'Totally thrilling, totally poignant. Bringing the greatest special forces operation of modern times blazingly to life' Simon Sebag MontefioreAt 3.40 p.m. on 3 July 1976 four heavily-laden Hercules C-130 transport planes - carrying the cream of Israel's special forces - took off from an air force base in the Sinai and flew south down the Red Sea.Their mission was to fly 2,000 miles through largely hostile territory to Entebbe Airport in Uganda where more than a hundred Israeli, French and US hostages were being held at gunpoint by pro-Palestinian terrorists. Once on the ground, the Israeli commandos had just three minutes to evade a cordon of ?lite Ugandan paratroopers, storm the Old Terminal and kill the terrorists.Codenamed Thunderbolt, the operation carried huge risks: the death of most or all of the hostages if the terrorists got wind of the assault; or the capture of Israel's best soldiers if the planes could not take off. Either would have been a PR catastrophe.Forty years on, Saul David gives the first comprehensive account of Operation Thunderbolt 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. Both a thrilling page-turner and a major piece of historical detective work, David's book shows how the outcome of Israel's most famous military operation depended on secret backdoor diplomacy, courage and luck, and was in the balance to the very last moment.General Bill McRaven, architect of the successful US mission to kill Osama Bin Laden, recently called the raid 'the best illustration of the theory of special operations yet presented'. Its legacy is still felt today: most western governments prefer to use specialist counter-terrorists units like Britain's SAS and the US Army's Delta Force to rescue hostages rather than give in to terrorist blackmail; while in Israel the very success of the operation may, ironically, have made it harder for politicians to force through the compromises required for peace.