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The Day Israel First Heard the Name Bibi Netanyahu

Updated: May 30

The 8th of May is the anniversary of many important events that occurred throughout history: the first Coca Cola drink entered the markets in 1886, the German Instrument of Surrender was signed in 1945, Mordechai Anielewicz and other Warsaw Ghetto uprisers were killed in 1943, and the Black September terrorists kidnapped the Sabena flight 571 in 1972.


Bibi Netanyahu, then a young officer in Sayeret Matkal, participated in the operation to free the 99 hostages of the Sabena flight. Let's review what took place on that day, nearly 50 years ago...


On the morning of May 8th, 1972, four terrorists entered the Brussels Train Station, grabbed two guns, two hand grenades, and two explosives belts that were hidden there and waiting for them, and made their way to the airport, where they boarded flight 571 to Tel Aviv. Needless to say, most of the passengers on the flight were Israelis.


Long story short, after an intermediate stop in Vienna, the terrorists took over the plane that landed in Tel Aviv, and all of the passengers on the plane were declared hostages.


The terrorists demanded fuel for the plane, and that's when the slick Israeli minds began to think clearly, and the wheels of the rescue mission started to roll. Rehavam Ze'evi, head of the IDF's Central Command at the time, came up with a risky yet brilliant idea- disguise the rescue team as mechanics and maintenance men in order to board the plane.


Well, the plan worked, and somehow the negotiation team successfully convinced the terrorists that there was a mechanical problem on the plane, which needed to be fixed before it took off. To be fair, there was a problem with the plane, but that's only because another brilliant Israeli team was able to sabotage the plane while the terrorists were negotiating with the Israeli watchtower! As usual, Israel was as slick as ever (and the terrorists obviously weren't the brightest!)


The terrorists sent the plane's original captain to the watchtower with a bit of the explosive, to show the Israelis just how serious their threats were. Well, not the most brilliant idea, because the captain obviously gave a precise description of how many terrorists were on the plane, what weapons they had and how many each one was carrying, and where they were on the plane.


On the 9th of May, at 16:00, a team of 16 Sayeret Matkal soldiers (including some now-famous names, such as Ehud Barak, Uzi Dayan, Dani Yatom, and of course Benjamin Netanyahu) approached the plane, dressed in white mechanic jumpers.



After all the squads signaled that they were in place, Ehud Barak, the Sayeret Matkal Commander, gave the signal - a loud whistle - and the rescue operation commenced. It took around ten minutes for the forces to kill two of the terrorists, capture the other two, and free the hostages. Three hostages were wounded during the attack, and one of them unfortunately later died from the injuries.


The plane's kidnapping by the Black September organization took Israeli intelligence by surprise, but luckily they were able to respond quickly. The Black September organization didn't stop with its attempts to free Palestinian inmates, and four years later committed the Munich Olympics Massacre, where 11 Israeli athletes were murdered.

Interesting Facts:

  • During the takeover, Bibi Netanyahu, one of the squad's commanders, was shot in the arm by an accidental bullet emission from his partner's gun.

  • Five years after the kidnapping, the plane was purchased by the Israeli Air Force, where it was used as a surveillance aircraft for many years and was used in most of the Air Force's overseas operations.