Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven
Will it be the same
If I saw you in heaven
I must be strong, and carry on
Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven
Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven
I’ll find my way, through night and day
Cause I know I just can’t stay
Here in heaven
Time can bring you down
Time can bend your knee
Time can break your heart
Have you begging please
Beyond the door
There’s peace I’m sure.
And I know there’ll be no more…
Tears in heaven
Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven
Will it be the same
If I saw you in heaven
I must be strong, and carry on
Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven
Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven
A soldier must be willing to give his all
He is overworked and underpaid
A truer patriot was never made
Ready to go at any time
Wherever there is trouble or the first sign
His courage and honor are unsurpassed
Ready and willing to complete the task
Travelling to lands both near and far
He stands his post and looks at the stars
Wondering what he might have done
If he had not chosen to carry a gun
Remember the next time that you are driving by
And see the flag flying proud and high
That somewhere out there a soldier stands
Weary and cold in a foreign land
Protecting our country from our foes
Standing tall and proud come rain or snow
by Robert Frost
He is that fallen lance that lies as hurled,
That lies unlifted now, come dew, come rust,
But still lies pointed as it ploughed the dust.
If we who sight along it round the world,
See nothing worthy to have been its mark,
It is because like men we look too near,
Forgetting that as fitted to the sphere,
Our missiles always make too short an arc.
They fall, they rip the grass, they intersect
The curve of earth, and striking, break their own;
They make us cringe for metal-point on stone.
But this we know, the obstacle that checked
And tripped the body, shot the spirit on
Further than target ever showed or shone.
Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu or Jonathan Netanyahu (Hebrew: יונתן “יוני” נתניהו) , (March 13, 1946 – July 4, 1976) was a member of the Israel Defense Forces elite Sayeret Matkal unit. His younger brother Benjamin Netanyahu was Prime Minister of Israel from 1996-1999, and currently serves as Leader of the Opposition in the Knesset.
Yoni was awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service (Hebrew:עיטור המופת) for his conduct in the Yom Kippur War. He was killed in action during Operation Entebbe at Entebbe airport, by Ugandan soldiers, where the Israeli military rescued hostages after an aircraft hijacking. He was the leader of the assault, and the only Israeli military casualty of the raid.
Yonatan Netanyahu joined the Israeli Defence Forces in 1964 and excelled in the Officer Training Course. He was eventually given command of a paratroopers company. On June 5, 1967, during the Six Day War, his battalion fought the battle of Um Katef in Sinai then reinforced the Golan Heights. During the battle, Yonatan received a wound to his elbow while helping an injured fellow soldier.
After the Six Day War, Netanyahu went to the United States in order to study at Harvard University but returned a year later because of the War of Attrition. Instead, he studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, returning to active military service after half a year.
In the early 1970’s he joined Sayeret Matkal (Israeli special forces) and in the summer of 1972 was appointed as the unit’s deputy commander. During that year, he commanded a raid (Operation Crate 3) in which senior Syrian officers were captured and exchanged in return for captive Israeli pilots. The following year he participated in Operation Spring of Youth (Hebrew: מבצע אביב נעורים) in which the terrorists and leadership of Black September (a PLO terrorist group which committed the 1972 Munich Massacre) were killed by Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet-13 and the Mossad.
During the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, Netanyahu commanded a Sayeret Matkal force in the Golan Heights that killed more than 40 Syrian Commando officers in a battle which thwarted the Syrian commandos’ raid in the Golan’s heartland. During the same war, he also rescued Lieutenant Colonel Yossi Ben Hanan from Tel Shams, while Ben-Hanan was lying wounded behind Syrian lines.
Following the war, Netanyahu was awarded Medal of Distinguished Service (Hebrew: עיטור המופת), Israel’s third highest military decoration, for his wartime conduct. Netanyahu then volunteered to serve as armor commander due to the heavy casualties inflicted on the Israeli Armored Corps during the war, with a disproportionate number of these in the officer ranks. Netanyahu excelled in Tank Officers course and was given command of the Barak Armored Brigade, which was shattered during the war. Netanyahu turned his brigade into the leading military unit in the Golan Heights.
In June 1975 Netanyahu left the Armored Corps and returned to Sayeret Matkal as unit commander. He was killed in action on July 4, 1976 while commanding Operation Entebbe, his first big operation since returning to the unit. Netanyahu was the only Israeli soldier killed during the raid (along with 3 hostages and dozens of Ugandan and Palestinian fighters). The operation itself is considered a huge success with almost all of the hostages rescued unhurt. The operation was posthumously renamed Mivtsa Yonatan in honor of Netanyahu.
Netanyahu was buried in Jerusalem’s Military Cemetery at Mount Herzl on July 6 following a military funeral attended by enormous crowds and top-ranking officials. Shimon Peres, then Defense Minister, said during the eulogy that “…a bullet had torn the young heart of one of Israel’s finest sons, one of its most couragous warriors, one of its most promising commanders – the magnificent Yonatan Netanyahu.”
*Was a high school classmate of Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson at Cheltenham High School in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. *Yoni Netanyahu married Tirza (Tutti) Krasnoselsky on August 17, 1967. *Shortly after their wedding, they flew to the U.S. where Yoni enrolled at Harvard University. *He took classes in Philosophy and Mathematics. He excelled in both and was on the Dean’s List at the end of his first year. *However, feeling restless from being away from Israel, Yoni transferred to Jerusalem’s Hebrew University in 1968. *In early 1969, he decided to leave his studies and return to the army to protect his country. *Military life took a strain on his marriage and in 1972 he and Tutti were divorced. *At the time of his death, Yoni was living with his girlfriend of two years, Bruria.
He has two brothers. Benjamin (nicknamed “Bibi”) would later become Prime Minister of Israel from 1996 to 1999. Iddo, youngest out of the three, is a radiologist and writer. Both served in Sayeret Matkal. Parents are Benzion and Cela Netanyahu. Benzion is a professor emeritus of history at Cornell University. He extensively researched the topic of the marranos.
