Operation Thunderbolt (film)

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Operation Thunderbolt
USA theatrical poster
Directed by Menahem Golan
Produced by Menahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Rony Yakov
Written by Ken Globus
Menahem Golan
Clarke Reynolds
Starring Yehoram Gaon
Gila Almagor
Assi Dayan
Sybil Danning
Klaus Kinski
Music by Dov Seltzer
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Edited by Dov Heonig
Distributed by Cannon Film Distributors (Israel)
Warner Bros. (U.S)
Release dates
  • 1977 (1977)
Running time
124 minutes
Country Israel
Language Hebrew

Operation Thunderbolt, known in Israel as Mivtsa Yonatan (מבצע יונתן, literally "Operation Jonathan"), is an Israeli film from 1977 based on an actual event; Operation Entebbe and the freeing of hostages at Entebbe Airport in Kampala, Uganda, on July 4, 1976. The film was directed by Menahem Golan and starred Klaus Kinski, Yehoram Gaon, and Sybil Danning.


In July 1976, Air France flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris via Athens was hijacked by four terrorists, two of whom are West Germans named Wilfried Boese (Klaus Kinski) and Halima (Sybil Danning), and the other two are Palestinians. After landing to refuel in Libya, the four hijackers force the plane to take off and to land thousands of miles away at the airport in Entebbe, Uganda, at the invitation of the Ugandan leader Idi Amin (Mark Heath). The two Germans and two Arab hijackers are joined at the Entebbe Airport by at least three more Palestinian terrorists. The Jewish passengers are separated and held hostage in demand to release many terrorists held in Israeli prisons. After much debate, the Israeli government sent an elite commando unit, under the command of Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu (Yehoram Gaon), to raid the airfield and release the hostages. The film is based on fact and follows the events following the flight's takeoff until the hostages' return to Israel.



The film was produced with the co-operation of the Israeli Air Force and the Israeli government. The film features original footage of prominent politicians such as Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yigal Allon. The exterior scenes set in Uganda were photographed near Eilat, Israel. Nearly all of the extras portraying Ugandan soldiers were played by African Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia. The scenes featuring the Knesset were filmed in Jerusalem, and the Tel Aviv airport sequences were filmed at Ben Gurion International Airport.

Originally filmed in Hebrew as well as German and Arabic and English, the film was shot a second time in an all-English version for the international market.

In 1986, Menahem Golan produced and directed The Delta Force, a film to which Mivtsa Yonatan is very similar. In fact, Golan re-used many actors[who?] from Mivtsa Yonatan in The Delta Force.

Critical response[edit]

The film was well received in its native Israel and was somewhat successful overseas. In 1978 it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.[1]

Video games[edit]

A video game called Operation Thunderbolt was created. In the game a flight called Trans Global Flight #520 is hijacked and forces must rescue the aircraft.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The 50th Academy Awards (1978) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2012-06-16. 

External links[edit]