WATCH – TOUCHING: Hatikvah plays as hero pilot from hijacked Entebbe flight laid to rest
?? ?? Captain Michel Bacos, the hero French pilot who was forced by Muslim terrorists to fly his jetliner to Entebbe in 1976 but refused to abandon Jewish passengers before an audacious rescue by Israeli commandos, was laid to rest to the sound of HaTikvah, at his request.
Michel Bacos died on Tuesday in Nice, France. He was 94. His death was announced by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, where Bacos lived.
“Michel bravely refused to surrender to anti-Semitism and barbarism and brought honor to France,” Mayor Estrosi said. “Michel was a hero.”
On June 27, 1976, an Air France Airbus A300, flight 139, flying out of Athens and carrying 248 passengers and 12 crew ended up at Entebbe airport in Uganda instead of its intended destination of Paris. The plane had been hijacked by Palestinian Muslim terrorists and its captain, Michel Bacos, found himself facing a moral dilemma of life and death proportions.
Three days later, the hijackers freed the 148 passengers who were neither Jewish nor Israeli. They threatened to kill the rest unless 53 Muslim terrorists being held in Israel and other countries on terrorism charges were released. The plane’s crew was also permitted to depart.
“There was no way we were going to leave — we were staying with the passengers to the end,” Michel Bacos told Ynet in 2016. “This was a matter of conscience, professionalism, and morality. As a former officer in the Free French Forces, I couldn’t imagine leaving behind not even a single passenger.”
As he recounted to the BBC that year, “I told my crew that we must stay until the end because that was our tradition so we cannot accept being freed. All my crew agreed without exception.”
Three planeloads of troops from the IDF carried out the rescue operation on the night of July 4. Three of the remaining 106 passengers and one Israeli commando, Lieut. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, were killed. He was the elder brother of PM Netanyahu.
Netanyahu tweeted this week that Bacos had “stayed with the hostages through all their hardships until IDF soldiers — led by my brother Yoni — freed him in a daring operation.”
Seven terrorists and 20 Ugandan soldiers were eliminated in the raid when a convoy of Israeli commandos arrived in darkness disguised as a motorcade carrying Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator who had welcomed the hijackers.
“I lifted my head, and I saw a soldier dressed as a member of the Ugandan army with a white hat, and he said in Hebrew: ‘Listen, guys, we’ve come to take you home,’ ” Bacos, who had often flown the Israel route and understood the language, told BBC.