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Operation Entebbe
Part of Arab-Israeli Conflict
Entebbe Uganda Airport Old Tower1
The old terminal building of the Entebbe International Airport as it appears today.
Date 4 July 1976
Location Entebbe Airport, Uganda.
Result Mission successful; 102 (out of 105) hostages rescued.
Belligerents
Israel Israel Defence Force PFLP-EO
Revolutionäre Zellen
Template:Flag
Commanders
Israel Yekutiel Adam
Israel Dan Shomron
Israel Yonatan NetanyahuTemplate:KIA
Wadie Haddad
Uganda Idi Amin
Strength
Approximately 100 Commandos,
including Sayeret Matkal,
plus air crew and support personnel.
7 hijackers
Unknown number of Ugandan soldiers.
Casualties and losses
1 commando killed
5 commandos wounded
Hijackers:
All 7 killed
Ugandan Soldiers
45 Ugandan soldiers killed
Unknown number of Ugandan soldiers wounded
11 aircraft destroyed.
4 hostages killed
10 hostages wounded

Operation Entebbe (also known as the Yonatan Operation (Hebrew: מבצע יונתן‎), the Entebbe Raid or Operation Thunderbolt) was a counter-terrorism hostage-rescue mission carried out by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on the night of 3 July and early morning of 4 July 1976.[1] IDF acted on intelligence provided by Israeli secret agency Mossad. In the wake of the hijacking of Air France Flight 139 by members of the militant organizations Revolutionary Cells and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - External Operations and the hijackers' threats to kill the hostages if their prisoner release demands were not met, a plan was drawn up to airlift the hostages to safety.[2] These plans took into account the likelihood of armed resistance from Ugandan military troops.[3]

Originally codenamed Operation Thunderball by the IDF,[note 1] the operation was retroactively renamed Operation Yonatan in memory of the Sayeret Matkal commander Lieutenant Colonel Yonatan "Yoni" Netanyahu, the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, who was the only commando killed in the fighting.[4] All the hijackers, three hostages and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed, and five Israeli commandos were wounded.[5] A fourth hostage was murdered [6] by Ugandan army officers at a nearby hospital.[7]

Idi Amin, the leader of Uganda at the time, was humiliated by the surprise raid. He believed Kenya had colluded with Israel in planning the raid and hundreds of Kenyans living in Uganda were massacred soon afterwards.[8] The building in which the hostages were being held was built by an Israeli construction firm, which still had the blueprints. While planning the military operation, the Israeli army built a partial replica of the airport terminal with the help of the construction firm.[9]

Hijack

Template:Infobox Aircraft accident On 27 June 1976, Air France Flight 139, an Airbus A300 (Airbus A300B4-203), registration F-BVGG (cn 019), originating from Tel Aviv, Israel, carrying 248 passengers and a crew of 12, took off from Athens, heading for Paris.[10][note 2] Soon after the 12:30 p.m. takeoff, the flight was hijacked by two Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - External Operations (PFLP-EO) and two Germans from the German Revolutionary CellsWilfried Böse and Brigitte Kuhlmann. The hijackers diverted the flight to Benghazi, Libya.[11] There it was held on the ground for seven hours for refuelling, during which time a female hostage was released—who pretended to be having a miscarriage.[2] The plane left Benghazi, and at 3:15 p.m. it arrived at Entebbe Airport in Uganda.[11]

At Entebbe, the four hijackers were joined by at least four others, supported by the pro-Palestinian forces of Uganda's President, Idi Amin. They demanded the release of 40 Palestinians held in Israel and 13 other detainees imprisoned in Kenya, France, Switzerland, and West Germany. They threatened that if these demands were not met, they would begin to kill hostages on 1 July 1976.[12] The hijackers deliberately sorted the hostages into two groups—Jews and Gentiles.[13] As they did so a Holocaust survivor showed Böse a camp registration number tattooed on his arm, Böse protested "I'm no Nazi! ... I am an idealist".[13] The hijackers held the passengers hostage for a week in the transit hall of Entebbe Airport—now the old terminal. Some hostages were released, but 105 remained captive.[11] The hijackers threatened to kill them if Israel did not comply with their demands.[12]

