Dan Shomron: Commander of Entebbe rescue

It is ironic that Dan Shomron had to die to win the wider recognition he deserved as the commander of the epic 1976 Entebbe rescue of more than 100 Israelis and French Jews who had been seized by Palestinian and German gunmen on an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris. His four Hercules transport planes flew 2,500 miles through the night, surprised the hijackers at the Ugandan airport and spirited the passengers home with the loss of Lt-Col Yonatan Netanyahu, chief of the crack Sayeret Matkal commandos, and four hostages.

The operation demonstrated the range of Israel's military capability, shown again five years later when the Israeli air force destroyed Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor, and ended the Arabs' use of airliner hijacking as a weapon against the Jewish state.

Shimon Peres, who was Defence Minister at the time, said after Shomron's death: "Everybody said that this operation was a fantasy that could not be implemented, but Shomron insisted that the IDF's reach was long and that it could be done. He was extremely opinionated and strong-willed."

Peres, a civilian who had never donned a uniform in anger, was pressing for a rescue almost from the beginning, but Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a former chief of the general staff, was caution personified. He refused to authorise the mission until the military presented a detailed plan.

Shomron, who had fought with distinction in every one of Israel's wars since 1956, was one of the generals who brought him round. Matan Vilna'i, Shomron's deputy, testified: "Dan Shomron stood behind the Entebbe raid, including the entire planning and the detailed idea of how to free the hostages. He believed in the operation and convinced Yitzhak Rabin to give him the green light."

The hijackers seized the plane, carrying 248 passengers and a crew of 12, soon after it had taken off from an intermediate stop in Athens. They ordered the pilots to fly first to Libya, then to Entebbe, where they demanded the release of 40 Palestinians held by Israel, and 13 other radicals imprisoned in Kenya, France, Switzerland and West Germany. They freed the non-Jewish hostages, but threatened to kill the remaining 105 if their demands were not met.

The first commandos, led by Yonatan Netanyahu, sped from their Hercules in a black limousine, designed to deceive the airport's Ugandan guards and make them think that President Idi Amin was returning home from abroad. A Ugandan sniper shot the colonel, the older brother of the future Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, before the limousine reached the terminal. The hostages were rescued after a brief gun battle. All the hijackers were killed.

Within days a media campaign, orchestrated by the Netanyahu family, blurred the distinction between Shomron, the operation's commander, and Netanyahu, commander of the strike force. The dead colonel became the hero of Entebbe and the operation was named after him. The phlegmatic Shomron did not challenge the myth. As Amir Oren, a military commentator, wrote in Ha'aretz, "elbowing was never his forte." He was embarrassed by the fact that Charles Bronson played him in a Hollywood version of the events, Raid on Entebbe.

Dan Shomron was born on Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'acov in the Jordan valley in 1937. He fought as a young paratrooper in the 1956 Suez War. In the Six-Day War, 11 years later, he commanded the first jeep to reach the Suez Canal, a mission for which he was decorated. After that he switched to tanks and commanded a brigade in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. After the 1978 Camp David peace agreement with Anwar Sadat, he supervised the evacuation of Israeli settlements from the Sinai Peninsula.

Shomron was appointed Chief of Staff in 1987, serving through the difficult years of the first Palestinian intifada until 1991. It was a different kind of warfare against civilians armed with stones. Rabin, Defence Minister in a national-unity government, was reported to have ordered his troops to "break bones." In contrast, Shomron argued that the intifada could not be put down by military means alone.

Last year he headed an inquiry into the failings of the 2006 Lebanon war, which he criticised for lacking direction.

Eric Silver



Dan Shomron, military commander: born Ashdot Ya'acov, Palestine 5 August 1937; married (two children); died Tel Aviv 26 February 2008.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Jimson Weed/White Flower No 1 by Georgia O'Keeffe
art
Sport
Robin van Persie leaves the field at the King Power Stadium last Sunday
football
Arts and Entertainment
tvPresenter back after daughter's Halloween accident
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
tv

Co-creator Mark Gatiss dropped some very intriguing hints ahead of the BBC drama's return next year

News
people

London 'needs affordable housing'

News
In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo and hashtag '#Ring!' is displayed on a mobile device as the company announced its initial public offering and debut on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 in London, England. Twitter went public on the NYSE opening at USD 26 per share, valuing the company's worth at an estimated USD 18 billion.
news

Arts and Entertainment
Timeshift: The Ladybird Books Story (9pm BBC4 Sun 22 Dec)
BooksLadybird drops branding books for boys and girls
Arts and Entertainment
music Band accidentally drops four-letter description at concert
Life and Style
tech
News
peopleIan Thorpe addresses Ricky Martin rumours
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines