Modi in Israel: PM hails sacrifices of Israeli PM's brother 41 years ago

Topics Narendra Modi | israel

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, centre, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, waves during welcome ceremony upon arrival in Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday hailed the sacrifices of his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu's elder brother who was killed exactly 41 years ago while saving the lives of Israeli hostages in Uganda.

"Today is July 4. Exactly 41 years ago, since Operation Entebbe. The day, when your prime minister and my friend Bibi lost his elder brother Yonatan while saving the lives of so many Israeli hostages," Modi said in his brief address at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.

As Modi recalled the incident, Netanyahu listened impassively.

Lt Colonel Yonatan (Yoni) Netanyahu commanded the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during Operation Entebbe, an operation to rescue hostages held at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976.

An Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris was hijacked and ended up being diverted to remote Entebbe Airport. An operation was launched under the command of Yoni in which all seven hijackers were killed. Three hostages were also killed.

The mission was successful, with 102 of the 106 hostages rescued, but elder Netanyahu was killed in action — the only one among the Israeli forces to die.

The Operation Entebbe was later renamed "Operation Yonatan" in his honour.

"Your heroes are an inspiration for the younger generations," Modi told Netanyahu, who was also a member of Sayeret Matkal.

Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit the Jewish nation, arrived here today on a three-day visit.

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