Upon the announcement by the hijackers that the airline crew and non-Jewish passengers would be released and put on another Air France plane that had been brought to Entebbe for that purpose, the flight captain Michel Bacos told the hijackers that all passengers, including those remaining, were his responsibility and that he would not leave them behind. Bacos' entire crew followed suit. A French nun also refused to leave, insisting that one of the remaining hostages take her place, but she was forced into the awaiting Air France plane by Ugandan soldiers.[3] A total of 85 Israeli and/or Jewish hostages remained, as well as 20 others, most of whom included the crew of the Air France plane.[1][14]

Operational planning

File:Idi Amin.jpg

On the 1 July deadline,[15] the Israeli government offered to negotiate with the hijackers in order to extend the deadline to 4 July. Amin asked them to extend the deadline until 4 July. This meant he could take a diplomatic trip to Port Louis, Mauritius, in order to officially hand over the chairmanship of the Organisation of African Unity to Seewoosagur Ramgoolam.[16] This extension of the hostage deadline would prove crucial in allowing Israeli forces enough time to get to Entebbe.[10] On 3 July, the Israeli cabinet approved the rescue mission,[17] under the command of Major General Yekutiel "Kuti" Adam with Matan Vilnai as the Deputy Commander.[18] Brigadier General Dan Shomron was appointed to command the operation on the ground.[19] After days of collecting intelligence and planning by Netanyahu's deputy Moshe "Muki" Betser, four Israeli Air Force C-130 Hercules transport aircraft flew secretly to Entebbe Airport, by cover of night, without aid of Entebbe ground control.[14]

Their route was over Sharm al-Sheikh, and down the international flight path over the Red Sea, flying at a height of no more than 30 m (100 feet) to avoid radar detection by Egyptian, Sudanese, and Saudi Arabian forces. Near the south outlet of the Red Sea the C-130s turned south and passed south of Djibouti. From there they went to a point north east of Nairobi, Kenya—likely across Somalia and the Ogaden area of Ethiopia. They then turned west passing through the African Rift Valley and over Lake Victoria.[20] They were followed by two Boeing 707 jets. The first Boeing contained medical facilities and landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. The commander of the operation, General Yekutiel Adam, was on board the second Boeing that circled over Entebbe Airport during the raid.[19]

The Israeli ground task force numbered approximately 100 personnel, and comprised the following:[19]

  • The Ground Command and Control Element
This small group comprised the overall ground commander, Brig. Gen. Shomron, and the communications and support personnel.
  • The Assault Element
A 29-man assault unit led by Lt. Col. Netanyahu, this force was composed entirely of commandos from Sayeret Matkal, and were given the primary task of assaulting the old terminal and rescuing the hostages. Major Betser led one of the element's assault teams, Matan Vilnai led another.
  • The Reinforcement Element
  1. Securing the area, and preventing any hostile ground forces from interfering with the C-130 Hercules aircraft and the actual rescue.
  2. Destroying the squadron of MiG fighter jets on the ground, to prevent any possible interceptions by the Ugandan Air Force.
  3. Providing protection for and assisting in the loading of the hostages aboard the transports.
  4. Assisting in the ground refuelling of the air transports.

