*By the historical consultant to the major motion picture Entebbe*
'The definitive work on the subject....This is the achievement of a masterly, first-rate historian' New York Times Book Review
'It's a brilliantly orchestrated book, wonderfully rich in detail, but at the same time roaring along at a heart-thumping pace...' Mail on Sunday
'A brilliant, breathless account that reads like the plot of an action movie.' Sunday Telegraph
This edition is updated with new material on recent discoveries.
On 3 July 1976 Israeli Special Forces carried out a daring raid to free more than a hundred Israeli, French and US hostages held by German and Palestinian terrorists at Entebbe Airport, Uganda. The legacy of this mission is still felt today in the way Western governments respond to terrorist blackmail.
Codenamed Thunderbolt, the operation carried huge risks. The flight was a challenge: 2,000 miles with total radio silence over hostile territory to land in darkness at Entebbe Airport in Idi Amin's Uganda. On the ground, the Israeli commandos had just three minutes to carry out their mission. They had to evade a cordon of élite Ugandan paratroopers, storm the terminal and free more than a hundred hostages. So much could have gone wrong: the death of the hostages if the terrorists got wind of the assault; or the capture of Israel's finest soldiers if their Hercules planes could not take off. Both would have been a human and a PR catastrophe.
Now, with the mission largely forgotten or even unknown to many, Saul David gives the first comprehensive account of Operation Thunderbolt using classified documents from archives in four countries and interviews with key participants, including Israeli soldiers and politicians, hostages, a member of the Kenyan government and a former terrorist.
Both a thrilling page-turner and a major piece of historical detective work, Operation Thunderbolt shows how the outcome of Israel's most famous military operation depended on secret diplomacy, courage and luck-and was in the balance right up to the very last moment.
Military historian David (Military Blunders) tackles the weeklong drama of the July 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Israel and destined for Paris by two Palestinians and two Germans, considering it largely from the perspectives of the hijackers who had diverted the plane to Entebbe, Uganda and Israeli leaders in charge of the rescue operation. David conclusively demonstrates that Ugandan dictator Idi Amin cooperated with the hijackers and, in reprisal for the Israeli raid, had an elderly Israeli-British hostage abducted from a Ugandan hospital and murdered, while also ordering the deaths of the Entebbe air traffic controllers and hundreds of ethnic Kenyans in his country (Kenya had provided landing rights to the Israeli commandos' transit planes). Of note is David's account of the tug-of-war between Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres Israel's prime minister and defense minister, respectively over whether to conduct the raid mission. David profiles other Israeli principals involved including Yoni Netanyahu, brother of Benjamin Netanyahu and the only one of the 91 commandos involved who was killed and captures the largely ineffectual and peripheral activities of a number of British, French, and American diplomats. David's book lacks insight on the hijackers' backgrounds and motivations, but is otherwise an excellent account of the planning and execution of a successful high-risk operation.