Letters From Yoni
I would rather opt for living here in continual battle than for becoming part of the wandering Jewish people. Any compromise will simply hasten the end, (A letter to his brother Benjamin on his decision to stay in Israel)
As you no doubt know from reading the papers, the situation in Israel is, in a word — catastrophic! Not a day passes, literally, without a border incident, sabotage, mine explosion, murder, ambushes, shootings and setting fire to fields. During all the years of my service and of my living here the situation has never been so tense. In the army, everyone is impatient — when are we finally going to strike back?!! We have complete confidence in our strength. We are capable of anything. (October 1966)
The real cause is the sense of helplessness in the face of a war that has no end. For the war has not ended, and it seems to me that it will go on and on… This is the ‘quiet’ before the next storm. I’ve no doubt that war will come. Nor do I doubt that we will win. But for how long? Until when?.. We’re young, and we were not born for wars alone. (A year after the Six Day War)
In another week I’ll be 23. On me, on us, the young men of Israel, rests the duty of keeping our country safe. This is a heavy responsibility, which matures us early… I do not regret what I have done and what I’m about to do. I’m convinced that what I am doing is right. I believe in myself, in my country and in my future. (1969, on his decision to return to enlist in the IDF)
Death — that’s the only thing that disturbs me. It doesn’t frighten me; it arouses my curiosity. It is a puzzle that I, like many others, have tried to solve without success. I do not fear it because I attribute little value to a life without a purpose. And if I should have to sacrifice my life to attain its goal, I’ll do so willingly. (At age 17)
Source : “Self-Portrait of a Hero: From the Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu, 1963-1976”; Little, Brown and Company; ISBN-10: 0446674613. http://www.amazon.com/Self-Portrait-Hero-Jonathan-Netanyahu-1963-1976/dp/0446674613
Source : BIOGRAPHICON.COM
By : Corey Fauchon
The soldier fights for the people,
The soldier fights for good,
The soldier fights against evil.
Evil fights against the soldier,
Good fights with the soldier,
The people help the soldier.
The soldier fights for the Politicians,
The soldier fights for his country,
The soldier fights for his religion.
The politicians send him of to fight,
The country supports his strength,
His religion holds him back.
In the early part of the critical week beginning Sunday June 27, Yoni was engaged in a military operation which is still to this day classified, shuttling twice from Sinai to central Israel. Early Monday morning he spent a few hours with his troops at Lod airport. A hijacked Air France plane, with scores of Israelis on board, had just taken off from Libya after a brief stopover there, and it was not known whether the hijackers might land the plane in Israel.
The plane, however, did not proceed to Israel but turned southeast, in the direction of East Africa, and landed that morning at Entebbe airport in Uganda.There, the four terrorists who had hijacked the plane, two Germans and two Arabs, were met by several other Arab terrorists. The hostages were taken to the airport’s old terminal building.There they were held under guard by the army of Uganda, whose head, the notorious Idid Amin, colluded with the Arab terrorist organizations. The terrorists demanded the release from jail of over fifty of their colleagues, most of whom were behind bars in Israel, a few in other countries. The deadline for their release was set for Thursday afternoon. Israel was warned that if by that date the jailed terrorists were not released, the hostages would be killed.
Late Tuesday and Wednesday, some low-key discussions took place among Israeli army strategists about the possibility of rescuing the hostages. Yoni was kept informed of these discussions, although he was still tied up with other operations of his Unit (the Sayeret Matkal). For the time being, the discussions led nowhere. But on Wednesday night Yoni received word that the talks seemed to have taken on a more meaningful tone.
“On Wednesday evening the phone calls began to come in,” recalls Avi, the Unit’s head of intelligence, who was with Yoni in Sinai, “informing us that a directive had been issued for the Unit to start planing [a rescue operation]. During the night there were quite a few calls…mostly from Muki [an officer of the Unit who was to be Yoni’s number-two man in the raid]. Muki was pressing us to return to Israel, because he was repeatedly asked: ‘When can Yoni get here?’…With every phone call you said to yourself, ‘Maybe there’s a chance that something will happen after all.’ The pressure was pretty serious, and we understood that by the next day, first thing, we’d have to fly back.”
Yoni did indeed fly north on Thursday once he could manage it, probably late in the morning. That morning, however, with the ultimatum nearing its deadline and with no acceptable rescue plan available, the government of Israel decided to negotiate with the terrorists, stating its willingness to release terrorists for hostages. By then, most of the non-Israeli hostages had been released and flown from Entebbe to Paris. Of the 106 hostages remaining in Entebbe, most were Israelis. “My intention was not to use a ruse or a tactical ploy to gain time,” Prime Minister Rabin wrote of his government’s decision, “but to enter into serious negotiations, with Israel fulfilling whatever commitments it made.”
With the release of the non-Israeli hostages, important information started to come in on the state of affairs in the old terminal at Entebbe. Such information was crucial for planning any rescue, and so the military option had acquired momentum. By evening, Yoni received the formal order to start planning and preparing the Unit for a possible raid on Entebbe.
Landing C-130 transports directly at the airport of Entebbe was considered a feasible way of bringing in the rescue force. Sayeret Matkal, the Unit that Yoni commanded, was given the brunt of the job. It had been ordered to take control of the old terminal building, where the hostages were being held and where the terrorists and the Ugandan troops were positioned, and was also to seal off the whole area from any possible counterattack by the Ugandan army until the planes could take off.