The raid

Entebbe Aerial

Aerial photo of the city of Entebbe and the Entebbe International Airport in sunset

The Israeli forces landed at Entebbe at 23:00 IST, with their cargo bay doors already open. A black Mercedes and accompanying Land Rovers were taken along to give the impression that the Israeli troops driving from the landed aircraft to the terminal building were an escort for a returning Amin, or other high-ranking official.[3][21] The Mercedes and its escort vehicles were quickly driven by the Israeli assault team members to the airport terminal in the same fashion as Amin. Along the way a Ugandan soldier ordered this procession of vehicles to stop. The commandos shot him with silenced pistols. Few moments later he started to get back into his feet. He was shot again. Unfortunately the gun didn't come with the silencer. The Ugandan soldiers started spraying bullets at the vehicles. Israelis decided not to turn back. (National Geographic Documentary)

The Israelis sprang from their vehicles and burst towards the terminal. During this brief but intense moment, Commander Yonatan Netanyahu was fatally wounded, possibly by a Ugandan sniper in the airport control tower. He was the only Israeli commando killed in the operation.[10] The hostages were in the main hall of the airport building, directly adjacent to the runway. Upon entering the terminal, the commandos were shouting through a megaphone, "Stay down! Stay down! We are Israeli soldiers." in both Hebrew and English. A 19-year-old French Jew named Jean-Jacques Maimoni—who chose to identify himself as an Israeli Jew to the hijackers even though he had a French passport—stood up,[11] but was killed by the Israeli commandos, who mistook him for a hijacker. Another hostage, Pasco Cohen, 52, manager of an Israeli medical insurance fund, was also fatally wounded by gunfire, either from the hijackers or accidentally by the Israeli commandos.[11] In addition, a third hostage, 56-year-old Ida Borochovitch, a Russian Jew who had emigrated to Israel, was killed in the crossfire.[11]

Entebbe Airport DF-ST-99-05538

A C-130 Hercules in front of old terminal after arriving with food and supplies for the Rwandan refugee camps in 1994. Note bullet hole damage from the 1976 raid still visible.

At one point, an Israeli commando called out in Hebrew, "Where are the rest of them?", referring to the hijackers. The hostages pointed to a connecting door of the airport's main hall, into which the Israeli commandos threw several hand grenades. They then entered the room and shot dead the three remaining hijackers, thus completing their assault.[10] Meanwhile, the other three C-130 Hercules had landed and unloaded armoured personnel carriers, which were to be used for defense during the anticipated hour of refuelling, for the destruction of Ugandan jet fighters at the airport so as to prevent them from pursuing the Israelis after their departure from Entebbe Airport, and for intelligence-gathering.[10]

After the raid, the Israeli assault team returned to their aircraft and began loading the hostages on board. Ugandan soldiers shot at them in the process. The Israeli commandos returned fire with their assault rifles, killing many Ugandan soldiers. The Israelis finished the loading, loaded Netanyahu's body into one of the aeroplanes, and then left Entebbe Airport.[5] The entire operation lasted 53 minutes—of which the assault lasted only 30 minutes, and all seven hijackers that were present were killed.[10] At least five other Israeli commandos were wounded. Out of the 105 hostages, three were killed and approximately 10 were wounded. Around 33 to 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed during the raid, and about 11 Ugandan Army Air Force MiG-17 fighter planes were destroyed on the ground at Entebbe Airport.[5] The rescued hostages were flown to Israel via Nairobi, Kenya, shortly after the fighting.[4][5]

Dora Bloch, a 75-year-old hostage taken to Mulago Hospital in Kampala, was murdered by the Ugandan government, as were some of her doctors and nurses for apparently trying to intervene.[11] In April 1987, Henry Kyemba, Uganda's Attorney General and Minister of Justice at the time, told the Uganda Human Rights Commission that Bloch had been dragged from her hospital bed and murdered by two army officers on Idi Amin's orders.[22] Bloch's remains were recovered near a sugar plantation 20 miles (32 km) east of Kampala in 1979,[7] after the Ugandan–Tanzanian War led to the end of Amin's rule.[23]

