TEL AVIV (Jul. 5)
All of Israel is glowing with pride over the spectacular rescue of most of the hijack victims from Uganda during the late hours of Saturday night and early Sunday morning. There was joyful near-hysteria at Ben Gurion Airport yesterday where thousands joined the families and friends of the hostages to welcome them home after their week-long ordeal. Chief of Staff Gen. Mordechai-Gur declared. “We have raised once again the morale of Israel. Once again the security network can stand up and look anyone in the face.” A private plane flew over Tel Aviv yesterday skywriting a “salute to the Israel Army.”
The daring rescue operation and its success in saving the lives of most of the hostages, was indeed the biggest morale booster Israel has had since the slough of despair that followed the Yom Kippur War. The first reports of the rescue were broadcast at about 3 a.m. local time Sunday morning when the planes were already on their way back to Israel. The operation had been kept a guarded secret, known only to Cabinet ministers. Knesset leaders and the security forces. Defense Minister Shimon Peres attended a bar mitzvah Saturday night. He gave no hint to newsmen who spoke to him of what was taking place. The families of the hostages were notified privately before news of the operation and its results were broadcast. Scores of them converged on Ben Gurion Airport before dawn, carrying flowers and bottles of champagne. The rescue planes did not arrive until 11 a.m. local time. A hush descended over the airport as they landed. Then there was a rush to the gates. Relatives embraced shedding tears of joy. Policemen wept as families were reunited.
RETURNEES RECOUNT EVENT
One of the rescued hostages. Uri Davidson, 17, said they were awakened by shots at the Entebbe Airport and a few minutes later, to the astonishment of all, Israeli soldiers entered the hangar and whispered to follow them and keep heads down. He said the Ugandans had cooperated and collaborated with the hijackers. Ugandan army officers came and went as they pleased. The night before the rescue. President Idi Amin made one of his frequent appearances to tell the hostages that Israel had agreed to release terrorists for their safety, Davidson said.
Another young hostage, Michael Livni, 15, confirmed that the hostages were guarded by Ugandan troops and by the hijackers. Another freed hostage said one of the hijackers, a German, had told him he was wanted by the West German authorities for the past three years and that Uganda and Libya were the only safe havens he could find.
COMMENTS ON THE RESCUE
Commenting on the rescue, Yosef Almogi, chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Executives, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the action had international implications. He expressed hope that the world will now understand that Israel is determined not to submit to blackmail and to overcome its enemies.
Dr. Nahum Goldmann, President of the World Jewish Congress, who is presently in Israel, told the JTA yesterday that he hoped the rescue operation’s success would weaken the will of the terrorists. But, he added, “This may be over optimistic.” He warned that Israel must be extremely careful now because its enemies might engage in acts of reprisal. But he described the rescue as “an historic event in the glorious history of Israel. It was done wisely and courageously. I am happy, just like everyone else.” Goldmann said.
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in Israel on Conference matters, declared that the liberation of the hijacked passengers, coming on July 4, was of symbolic significance for Americans “who see Israel as a sister democracy devoted to the prophetic ideals of human dignity and social justice that animates both our nations.”
Mrs. Charlotte Lemaceon, chairman of the American Section of the WZO Executive, described the rescue operation as “the triumph of a people with a deep sense of responsibility for its citizens. We didn’t take it lying down as most nations would.” she told the JTA adding “A triumph of the spirit. Mazal Tov, Mazal Tov.”