Israel’s Netanyahu in Entebbe to mark hostage-rescue anniversary

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is due to visit the scene of the 1976 Entebbe hostage rescue in Uganda, in which his brother, who led the raid, was killed.

Israeli commandos freed more than 100 hostages held for a week at an airport terminal, in a daring operation. They returned to Israel on 4 July 1976.

Mr Netanyahu is also scheduled to visit Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

The Israeli leader has said the trip is part of an Israeli effort to “return to Africa in a big way”.

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Mr Netanyahu will be the first Israeli prime minister to visit Sub-Saharan Africa since Yitzhak Shamir in 1987.

His elder brother, Jonathan, was shot dead as he led the operation to free hostages, who had been taken captive on an Air France flight by Palestinian and German militants.

Jonathan NetanyahuImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionJonathan Netanyahu led the rescue operation but died in action

Four hostages, at least seven hostage-takers and 20 Ugandan troops who were guarding the old terminal were also killed.

Almost all those freed were Israeli and non-Israeli Jews, who had been separated from other passengers by the hostage-takers. The Air France captain and his 12-strong crew were also rescued.

The non-Jewish passengers had been released by the hostage-takers earlier in the week.

Mr Netanyahu has called the operation “a very dramatic national experience” and one that had “great personal consequence” for his family.

Analysis: ‘Return to Africa’, by Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent

The death of his brother who commanded Israel’s hostage rescue mission at Entebbe changed the course of Benjamin Netanyahu’s life and set him on a trajectory that was ultimately to make him his country’s prime minister.

But this is much more than a personal pilgrimage or the commemoration of a bold military operation. Mr Netanyahu’s swing through Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia is intended to mark Israel’s “return to Africa”, a region that is figuring more and more prominently on the international stage.

Israel’s ties with Black Africa were strong during the early 1960s but withered under pressure from the oil power of the Arab states.

Israel’s security links with apartheid South Africa also didn’t help.

But now there are mutual benefits for both sides with African states eager to develop economic and security ties and Israel keen to make new friends and develop ties in a region where Islamist extremism is on the march.

Israel has launched a $13m aid package to strengthen ties with African countries, including providing training in security and health.

It hopes greater engagement will see it gain more support from African countries at the UN and other international bodies, where it is regularly condemned over its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Benjamin NetanyahuImage copyrightAP
Image captionMr Netanyahu says his trip shows Israel is making a comeback in Africa

However, Palestinian government spokesman Jamal Dajani said he believed Israel’s attempt to gain influence would fail.

African states would see through Netanyahu’s “propaganda” because Africans and the Palestinians shared a history of “occupations and colonialism”, he told AP news agency.

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