Background

Israeli firms were often involved in building projects in Africa during the 1960s and 1970s. One reason the raid was so well-planned was that the building in which the hostages were being held was built by Solel Boneh, an Israeli construction firm, which still had the blueprints, and supplied them to the government of Israel. Additionally, Mossad built an accurate picture of the whereabouts of the hostages, the number of militants and the involvement of Ugandan troops from the released hostages in Paris.[9] While planning the military operation, the Israeli army built a partial replica of the airport terminal with the help of some Israeli civilians who were involved in building the actual terminal. A very high level of secrecy was maintained, and the civilian contractors who had built the replica were detained as "guests" of the military until the rescue was declared a success.[24]

According to a 5 July 2006, Associated Press interview with raid organizer "Muki" Betser, Mossad operatives extensively interviewed the hostages who had been released.[25] As a result, another source of information was a French-Jewish passenger who had been mistakenly released with the non-Jewish hostages. Betser reports that the man had military training and "a phenomenal memory," allowing him to give information about the number and arms of the hostage-takers, among other useful details.[25]

In the week prior to the raid, Israel had tried a number of political avenues to obtain the release of the hostages. Many sources indicate that the Israeli cabinet was prepared to release Palestinian prisoners if a military solution seemed unlikely to succeed. A retired IDF officer, Baruch "Burka" Bar-Lev, had known Idi Amin for many years and was considered to have a strong personal relationship with him. At the request of the cabinet he spoke with Amin on the phone many times, attempting to obtain the release of the hostages, without success.[26][27]

Aftermath

The government of Uganda, led by Juma Oris, the Ugandan Foreign Minister at the time, later convened a session of the United Nations Security Council to seek official condemnation of the Israeli raid,[28] as a violation of Ugandan sovereignty. The Security Council ultimately declined to pass any resolution on the matter, condemning neither Israel, nor Uganda. In his address to the Council, Israeli ambassador Chaim Herzog said:

We come with a simple message to the Council: we are proud of what we have done because we have demonstrated to the world that a small country, in Israel's circumstances, with which the members of this Council are by now all too familiar, the dignity of man, human life and human freedom constitute the highest values. We are proud not only because we have saved the lives of over a hundred innocent people—men, women and children—but because of the significance of our act for the cause of human freedom.[29][30]
HERZOG, Chaim.

UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim described the raid as "a serious violation of the national sovereignty of a United Nations member state" (meaning Uganda).

For refusing to depart( and subsequently leave some of his passengers as hostages) when given leave to do so by the hijackers, Captain Bacos was reprimanded by his superiors at Air France and suspended from duty for a period. He was awarded by Israel for his heroism of refusing to leave the Jewish hostages behind.[31]

Idi Amin was humiliated by the surprise raid. He believed Kenya had colluded with Israel in planning the raid and hundreds of Kenyans living in Uganda were massacred soon afterwards. But from this time, Amin's regime began to break down, and two years later, he was forced into exile in Saudi Arabia. Amin died in Jeddah in August 2003.[8]

In the ensuing years, Betser and the Netanyahu brothers—Iddo and Benjamin, all Sayeret Matkal veterans—argued in increasingly public forums about who was to blame for the unexpected early firefight which caused Yonatan Netanyahu's death and partial loss of tactical surprise.[32][33]

Nationalities

The aircraft was carrying 248 passengers and 12 crew members[10][note 2]—of which four passengers were killed and ten injured.[4][5] From the total of 260 people on board, 256 returned home safely. A fourth hostage was later killed by Ugandan army officers at the Mulago Hospital in Kampala.