“The instructions were extremely general,” says Biran, the intelligence officer of Dan Shomron, the man who was given overall command of the ground operation. “Yoni had logistical questions … for which we as yet had no answers. Everything was still up in the air.” In the meeting between Yoni and Shomron and their staffs, “we still did not go into specifics about who, how many, how, and what. It was obvious that all this would have to be studied and developed. As for the Unit’s plan of action, Shomron did not get involved. He said: ‘These are men who know their job. There’s no point for me to interfere.’ ”
Planning The Unit’s Action
Yoni returned to his Unit, gathered a few of his officers at his office, and started formulating with them the Unit’s plan of action for the rescue at Entebbe. For a while, Colonel Ehud Barak, who left the following day for Kenia to coordinate the eventual landing of the planes there, also sat in at the meeting.
All the while, intelligence information concerning the hostages and terrorists, as well as about the layout of the old terminal building, was filtering in. After several hours of brain-storming, some of which Yoni did by himself later, in the middle of the night, the Unit’s preliminary plan of action was formed. Altough certain revisions would be made by Yoni during the following day and a half, the plan for the most part remained unchanged. In fact, it was carried out almost to the letter.
The plan called for the Unit’s initial force of twenty nine men to be flown to Entebbe and to land at night near the new terminal. From there the men were to proceed to the old terminal, arriving in a Mercedes and two Land Rover jeeps, the kind of vehicles frequently used by the Ugandan army. It was hoped that the Ugandan guards surrounding the building would assume that this was a force of their own, perhaps the one that accompanied President Idi Amin on his occasional visits to the hostages. In this manner, it was hoped that the Unit’s men would be able to approach the Ugandan guards without first being fired upon.
“According to the intelligence we had at the time, there were dozens of Ugandan guards,” explains Avi. “Yoni was adamant that we had to find some sort of solution to the problem concerning the Ugandan security belt.” Thus they came upon the idea of the Mercedes and jeeps, which was meant to “delay opening of fire by the Ugandans as long as possible.” Ideally, the guards might even wave the vehicles through. However, should they want to check the vehicles and their passengers, “our men would have to open fire,” continued Avi. “They would be at the point of no return anyway.”
The remainder of the plan was as follows After the possible encounter with the guards, the force would proceed rapidly to the building, get out of the vehicles, and run to the various entrances, the squads entering their assigned entrances simultaneously. Several squads were assigned to the two main halls on the ground floor where the hostages were thought to be held; other squads were assigned to the top floor, where Ugandan soldiers were stationed; while some commandos were to clear the other rooms on the ground floor that were occupied by the terrorists. Yoni and his command team would position themselves outside the main entrance in order to be able to control the flow of men and, in case of a hitch, go in. At the second stage of the mission, a second force of the Unit, driving in four APC’s, would land and quickly proceed to the old terminal, cordoning its environs from any possible counterattack by the Ugandan army. Besides the large Ugandan force believed to be stationed in the old terminal, there was an Ugandan regimental air force base some 200 yards from the building.
Day Of Preparations
As more information came in, however, Yoni changed certain points in the plan. He gave briefings to the soldiers and officers, supervised some of the rehearsals, took care of numerous matters that cropped up, held a meeting in his office with the commander of the C-130 transport squadron, and went over to the Kirya, the military headquarters of the IDF, several times for meetings and briefings.
His most important meeting at the Kirya was, without a doubt, the one he had with Defense Minister Shimon Peres.
“I asked somebody what the meeting was about,” says Rachel, the secretary to Motta Gur, the chief of staff. When she saw Yoni waiting to go into Peres’s office, she “was told that Shimon had asked Yoni to come so that he could look him in the eyes and ask him straight, ‘Yoni, can it be done?’ That was the whole purpose of the meeting. Yoni stood there [outside Peres’s door] with maps in his hands, very preoccupied….He was pressed for time and said that he was in a terrible hurry and they should let him in already.”
“He presented the plan to me in detail,” recalls Peres, “and I liked it very much. The two of us sat alone…My impression was one of exactness and imagination…and complete self-confidence…which without a doubt influenced me. We had a problem with lack of intelligence. But Yoni said: ‘Do you know of any oepration that wasn’t carried out half blind? Every operation is half blind.’ But Yoni was well aware of the problem, and he told me that the operation was absolutely doable. And as to the cost, he said we had every chance of coming out of it with almost no losses.”
That night, with Chief of Staff Motta Gur looking on, the various forces, including that of the Unit, conducted a full model exercise. “We practiced according to the plan,” says Muki. “We placed two soldiers who acted as ‘guards’ on the runway. They ordered us to stop. We did, and Yoni ‘shot’ at them with a silencers. We then continued toward the terminal.” Several years later Muki also explained: “During the preparations for the raid Yoni foresaw a situation whereby we encountered two Ugandan guards…and our response in such a case was to take out the two guards with silencers.”
This encounter with the guards was followed by a dash to the old terminal building and a rapid run from the vehicles to the entrances. Speed was now considered critical. The purpose was to reach the entrances before the terrorists realized what was going on and started to kill off the hostages with automatic-weapons fire and grenades.
Following the exercise, the Chief of Staff met with the various commanders and wanted to know their opinion about the chances of succes. He spent the longest amount of time with Yoni.
“Yoni said to Motta that he had every reason to believe that if the hostages were in fact still there, the Unit, with the methods and men at its disposal, could pull it off,” recalls Muki. “It was fairly natural for Yoni to think so, but he [also] had good reason [for saying that]. The bottom line of what he said was: ‘It can be done.’ I saw Motta’s reaction, and I’m convinced that Yoni’s words gave Motta…the required confidence to push on and get the go-ahead from the cabinet.”
Following his discussion with Yoni, Dan Shomron, and other officers, Motta Gur said that he had reached a decision in favor of the operation and was going to recommend it to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Peres.
A few hours later Yoni went home for a brief nap. Early the following morning, Saturday July 3, he said goodbye to his girlfriend Bruria and rushed back to the Unit. He held one last inspection of the men, then conducted an hour-long tactics session with the officers.
“It was a productive hour,” says Giora, one of the leading officers. “There was a lot of discussion about how things would be done under that kind of pressure. Different questions came up….[We considered] what would happen if a team was knocked out, who would replace it, and so on. We raised these questions, and Yoni answered them on the spot: ‘We’ll do it this way or that.’ It was an excellent meeting.”
