Barak and former Sayeret soldiers
Barak and former Sayeret soldiersIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Forty years ago, Ehud Barak was the commander of the IDF's elite Sayeret Matkal infantry reconnaissance unit, and Binyamin Netanyahu was a young officer under his command.

On May 9, 1972, the unit carried out a successful raid on a Sabena Flight 571 jet that had been hijacked by four terrorists from the Fatah's Black September splinter group. The two male terrorists were killed, while the two female terrorists were captured, and and the 90 passengers were freed.

Three passengers were wounded in the raid, one of whom died of their wounds in the hospital. The soldiers were unharmed except for Netanyahu, who was accidentally shot in the hand by another soldier. 

Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak took part in ceremony marking the 40 year anniversary of that raid on Thursday.

"Since that operation we have approved many operations and we have also not approved many operations," said Netanyahu at the ceremony. "The thing that always guided us was the perspective that we have to fight terror. It will not cease if we do not fight it. The danger will not go away if we do not deal with it."

"We see now in Eilat that the Sinai Peninsula is turning into a terror area. We are dealing with it, constructing a security fence, but it does not stop missiles. We will find a solution for that also. We will hit those who send terrorist against us… In the end, no one will protect the Jews if they do not protect themselves. That is the important rule."   

Barak said: "At this point we do not know who is behind the missile fire, but the meaning is a grave one. This is another painful proof that this business of terror has not ended. I imagine that in a matter of hours or a few days we will know exactly what is behind this organization. We will study the information, we will think and then we will respond."

There were 90 passengers plus crew on board the Sabena jet, which had come from Brussels and landed in Lod Airport after it was hijacked. Sixteen Sayeret Matkal officers, disguised as technicians in white jumpsuits, boarded the jet from five directions at once and in 60 seconds killed the four male hijackers and took the two female hijackers into custody.

The supposed explosive charges that the terrorists had planted on the plane were thrown out of it onto the tarmac. It later turned out that they were dummy charges.

Netanyahu and Barak now find themselves in charge of what may be the biggest operation of their lifetimes: an attack on Iran's nuclear sites. At the same time, they are entrusted with countless smaller decisions, like the question of retaliation for tonight's Grad attack on Eilat – and also the eviction of Jews from Machpela House in Hevron. One question that nationalists asked after the Hevron eviction was whether Netanyahu is still following the lead of his former commander Barak.

Barak (3rd from left) after operation.
Barak (3rd from left) after operation.GPO

Netanyahu in ceremony after the operation.
Netanyahu in ceremony after the operation.GPO