The four passengers killed were:

  1. Jean-Jacques Maimoni—a 19-year-old French Jew who stood up while the Israeli commandos were eliminating the hijackers. They mistook him for a hijacker.[11]
  2. Pasco Cohen—a 52-year-old manager of an Israeli medical insurance fund, who was fatally wounded by gunfire, either from the hijackers or accidentally by the Israeli commandos.[11]
  3. Ida Borochovitch—a 56-year-old Russian Jew who had emigrated to Israel, also killed in the crossfire.[11]
  4. Dora Bloch—a 75-year-old murdered by the Ugandan government at Mulago Hospital in Kampala while receiving treatment for a condition unrelated to the raid. Ms. Bloch's remains were recovered near a sugar plantation 20 miles east of Kampala in 1979.[23]

According to a list by Air France, most of the passengers were Israeli, French, United States, and United Kingdom citizens. All of the 105 hostages taken were Jews. The complete list is as follows:

NationalityPassengersCrewTotal
Template:Flag404
Template:Flag202
Template:DEN202
Template:FRA421254
Template:GRE25025
Template:Flag101
Template:Flag92092
Template:Flag909
Template:JPN101
Template:KOR101
Template:ESP505
Template:Flag30030
Template:Flag34034
Total24812260

Gallery

Dramatisations

The incident was the subject of several films, two of which were U.S. productions with American/British casts; a third was produced in Israel with mostly Israeli actors in the key roles. The hijacking of Air France Flight AF139 and the subsequent rescue mission is featured in the documentary Operation Thunderbolt: Entebbe.[34] Below follow a complete list of films on the subjects:

Other depictions include:

Claim of Israeli involvement

According to a UK government file on the crisis, an unnamed contact within the Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association attempted to convince a British diplomat in Paris, shortly after the hijacking, that the Israeli Secret Services and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), had acted together to seize the plane. According to this version, the Shin Bet helped design the operation to undermine the PLO's standing in France and its rapprochement with the USA.[37] Israel denied the contact's claim about Israeli involvement,[38] with officials in the Vice Premier's office calling it "foolishness" and "not worthy of comment."[39] The absence of specific details supporting the allegation led to claims that there had been a deliberate act of disinformation, an attempt to develop a conspiracy theory.[40]