Yoni then left his men and went with some of his officers to Lod airport for the final general briefing, headed by Deputy Chief of Staff Yekutiel Adam, who during the last two days had been pushing indefatigably for the execution of the raid.
There, in the squadron briefing room at Lod, Yoni met again with Joshua Shani, the lead pilot and comander of the Hercules transport squadron. He spent some time with him going over the joint plan of action. Yoni also took aside Amnon Halivni, the pilot of the hostage evacuation plane, who had spent some time in Uganda and was acquainted with the old terminal and the Ugandan army. “Yoni wanted to know details about the building, from the shed for firefighting equipment on the right end to the control tower on the left,” Halivni says. “He wanted to know where the stairs were, what kind of windows there were, what the approach to the entrances was like and more….He asked me one more thing: ‘How do you think the Ugandan sentries will react to the Mercedes and jeeps?’ I told him: ‘They’ll yell ‘Stop!’ or something like that, and they’ll point their bayoneted rifles at you. And if you don’t stop, they’ll shoot.”
By the time the general briefing with Adam was over, Yoni’s men had arrived at the airport with their vehicles. At noon four planes took off for Sharm-el-Shekh, at the southern tip of the Sinai desert. There they would await word as to whether the government had given them the go-ahead to continue on to Entebbe.
The flight to Sharm-el-Sheikh was rocky, causing much discomfort among the men. After landing at Sharm, the men got off, refreshed themselves a bit, and then gathered to hear Yoni’s final briefing.
“It was a speech I’ll never forget,” says Alex, one of the assault soldiers. “He gave us confidence that we could do it. His leadership and his ability to affect us were simply above and beyond anything.”
The government was still in session and had not yet decided whether to approve the operation. But if the raid was to be executed at all, the planes would now have to take off for their destination, since Entebbe was eight hours away, and the plan called for landing at what was considered the optimal hour: midnight Ugandan time. Thus, with the understanding that if the government did not approve the operation the planes would turn around midway and head back to Israel, the force was instructed to take off.
“Yoni told the men to get on board the plane, and they were surprised to hear they were actually going,” says Shlomo. “Not that he was raring to fight but he didn’t look at all worried by the go-ahead either. You could see that he felt very comfortable, that he was finally starting to breathe easily.”
Take-Off From The Sinai Desert
The lead plane was crowded. It carried Yoni’s assault party with its three vehicles and a paratrooper force, intended for taking control of the civilian new terminal. They were flying over the Red Sea, just a few yards above water to avoid radar detection by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Yoni and Muki sat down with Amos, a soldier of the Unit who had been transferred at the last moment from the peripheral APC force to the assault force. Amos had replaced a soldier who had become ill on the flight to Sharm and could not participate in the raid. Yoni sketched for him (on the back of an air sickness bag) the plan othe terminal and the assault routes, indicating to him the various entrances and the task of each squad, including that of Amos.
“While Yoni was explaining all this to me,” says Amos, “we were informed that the government had given us the green light to carry on to Entebbe, that we were going to do it…Yet he stayed completely calm…and went on explaining to me my job as though we were going to perform an exercise.”
On the way some of the men slept while sitting on their seats in the vehicles. Some were sprawled over the car hoods or lying on the floor beneath the jeeps. For a while Yoni sat next to Muki in the Mercedes, reading a book. Yoni too was exhausted after a week during which he had hardly slept a wink. At a certain stage he went to the cockpit, where some of the officers were gathered, and lay down on the bunk bed. A little while later the lead pilot wanted to grab a nap as well.
“I looked back and saw Yoni sleeping in that bed,” says Shani. “Under normal conditions, if some battalion commander is resting there, I tell him politely but firmly to go rest in the rear of the plane. This time I couldn’t bring myself to do it, because my theory was that the chances of the first group that would storm that building to stay alive were fifty-fifty. I said to myself: ‘He’s taking a huge personal risk in this, that’s for sure. He’s grabbing some sleep here. So am I going to wake him up?’ On the other hand, I also wanted to lie down. He was curled up on the edge. I lay down next to him, getting closer little by little till I was a few millimeters away from him. I myself was afraid of a failure on a national level…that we simply wouldn’t succeed, that we’d cause a disaster. I looked at Yoni from about an inch away, nose to nose, and he was sleeping like a baby, utterly at peace. I asked Tzvika, the navigator, when Yoni had gone to sleep, and he said, ‘He went to sleep [a while ago] and asked me to wake him up a little while before the landing.’ And the thought flitted through my mind: Where does this calmness of his come from? Soon you’re going into battle, and here you are, sleeping as if nothing is happening! I myself couldn’t fall asleep. I got up ad went back to my seat.”
By this time the planes were already flying high over the skies of Africa, first over Ethiopia, then over Kenia. Night had fallen and the planes were now cruising in the dark with their lights turned off. Finally they reached Lake Victoria, on whose shores lay Entebbe airport. A tremendous lightning storm caught them as they entered the lake.
Yoni got up. He went back to the hold, where his men were about to get ready, and woke up some of those who were still asleep. The men put on their ammo vests. Each took his place in his vehicle.
Yoni then proceeded to move among his men.
“There was this reddish light, and I remember that we saw his face,” relates Shlomo, one of the soldiers. “He wasn’t wearing his beret, or his ammo vest or gun…He spoke to the men, smiled at us, said a few words of encouragement to each one. It was as though he were leaving us, as though he knew what was going to happen to him. He didn’t issue any orders but just tried to instill confidence. I remember that he shook hands with the youngest guy on the force…He acted more like a friend…I sensed that he felt that from here on everything, or at least nearly everything, depended on us. He’d seen a lot of combat, and quite a few of the soldiers there had seen none at all, or a lot less than he had. And I remember him going by, joking a little, exchanging a few words, easing the men’s tension before battle.”
