Netanyahu marks 44 years since hero brother’s death in quiet ceremony

The Netanyahu family commemorates the anniversary of Yoni Netanyahu’s death at Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marked 44 years since his brother Yonatan (Yoni) Netanyahu’s death in Operation Entebbe, in a small ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mt. Herzl military cemetery.

Lt. Col. Yoni Netanyahu was the commander of Sayeret Matkal, the elite IDF special forces unit. He was leading a rescue mission to free 106 hostages held at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976 when he was killed in action.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, the memorial was limited to close family. Netanyahu posted photos to his official Twitter account of himself, his wife Sara, and sons Yair and Avner standing at Yoni’s grave, having laid fresh flowers and a wreath on it.

The ceremony was held June 28th, which corresponds to the Hebrew calendar date of 6 Tammuz. While Yoni Netanyahu was killed on July 4, 1976 according to the civil calendar, Jewish tradition dictates that loved ones are memorialized on their Hebrew calendar death date.

Netanyahu wrote, “The pain over Yoni’s passing has only grown with the years and it is difficult to find comfort.”

“May his memory be a blessing.”

In 1976, terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), working in collaboration with German radical leftist group Revolutionary Cells, hijacked a Paris-bound plane that departed from Tel Aviv and diverted the aircraft to Entebbe, Uganda.

The plane’s passengers included many Israeli and non-Israeli Jews, who were held as hostages. The hijackers released passengers that were neither Israeli nor Jewish.

During a week-long standoff, the hijackers demanded the release of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian prisoners, a ransom of $5 million, and threatened to kill hostages if their demands weren’t met. The hijackers enjoyed the full support of Uganda’s then-dictator, Idi Amin.

According to Ugandan officials, Netanyahu was shot during a firefight with Ugandan soldiers. The Netanyahu family has long rejected this version of events, claiming that Netanyahu was killed by a German national from the Revolutionary Cells group.

Operation Entebbe is sometimes referred to as Operation Yonatan, in honor of Yoni Netanyahu.