IDF archives release tapes of Operation Yonatan debriefing

Israel Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Benny Peled is heard saying that his superior, IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Motta Gur, had doubts about the mission plan.

July 4, 2016 00:01
1 minute read.

A police officer clears the way for rescued Air France hostages arriving in Tel Aviv after returning from Entebbe. (photo credit: MOSHE MILNER / GPO)


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The IDF Archives released secret audio tapes that relate to the daring mission in which, 40 years ago on Monday, rescued 102 passengers held at Entebbe airport in Uganda by Palestinian and German terrorists.

The declassified tapes are the recording of a debriefing session conducted by the air force a day after the raid, when all of Israel was in euphoria and the world was astonished and admired the Israeli success.

Israel Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Benny Peled is heard telling those in attendance that his superior, IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Motta Gur, had doubts about the mission plan and feared that landing unwelcome planes in a hostile airport in the middle of the night would be too dangerous and probably “mission impossible.”

“He [Gur] had a negative view,” Peled said.

Although the tapes are now in the public domain, none of the information is new.

“The Entebbe operation doesn’t conceal any more secrets,” Col. Muki Betser told The Jerusalem Post.

Betser was one of the planners of the operation and the deputy of Lt.-Col. Yoni Netanyahu, who was killed when he led his commandos to storm the terminal and rescue the passengers.

The codename selected by IDF computers for the mission was “Thunderbolt,” but days after the raid and as a gesture to meet the request of the Netanyahu family, it was officially renamed Operation Yonatan. Betser, who is one of Israel’s top experts on guerrilla warfare and special operations, is one of the true heroes of the mission.

Peled told his pilots and technicians who took part in the mission that the political echelon – prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and defense minister Shimon Peres, were skeptical and hesitated whether to approve it.

Under pressure from senior military personal who stressed that time was running out, they eventually did give the green light. And the rest is history.

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