They had already reached a small island on the lake, just south of Entebbe. The other three planes of the convoy now stayed behind, flying in circles, while the lead plane headed north. The storm was behind them. All of a sudden the airport could be seen at a distance, with its runway lights fully lit. Yoni proceeded to get into the passenger seat of the Mercedes. The back ramp was being lowered as the plane was descending toward the runway, and Yoni told Amitsur, the driver, to start the car’s engine.
The Unit’s officers convened around 1 A.M. to receive an initial briefing from Yoni and instructions on preparations. “Yoni was very tired,” recalls Muki. “You could see it by looking at him. Actually we were all tired from the whole week we had just finished, the officers in particular. So at a certain point I suggested that we stop and get some sleep. This was around 2 or 3 A.M. on Friday morning. Yoni agreed, and the small planning team went to sleep, but it turned out later that Yoni remained alone at his office and continued to work on the plan. And in fact, when he presented the plan at 7 A.M. the following morning, after sleeping at most one or two hours, I saw how far he had carried the work from where we left off. There were many points in the plan that we had not considered, which Yoni had thought through to the end. That morning he presented the plan complete, perfect, down to the last detail.”
As the plane landed on the tarmac, the Ugandans in the main control tower probably did not understand what was going on. Some paratroop soldiers jumped off while the plane was taxiing, placing lighted markers on the runway, so that the other three planes would be able to land in case the runway lights were switched off by the men in the control tower. The Hercules transport came to a halt at the designated point.
The vehicles got out quickly. Yoni turned around to verify that the two jeeps were behind him and told Amitsur to head along the diagonal runway. After a mile or so, the three vehicles turned left onto the approach runway. This runway led directly to the old terminal building, where the hostages were being held. However, they now saw two Ugandan guards – at exactly the spot that had been envisaged during the rehearsal in Israel. One of the guards shouted at them to stop. “When I saw those two guards waiting for us, like the guards that Yoni had placed in the rehearsal, I knew that this operation would succeed,” says Bukhris, the youngest soldier on the force.
“We were sitting in the jeep,” recalls Amir. “We saw it as if in a movie. The Mercedes was advancing, and at a certain point we were approaching the terminal….We saw a Ugandan soldier to the right and another one to the left. The runway lights were on either side…and we were driving in the middle. This was aboug 200 meters from the building…The guard on the left disappeared from view. Suddenly the one from the right came toward us. He approached the Mercedes and made a threatening movement with his weapon…He cocked his rifle…It was obvious to me that the guard had to be taken out.”
“The guard shouted something,” related Rani, one of the officers who sat in the first jeep. “He then moved into a shooting position, raised the rifle to his shouder. I was sure he was about to fire – no ‘ifs’ about it.”
“If the guard had fired first, the whole operation might have sunk,” explains Amitsur, one of the Unit’s officers and the man who was driving the Mercedes. “Yoni told me: ‘Slow down a little, we’ll approach them.’ He told me to slow down so that we wouldn’t frighten them, as if we’re about to identify ourselves…Yoni was quite calm.”
Yoni and Giora, another officer of the Unit who sat behind him, had their silenced pistols ready in hand. When the Ugandan soldier who was aiming his rifle at them was only several yards away, they both fired. The Ugandan recoiled and wobbled. He was probably hit but was not totally incapacitated. It was then that loud shots were heard. It is impossible to say what the origin of these shots was. Some claim it came from one of the two Ugandan guards. Some men in the Mercedes say that it came from the jeeps, while one or two men in the jeeps thought it came from the Mercedes. In any case, once the loud shots were heard, the men in the Land Rovers fired freely on the two Ugandan guards (the one on the left had reappeared), knocking them out. “One does not leave behind an armed soldier…who would use his weapon once he realized what you were going to do,” explains Yiftach, the deputy commander of the Unit.
“We could not have approached the terminal building silently any closer than we did,” sums up Amir. “We started shooting heavy fire, and had we not done that, I’m sure they would have fired on us.”
“Yoni told me now to speed up,” recalls Amitsur. “We went at full speed…for about 200 meters or so….He instructed me to stop in front of the control tower…It was a spot that was relatively sheltered and that is why he chose it. He then gave an order to get out of the car and start running, and they all started running toward the terminal.”
The jeeps were right on the heels of the Mercedes. They too had stopped and the men got out quickly, the first ones running on the heels of those who had gotten out of the Mercedes.
“When I got out of the jeep, I saw Yonout of the corner of my eye going a bit sideways, slightly at an angle…so that he could be in a position of control… We ran to the near corner of the terminal building,” related Rani.
“I saw the lead man running and shooting, I don’t know at what, and then he pulled to the left, to the buiding, and stopped,” recalls Amos. “Yoni was then a little bit behind him. The men didn’t understand what was going on, why the lead man had stopped. Most of the men congregated and stopped behind him. So Yoni shouted to run forward…All of us understood that it was a matter of seconds before the terrorists came to their senses.”
“Yoni stood apart from us…and kept shouting: ‘Forward! Come on!’ calling the lead man by his name,” recalls Alex.
The pause in the assault could have had disastrous consequences had it continued longer than it did. Every second’s delay increased the chances that the terrorists would begin to kill the hostages. When Yoni saw that the lead man did not respond to his commands, he lurched ahead, thereby signaling the men to follow him.
“Yoni shouted to run forward,” explains Amos, “and I remember him running forward himself…He passed [the lead man who had stopped]…The one who was first out of the corner of the buiding was Yoni…He then ran a bit to the right, to let the men [who were meant to go inside the building] pass him…Right afterward Amnon and Amir passed Yoni… The pause in the assault had lasted a few seconds.”
Amir by then had come from behind, after having gotten out of the jeep relatively late. He kept on running forward, passing Yoni and thus becoming the first in line of the assault force. The men were running now exposed in front of the mostly glass wall of the terminal building, with the terrorists positioned inside behind that wall.
