by terrorists with their fingers on the trigger. They could fire in a fraction of a second. we had to fly seven hours, land safely, drive to the terminal area where the hostages were being held, get inside, and eliminate all the terrorists before any of them could fire." The fact that no one expected the Israelis to take such risks was precisely the reason that they took them.

The aircraft took off at 13:20 on July 3 and headed south. Only then was the plan revealed to the Israeli Cabinet, which decided to let the operation continue. The lead Hercules carried the rescue force, led by Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu. It also held two jeeps and the now famous black Mercedes, a perfect copy of dictator Idi Amin's personal car. Two additional Hercules carried reinforcements and troops assigned to carry out special missions, such as destroying the Migs parked nearby. A fourth Hercules was sent to evacuate the hostages.

The air package also included two Boeing 707's. One acted as a forward command post. The second, outfitted as an airborne hospital, landed in nearby Nairobi, Kenya. The Hercules was escorted by F4 Phantoms as far as possible-about one­third the distance.

Skirting thunderstorms over Lake Victoria, the Hercules transports neared the end of the 7­hour, 40­minute flight. A surprise awaited them: the runway lights were on! Despite this, they landed undetected at 23:01 (local time), only one minute past their planned arrival time.

The soldiers freed the hostages in a lightning attack, killing all eight terrorists in the process. Tragically, force commander Yoni Netanyahu was killed as he led the hostages toward the safety of the aircraft; additionally, two hostages were killed in the crossfire inside the airport. The other squads accomplished their missions in virtually the same time as during the "dry­run." By 23:59 the planes were on their way home. The operation, which was predicted to last one hour, in fact took only 58 minutes.

The mission struck a blow at international terrorism. "It resonated far and wide," Shomron later commented. "It showed that you could counter terrorism, and that it was worth cooperating to do so." As America celebrated its Bicentennial, the world was reminded that freedom is a value which must be fought for in every generation.

I wrote a poem about this day a long time ago:


in under an hour
the impossible, achieved
by the warrior poet
in Entebbe

seventy seven selektions
the names that Boese read
"crawl through this tunnel,
we want the Jews dead."

forty seven released
forty seven absolved
forty seven who'd never
performed havdalah

Idi Amin
and the dream he so dread
where his mamma cried
As he rolled in his bed:
Dare not murder jews
Let it be on your head
I've come back to warn you
Beware of their dead

seventy seven still weeping
seventy seven afraid
seventy seven who'd eaten
the bread of the braid

hercules aircraft
quickly assembled
deploying the decoys
they mean to resemble

we'll strike with precision
we'll strike though we fall
we'll strike like the lightning,
like thunder ball

in under an hour
the impossible, achieved
by the warrior poet
in Entebbe

in blessed memory of:
Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Netanyahu,
killed in action, Entebbe, Africa
July 4, 1976

El maley rachamim shochen bam'romim
hamtzey menuchah nechonah al kanfey haschechinah
bema'alot kedoshim ute'horim
kezohar harakia me'irim umazhirim
lenishmat Yoni Netanyahu
shehalach le'olamo
ba'avur shekol beney hamishpachah, yedidim umakirim
mitpalelim le'iluy nishmato
began eden tehey menuchato
lachen ba'al harachamim yastireyhu
beseter kenafav le'olamim
veyitzror bitzror hachayim et nismato
Adonai hu nachalato Veyanuach beshalom al mishkavo
Venomar amen.

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