By Steven Candia
Wreaths were laid, a moment of silence held, speeches made and a poem recited as both Uganda and Israel Monday commemorated an Israel-led raid on Entebbe in which 100 hostages were rescued from terrorists.
And in the somber ceremony held at the base of a tower at the Old Entebbe Airport, where Yonatan Netanyahu, the commander of the elite Israeli commando unit was killed in the July 4, 1976 raid, both countries renewed their commitment to fight terrorism and to work towards humanity.
To symbolize their strong bilateral relations, flags of the two countries flapped wildly in the windy afternoon, standing on either side of a huge plaque with a complete history of the raid erected on the bullet riddled tower.
At the base of the tower four wreaths were laid, one by Ugandan State minister of animal industry, Bright Rwamirama, another by Israeli deputy foreign affairs minister, Daniel Ayalon and the the other two by the Israel community in Uganda.
Both Ayalon and the Israeli Ambassador based in Kenya, Gil Haskel paid glowing tribute to Nentanyahu and his comrades.
Ayalon noted that though the mission was successful, it had come at a heavy price – the death of Netanyahu which ironically led to many walking into freedom.
"But today we follow in his footsteps and come with a different mission of peace and cooperation with the great people of Uganda," Ayalon said.
Rwamirama hailed the relation between the two countries which he said is historical.
The raid, popularly known as Operation Thunderbolt and later renamed Operation Jonathan in Israel in memory of Nentayahu's heroic feat was executed at midnight by about 100 Israel commandos, having flown undetected from Israel.
At the end of the nine hour operation, 102 hostages were rescued ad five Israeli commandos were wounded.
All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed. A fourth Israeli hostage, Dorah Bloch was later killed in Uganda.
Netanyahu, a brother to the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the only Israeli soldier killed in the raid.
About 248 passengers aboard an Air France plane were taken hostage on June 27, 1976 by terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells and flown to Entebbe, prompting the raid.
A bulk of the hostages, many of them non-Jews were released prior to the raid.
Ayalon will today inaugurate a new trauma center and emergency Ward at Mulago hospital, funded and constructed through MASHAV – Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation.
The centre has a capacity to handle emergencies and will serve as a regional referral centre.