“At some point [as we were running in front of the entrances],” continued Amos, “I think I caught up with Yoni, so that Yoni was just to my right…At this stage, while I was running to the entrance, I saw Yoni fall. This was while Amir was at his entrance, about to burst in. I think that this was the point in time when Yoni was hit…At that stage there was already shooting, some shots were fired into the building [through the glass wall], and we had just fired on a Ugandan soldier outside it.”
“I looked to my left,” says Shlomo, “because I wanted to see where I was supposed to go in. At that stage I saw Yoni, and I think that that’s when he got hit, because I saw him make half a turn, with his face contorted…sinking down a little bit, with his knees bent.”
Someone had shouted that Yoni was hit, but the men of the force continued in their tasks, following Yoni’s orders not to take care of the wounded until the hostages were freed. Each of them realized that time was of the essence, as it would have taken only seconds for the terrorists, once they fully realized what was going on, to have sprayed automatic fire on the huddled hostages.
“When I was about ten yards from the door I saw the glass break and understood that someone was shooting at me,” says Amir. “Without thinking twice I shot him through the glass and saw that he was hit.”
After shooting at the terrorist in the buiding who had fired more than half a magazine at the force, Amir entered the main hall, where the hostages were being held. He discovered that he was the first soldier inside. Immediately upon his footsteps came his commander, Amnon, who, once he entered the room, saw two terrorists crouching, a man and a woman, aiming their Kalashnikovs at Amir. He quickly fired at them and killed them. Next Muki and Amos entered, apparently together. Amos was scanning the room, looking for more terrorists. “First thing I saw Amnon,” says Amos. “Then I looked to my left and saw the two terrorists who were shot. I also saw the fully lit room with all the hostages lying on the floor. And after a short time, from the left, a terrorist suddenly leaped up, holding a weapon. I shot him. The first bullet hit his Kalashnikov, went through his weapon, and entered his chest. I shot three bullets that hit him and finished him off.”
With that, the four terrorists who were inside the main hall and posed the most immediate threat to the hostages were killed. The hostages were still in a daze, flattened out on the floor. Almost all of them were unhurt; three of them, however, were hit by the gunfire and would later die of their wounds. Another hostage, Dora Bloch, was in a Ugandan hospital during the raid, and would be executed the following day by Idi Amin’s men.
Simultaneously, other teams from the Unit entered the rest of the building, killing three more terrorists and encountering several dozen Ugandan soldiers, most of whom were killed in the ensuing gunfire. Some of the Ugandan soldiers who were stationed on the upper floor had quickily scuttled from the building and fled.
Yoni was lying on the tarmac. He was still alive but rapidly losing blood. He had been hit by a burst from Kalashnikov in his arm and, more seriously, in his chest. The bullet had entered the front of the chest and exited from the back. “At the end of the fighting,” says the Unit’s doctor, “somebody came to help me place him on a stretcher. It was then that some consciousness returned to him…He was perhaps roused by a soldierly instinct. There was a lot of shooting toward the control tower, which made a lot of noise, and he tried to get up.”
Yoni was transferred by jeep to the evacuation plane,which was positioned close to the old terminal. There a team of doctors tried to resuscitate him, but their lengthy attempts were of no avail. Yoni was pronounced dead.
The Landing At Kenia And Return Home
Shortly thereafter, the evacuation plane, loaded with the hostages and Yoni’s body, took off from Entebbe. Half an hour later it landed at Nairobi, Kenia, Uganda’s neighbor. Kenia had earlier agreed to let the Israeli planes refuel on their way back.
The other three planes carrying the soldiers landed one by one. The Unit’s soldiers, who knew that Yoni was hurt, did not yet know of his death. They were instructed to remain inside their plane while it was refueling.
“On our plane there had been endless chatter,” recalls Shlomo, “everyone telling what happened to him. It seemed that everything was going great, that we’d succeeded. And then someone had turned off the entire plane. Everybody was silent…We were hit hard, and each of us withdrew into himself.”
Matan vilnai, the head of the paratrooper contingent in the raid, went over to the hostages’ plane. “I saw Yoni’s body lying in the lane, wrapped in one of those awful aluminum blankets the doctors use,” says Matan. “I saw the hostages completely stunned, shadows of men. They were very depressed. And what hit me then was a kind of feeling that was, for an army man like myself, totally illogical: that if Yoni was dead, then the whole thing wasn’t worth it.”
When the planes left Kenia a short time later, no report had yet arrived in Israel of any dead among the force. “When the last plane took off from Nairobi,” says Rachel, Gur’s secretary, “there was a wave of rejoicing [at the Kirya headquarters]. The chief of staff’s driver brought in a few bottles of champagne, and everyone celebrated. In the end, they left. It got quiet, and Motta was left alone in the room with his aide Hagai Regev. I went to the kitchen to make some coffee. Suddenly the other secretaries came over, grabbed me, and said: ‘Yoni was killed.’ I dropped everything and went to the chief of staff’s office. I opened the door of the room I’d left two minutes before, when it had been full of happiness over the success…and I saw the chief of staff sitting, face fallen, terribly sad. Not to mention Hagai, who was just crushed. In one minute, all the joy had been erased…It was as though nothing else mattered. Everything took on a different meaning.”
Gur went over to Peres’s office, where the defense minister had laid down to rest, to inform him of Yoni’s death. “He got up to open the door,” says Gur. “When he heard of Yoni’s death, was clearly shocked. I could see he was taking it personally. He said, ‘My God,’ or something like that. He took it very hard – not like a defense minister hearing about an officer who had been hit.”
Peres wrote in his diary the following lines: “At four in the morning, Motta Gur came into my office, and I could tell he was very upset. ‘Shimon, Yoni’s gone. A bullet hit him in the heart…’ This is the first time this whole crazy week, that I cannot hold back the tears.”
