Go to the Saul David home page | skip to content

Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport

Midnight, 3rd July 1976. Israeli Special Forces land in darkness on a runway at Entebbe Airport in Idi Amin's Uganda. They have just three minutes to evade a cordon of elite Ugandan paratroopers, storm the airport terminal and free more than a hundred Israeli, French and US hostages. Operation Thunderbolt had begun.

Using classified documents from archives in four countries and interviews with key participants, including Israeli soldiers and politicians, hostages, a member of the Kenyan government and a former terrorist, many of whom have never been interviewed before, Saul David gives a thrilling minute by minute account of one of history's most daring rescue missions.

Buy this book now

Buy now as an e-book

Reviews of Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport

"A brilliant account that reads like the plot of an action movie *****"

Daily Telegraph

"At the time this remarkable action enthralled people the world over and the military historian, Saul David, now tells the story once more in a well-researched and highly readable account... David paints a vivid portrait."

Colin Shindler, TLS

"A fast-paced account of the hijacking of Flight 139, which came to a violent climax in Uganda. Action-packed."

Justine Carbery, Irish Independent

"Saul David carries us hour by hour from the hijack on June 27th to the denouement a week later in what was, and remains, the boldest rescue mission ever launched... He combines phenomenal research with the paciness of a thriller"

Maggie Fergusson, The Economist

"A ripping good read and a meticulously researched work of history, cutting back and forth between scenes on the aircraft to Israel’s Cabinet, taking in the life of the commander of the rescue as well as the scenes in the airport terminal where the hostages were held..."

Sam Kiley, Evening Standard

"The Entebbe story is now retold in a meticulously researched, skilfully constructed, carefully balanced and absorbing book... Combining the copious literature with interviews with participants, David tells the tale in a novelistic way, almost hour by hour, cutting from the hostages in the sweltering old terminal building in Entebbe to the government offices and military training grounds in Israel. The tension builds steadily. The hostages are much more than 'Airplane' stereotypes; and the loathing between Rabin, the cautious professional soldiers, and Peres, the gung-ho armchair warrior, adds edge to the political arguments in Israel. This slow build-up is vital."

Ben Shepherd, The Observer

"Gripping... Neatly marshalled into the eight days of the action, the narrative shifts between the sweltering heat of Entebbe airport, frosty cabinet meetings in Jerusalem and tense moments at various altitudes in international airspace. As the hours tick down towards the threatened bloody denouement, tension mounts and the atmosphere thickens... A page-turner with its single clear mission, cast of distinctive personalities and very filmic scenes."

Clare Mulley, The Spectator

"One of the most celebrated commando operations in history.... Saul David's version is written with the style and pace of TV thrillers such as 24. Written chronologically and minute by minute, the action flits between Entebbe, Jerusalem, London, Kenya and Germany in...cinematic style... The Israeli rescue plan was extraordinarily inventive and audacious... As its 40th anniversary nears, Operation Thunderbolt is a timely reminder of what Saul David calls the "most audacious hostage mission in history""

Tom Coghlan, The Times

"It's a brilliantly orchestrated book, wonderfully rich in detail, but at the same time roaring along at a heart-thumping pace... "The result is, I hope, an exciting true story that is exhaustive researched yet reads more like a novel than a traditional history," writes David in an afterword. He is right on every count: I embarked on this book as someone not particularly interested in the Middle East, or in adventure tales of soldiers in action; I finished it in a state of high tension, buzzing through the pages in the need to know what happened next... David...has a wonderfully sharp eye for the idiosyncrasies of human nature... The narrative is studded with pen portraits of key figures - hostages, terrorists, soldiers, politicians - and with increasing anxiety you follow their destinies through the twists and turns of providence. *****"

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

"A wonderful narrative... For the first time in my reading life I felt physically thrilled by a book... The scenes at Entebbe are especially gripping."

Jonathan Mirsky, Literary Review

"Saul David's gripping new account...will introduce a new generation to the extraordinary story... It reads like a movie script... The climax of the rescue itself is brilliantly told; nearly 40 years on, you still heave a sigh of relief when the last Hercules lifts off from the Entebbe runway and lumbers off into the night and a new dawn for the hostages - and for Israel"

Robert Low, Jewish Chronicle

"David tells this story in a classic countdown structure... It is a brilliant, breathless account that reads like the plot of an action movie, switching between events in different parts of the world as the drama unfolds… David’s book is a good reminder that our own War on Terror has deep roots. *****"

Keith Lowe, Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"Better than fiction can ever hope to be and true to Saul David's characteristically authentic style, this breathtakingly tense and incredibly moving account of history's most audacious Special Forces operation is one of the best true stories I've ever read. Gritty, visceral and edge-of-the-seat dramatic, Operation Thunderbolt ticks all the boxes and is destined to be one of the military history classics of the decade."

Chris Hunter, author of 'Eight Lives Down'

"Totally thrilling, totally poignant. Bringing the greatest special forces operation of modern times blazingly to life, David's book, full of new revelations, written with the excitement of an action-movie, the authority of a historian, is great drama, superb storytelling - and yet tells us much about the Middle East today."

Simon Sebag-Montefiore, author of 'Jerusalem'

"Long fuse. Slow burn. Big bang. A Krakatoa of a tale."

Damien Lewis, author of 'Operation Certain Death'

"Combining exceptional research with gripping storytelling, Saul David's Operation Thunderbolt is an unputdownable account of perhaps the most extraordinary Special Forces mission in history. I loved it."

Rowland White, author of 'Vulcan 607'