See also

Notes

  1. Some sources refer to the operation as Operation Thunderbolt, other than Operation Thunderball.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sources state varying numbers of passengers, between 228 and 248; the higher figure used is from the New York Times.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Smith, Terence. "HOSTAGES FREED AS ISRAELIS RAID UGANDA AIRPORT; Commandos in 3 Planes Rescue 105-Casualties Unknown Israelis Raid Uganda Airport And Free Hijackers' Hostages". The New York Times. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60816FA38591B728DDDAD0894DF405B868BF1D3. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Mossad took photos, Entebbe Operation was on its way.". Ynetnews. 2006. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3269662,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Feldinger, Lauren Gelfond. "Back to Entebbe". Jerusalem Post. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1150885879544&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Operation Entebbe". The Knesset at Sixty. http://www.knesset.gov.il/lexicon/eng/entebbi_eng.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "Hostage Rescue at the Raid on Entebbe". OperationEntebbe.Com. http://www.operationentebbe.com/p1_rescue.php. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  6. Middle Eastern terrorism, Mark Ensalaco p. 101 University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Body of Amin Victim Is Flown Back to Israel." New York Times. 4 June 1979, Monday, p. A3.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "1976: Israelis rescue Entebbe hostages". BBC – On this day. 4 July 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/4/newsid_2786000/2786967.stm. Retrieved 2009-07-26. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 "The Rescue: 'We Do the Impossible'.". Time Magazine. Monday, 12 July 1976. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,914272,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-26. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 "General Dan Shomron—Times Online Obituary". The Times. 27 February 2008. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article3440122.ece. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 11.9 Ben, Eyal (3 July 2006). "Special: Entebbe's unsung hero.". YNetNews.com. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3270314,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Woolly Days: Entebbe". 2 August 2006. http://nebuchadnezzarwoollyd.blogspot.com/2006/08/entebbe.html. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 David Tinnin, Like Father, Time (magazine), 8 August 1977. A review of Hitler's children by Julian Becker, Page 2
  14. 14.0 14.1 "The Entebbe Rescue Mission". Israel Defense Forces. Jewish Virtual Library. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Terrorism/entebbe.html. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  15. Grimes, Paul. "Rescuing the Entebbe Hostages." New York Times. Friday, 30 July 1976. (The Weekend, p. 51)
  16. Lipkin-Shakhak, Tali. "The Forgotten Hero of Entebbe" Maariv. 16 June 2006.
  17. Terence, Smith. ""Hostages Freed as Israelis Raid Uganda Airport." New York Times. Sunday, 4 July 1976"]. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60816FA38591B728DDDAD0894DF405B868BF1D3. 
  18. Matan Vilnai: Deputy Minister of Defense. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Israel Defense Forces — Entebbe Diary". http://dover.idf.il/IDF/console/article_page.aspx?doc_id=23016&lang=english. 
  20. Stevenson, William (1976). Ninety Minutes at Entebbe. New York: Bantam Books. pp. 100. ISBN 0-553-10482-9. 
  21. "Remembering Entebbe,Larry Domnitch". The Jewish Press. 1 July 2009. http://www.jewishpress.com/pageroute.do/39910/. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  22. "The July 4 Entebbe rescue was a gift from Israel to the world". Judy Press. http://www.examiner.com/x-11015-Kansas-City-Jewish-Life-Examiner~y2009m7d3-The-July-4-Entebbe-rescue-was-a-gift-from-Israel-to-the-worldhttp://www.examiner.com/x-11015-Kansas-City-Jewish-Life-Examiner~y2009m7d3-The-July-4-Entebbe-rescue-was-a-gift-from-Israel-to-the-world. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Verkaik, Robert (13 February 2007). "Revealed: the fate of Idi Amin's hijack victim—Crime, UK—The Independent". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/revealed-the-fate-of-idi-amins-hijack-victim-436181.html. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  24. Preparation for the Raid on Entebbe Answers 2000 Ltd. Verified 14 Dec 2008.
  25. 25.0 25.1 "Israel marks 30th anniversary of Entebbe." Associated Press in USA Today. 5 July 2006.
  26. "Vindication for the Israelis." Time Magazine. 26 July 1976]
  27. "War of Words over a Tense Border." Time Magazine. 26 July 1976.
  28. Teltsch, Kathleen. "Uganda Bids U.N. Condemn Israel for Airport Raid." New York Times. 10 July 1976. (Section: The Week In Review)
  29. Herzog, Chaim. Heroes of Israel. p. 284.
  30. Fendel, Hillel. "Israel Commemorates 30th Anniversary of Entebbe Rescue." Israel National News.
  31. Kaplan, David E. "A historic hostage-taking revisited." Jerusalem Post. 3 August 2006.
  32. Sharon Roffe-Ofir "Entebbe's open wound" Ynet, 7 February 2006
  33. Josh Hamerman "Battling against 'the falsification of history'" Ynet News, 4 February 2007
  34. McFadden, Robert. "6 Film Studios Vie Over Entebbe Raid." New York Times. 26 July 1976.
  35. Cohen, Peter-Adrian. "theatreor.com presents A WORLD PREMIERE from an Israeli Perspective". http://www.theatreor.com/. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  36. "Untitled Theater Co #61's Fest Of Jewish Theater & Ideas Runs". 20 May 2009. http://broadwayworld.com/article/Untitled_Theater_Co_61s_Fest_Of_Jewish_Theater_Ideas_Runs_520614_In_NYC_20090520. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  37. Parkinson, Daniel (6 June 2007). "Israel hijack role 'was queried'". BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6710289.stm. Retrieved 1 June 2007. 
  38. "Eitam: UK claims of Israeli collusion in 1976 hijacking 'audacious'." Israel Insider. 2 June 2007.
  39. Israel: "BBC Entebbe Story 'Ridiculous'." Israel National News. 2 June 2007.
  40. Hochstein, Joseph M. Claims of Entebbe conspiracy lack credibility. Mideastweb.org. 8 June 2007

Further reading

External links

Template:Aviation accidents and incidents in 1976

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