The planes carrying the soldiers landed in Israel in the morning, at the military base at Tel Nof. Rabin and Peres were there to greet them. When Muki came out of the plane, Peres turned to him and asked: “How was Yoni killed?”
“He went first, he fell first,” Muki answered.
Two days later Yoni was brought to burial at Mount Herzl, at Jerusalem’s military cemetery. Thousands attended his funeral. Peres delivered the eulogy. Yoni, who was unknow to the public because of the secret nature of his work, overnight became known throughout Israel. His loss was widely felt as a bitter blow to the nation, injecting a lasting note of tragedy into the great achievement at Entebbe. (*)
SOURCE : YONI.ORG.IL
When Yoni was born on March 13, 1946 in New York City, his parents, Benzion and Cela, were working for the creation of a Jewish State on behalf of the New Zionist Organization. Benzion came to the U.S. from Israel as a member of a delegation headed by V. Jabotinsky, the founder and head of the NZO, and shortly after the latter’s death assumed the leadership of the organization in America. Yoni’s grandparents on his father’s side, Nathan and Sarah Mileikowsky, settled in Palestine in 1920, when their eldest son Benzion was ten years old. Rabbi Nathan Mileikowsky was a famed orator who traveled from the the far reaches of Siberia to the heart of the United States, preaching tirelessly for the Zionist cause. Yoni’s grandparents on his mother’s side, Benjamin and Hannah-Malkah Segal, came to Palestine from the United States in 1911, a year before Yoni’s mother was born. They raised their family in Petah Tikvah, one of the earliest of the new Jewish settlements.
Shortly after Yoni turned two, his parents returned to their homeland, now the newly created state of Israel. Yoni’s father assumed the editorship of the first general Hebrew Encyclopedia while pursuing, from time to time, his researches on the history of the Jews in the Middle Ages. At first the family lived in Talpiot, a southern neighborhood of Jerusalem, where Yoni’s brothers Benjamin (Bibi) and Iddo were born. In 1955 the family moved to their permanent home in the Katamon district of Jerusalem. There Yoni attended the local school “Darom”.
In 1957 the family left for more than a year and a half to the U.S., where Yoni’s father could do further historical research. After their return to Jerusalem in 1959, Yoni went to High School at the Hebrew Gymnasium. Yoni was a brilliant student, excelling both in academic work and in sports. He was also a very active troop leader in the Scouts. When he was in the 11th grade, he was elected president of the student council of the Gymnasium. In the middle of the school year, however, Yoni and his family left Israel again for his father’s continuing historical work. They settled in Elkins Park, a suburb of Philadelphia, where Prof. Netanyahu taught at Dropsie College, a school of higher learning for Jewish studies.
Yoni attended school at Cheltenham High School. Despite the difficulties he faced with the new language and environment, he quickly excelled in his studies. During the summer of 1963, he joined some of his friends from Israel, who came to New Hampshire to work as counsellors at a Young Judea camp.
Enlistment in the Israeli army
In June 1964, following his graduation, Yoni returned to Israel. His family was to remain in America for the coming years, frequently visiting Israel. Upon being drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces for his obligatory military service, Yoni volunteered for the paratroopers. He proved to be a superb soldier, undergoing the gruelling training sessions with relative ease and excelling in all the various courses. He was sent to Officers’ Training School, from which he graduated first in his class. Yoni then became a platoon commander in the paratroopers. With the growing escalation of terrorist attacks from across the borders, he saw action in a retaliatory raid on a PLO stronghold in the West Bank, then held by Jordan.
In January 31, 1967 Yoni was discharged. He had already been accepted to Harvard University for the fall of 1967, and with time on his hands now, he was brushing up on his studies and reading works of literature and philosophy.
In May of 1967 dramatic events were unfolding in the Middle East. Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships and moved its army into the Sinai Desert. The Arab world openly declared its intention to destroy the state of Israel. War was imminent, and Yoni, along with numerous other reservists, was mobilized. When war finally broke out on June 5, Yoni took part in the fierce and pivotal battle of Um Katef at the Sinai. A few days later he participated in battles on the Golan Heights. On the last day of the war he was wounded in his arm, while reaching out to help a wounded comrade. He managed to crawl back to the Israeli lines, and upon reaching them, fainted. Yoni was evacuated, first to the rear, and then to Safed Hospital, where he was operated on. A few days later he underwent further surgery at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. His left elbow remained permanently disabled.
Towards the end of the summer, and before leaving for Harvard, Yoni married his long-time girl-friend Tuti. The ceremony was held at the newly liberated amphitheatre of the Hebrew University at Mount Scopus, which overlooks the Judean Desert. The newly wed couple left shortly afterwards for Boston.
While Yoni enjoyed his studies at Harvard, in which he excelled, he felt increasingly that his place was not there. Israel was in the midst of fighting a “War of Attrition” against Egypt and Jordan and of combating terrorism in its towns and cities. At such a time, Yoni believed, he should be in his homeland, near the site of battle. And so in the summer of 1968, he and Tuti returned to Israel. They enrolled at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where Yoni studied mathematics and philosophy.
Return to the service – The “Unit”
Although he was now in Israel, Yoni felt that he had to do more than just live in Israel, especially when the army was desperately looking for experienced officers. By the middle of the school year, he made up his mind to enlist once more in the army. Both his brothers had by then returned to Israel, and Benjamin (Bibi) had become a veteran soldier in Israel’s elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal (known briefly as “the Unit”). Yoni applied for membership in the same unit. He was immediately accepted and assumed the command of a squad. His remarkable abilities, as well as his future potential, were soon recognized by the commander of the Unit. He decided to send Yoni to another elite unit, Sayeret Haruv, to gain further experience there as company commander. After half a year with Sayeret Haruv in the Jordan Valley, where Yoni saw action, he returned to Sayeret Matkal in late 1970, to serve as company commander. By that time his youngest brother, Iddo, had joined the Unit as well, and thus for nearly two years all three brothers served in the same unit. In the summer of 1972 Yoni was promoted to deputy commander of Sayeret Matkal.
