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Dramatic Rescue of Sabena Flight 571

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons; May 9, 2012 at 12:24:42 AM

Everyone remembers Israel's daring 1976 rescue of hostages at Entebbe. This week marks the 40th anniversary of another incredible rescue:

On May 8, 1972 a Boeing 707 operated by the Belgian national airline, Sabena, was hijacked by four Palestinian terrorists en route from Vienna to Tel Aviv. The plane landed at Lod (later Ben Gurion Airport) and the terrorists threatened to blow up the airplane with its passengers.

(For the British pilot, Reginald Levy, it was an especially bad day: His wife was aboard the plane, and he was celebrating his 50th birthday.)

Israeli commandos quickly moved into action. First, they snuck under the plane to deflate its tires and disable its hydraulic systems.

Then, the commandos donned white overalls and disguised themselves as airplane mechanics. Ostensibly coming to "help" repair the plane, they successfully reached the plane without raising suspicion. They then quickly removed the Boeing 707's emergency exit doors and stormed the plane.

Within minutes it was all over. Two hijackers were killed and two others ― both women ― were captured. All the passengers were rescued.

Two of the commandos, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, went on to become Prime Minister of Israel. Netanyahu's brother, Yonatan (Yoni), also wanted to participate in the operation, but was refused on the grounds that two brothers should not be in danger on the same day. As it turns out, Bibi was wounded during the rescue operation and had to be evacuated. "I saw Yoni running toward me," he recalls. "When he saw that I have a big hole on the side of my face, a wide smile appeared on his. 'You see, I told you, you shouldn't have gone'."

Yoni was killed four years later in the Entebbe raid.

This week, at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Sabena rescue, Netanyahu put Israel's fight against terror into perspective: "Ultimately, no one will defend the Jews if the Jews do not protect themselves. This is the cardinal rule."

See the original Israeli television reports from 1972 (in Hebrew) - part one, part two.

Published: May 9, 2012


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