Only two of the operations he took part in, during that period of service in the Unit, can be disclosed. One occurred in the summer of 1972, when Yoni comanded the hijacking from Lebanon of a group of high-ranking Syrian Officers. These officers were subsequently exchanged for Israeli pilots languishing in the Syrian jail. The other was the raid on the PLO leaders in Beirut, in the spring of 1973.
During the summer months of 1973, Yoni, by then a major, took a short leave of absence from the army in order to study once more at Harvard. He and Tuti were already divorced. During the summer, Yoni was able to spend time with his brother Bibi, who was then a graduate student at MIT, Boston, and with his parents, who were living in Ithaca, NY, where Prof. Netanyahu headed the department of Semitic Studies at Cornell University.
Yom Kippur War to Entebbe
With the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War on October 6, 1973. Yoni immediately returned to his old unit, Sayeret Matkal, and was put in charge of a force that fought on the Golan Heights. The most noted of the battles Yoni commanded during the war was the one against a Syrian commando force. The Syrians landed by helicopter near the main command-post of the Israeli army on the Golan Heights, intent apparently on capturing it. Upon learning of the landing, Yoni moved swiftly with his available troops and engaged the Syrians. Despite the advantage the Syrians had at the outset of the battle, having taken cover on the rocky terrain of the Golan Heights, Yoni’s exposed force of some 30 or so men managed to defeat and rout the Syrians, who numbered at least 40. During the battle Yoni’s force lost two of its men.
A second operation of Yoni during that war was the rescue of Lt. Col. Yossi Ben Hanan, a brigade commander of the armored corps, who was lying wounded behind enemy lines. For these and his other achievements during the war, Yoni was awarded a distinguished service medal.
Shortly after the war, Yoni joined the armored brigade, which had lost many officers and men during the Yom Kippur War. He graduated from armor school, as usual with honors, and was stationed as company commander in the heavily bombarded “Syrian enclave”. Less than two months later he was given charge of a brigade – the “Reshef” brigade – that had been decimated during the war. Within months, his brigade came to be considered the number one armored unit on the Golan.
In June 1975, Yoni left his armored brigade to become commander of Sayeret Matkal. During his year of command there, he was in charge of many operations. Of these, all but one remain secret –the raid on Entebbe, where he met his death.
On June 27 an Air France airliner, whose flight originated in Israel, was hijacked over Europe by Arab and German gunmen. The plane eventually landed in Entebbe, Uganda, where President Idi Amin was waiting for the terrorists and received them with open arms. The hostages were kept captive at the Old Terminal of the Entebbe International Airport, held under guard by the terrorists and by a contingent of Ugandan soldiers. The terrorists warned, that if their demands to release from jail more than fifty terrorists were not met, the hostages would be killed.
On July 1, Yoni received orders to plan and prepare his unit for the mission to Entebbe. His unit’s part in the raid was to take over the Old Terminal complex – namely to kill the terrorists, free the hostages, fight the Ugandan soldiers stationed there, and prevent any Ugandan reinforcements from reaching the area while the hostages and other troops were being flown out. Yoni quickly sat down with a few of his officers and drew up a preliminary plan. Within hours a fake “terminal” was built from canvas, and the unit started preparing and rehearsing for the raid. As new information came in, Yoni made some revisions in his plan. During the following hectic day of further planning and preparations, Yoni met with Defense Minister Shimon Peres, who summoned him to his office for a tete-a-tete meeting to ask him what he thought were the chances of success. Yoni answered with a firm affirmative, and explained why he thought so. By the following night, the unit was ready for a “grand rehearsal”, which was conducted before the Chief of Staff. Following this, the Chief of Staff held a talk – primarily with Yoni, but also with some other officers of the Israeli force – in order to hear what they thought were the chances of success. At the end of the talk, the Chief of Staff informed them that he had decided to give the go-ahead.
At noon the following day, Saturday July 3, the Israeli government under Yitzhak Rabin met in special session. After hearing the Chief of Staff’s presentation, the ministers engaged in a long debate and finally, by unanimous vote, approved the mission.
The Israeli force of four Hercules transport planes took off from Sharm El Sheikh, at the southern tip of the Sinai Desert, heading for Africa. The Unit’s force was flown in three of these planes, with the lead plane carrying Yoni and his initial assault party of 29 men. At the stroke of midnight, Ugandan time, on July 4, 1976, the first plane landed at Entebbe airport. Yoni and his men, driving in a Mercedes and two Landrovers, which were meant to simulate a Ugandan force, got off the plane and proceeded to the Old Terminal, where the hostages were held. Contact was soon made with Ugandan soldiers. A brief battle developed with the Ugandans and the terrorists, following which the terrorists in the building were killed and the hostages freed. During the battle, Yoni was hit in the chest, as he ran forward, and lay critically wounded outside the main hall where the hostages were held.
The efforts of the medical team to revive Yoni were of no avail, and he died at the entrance to the evacuation plane, as the hostages were being herded inside. Yoni was the only man of the rescue force to die. (Three out of the 106 hostages were killed during the exchange of fire and a fourth was later murdered by Idi Amin’s men.) Yoni’s body was placed inside the plane, which then took off to safety in Kenya. From there it proceeded to Israel. Only a few of the hostages may have realized that the fallen soldier lying at the front of their plane was the commander of the force responsible for saving them.
Yoni was buried on Mt. Herzl, alongside the grave of David Elazar, Chief of Staff during the Yom Kippur War. Thousands attended Yoni’s funeral. Yoni’s name, until then virtually unknown beyond the army, became famous throughout Israel overnight. His deeds, and his thoughts and reflections – brought to light in his posthumous and bestselling book of letters – remain a source of inspiration for many in his country and around the globe. (*)
Source : YONI.ORG.IL