Ex-Israeli military chief led '76 Entebbe hostage rescue

From the Associated Press

Former Israeli military chief Dan Shomron, who commanded the famed 1976 hostage rescue in Entebbe, Uganda, died in a Tel Aviv hospital Tuesday after a stroke, a hospital official said. He was 70.

Shomron was rushed to Sourasky Medical Center on Feb. 5 suffering from a stroke and never recovered, spokeswoman Aviva Shemer said.

Israeli leaders remembered him as one of the greatest military minds in the country's 60-year history.

"Dan Shomron was a brave-hearted warrior who left his stamp on the fighting spirit of the Israeli army, with some of the most daring operations in its history," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a statement. "His death is a loss to the whole of Israeli society."

Shomron was armed forces chief of staff from 1987 to 1991, years during which the Palestinians launched their first uprising against Israeli control and Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel.

As head of the army's southern command from 1979 to 1983, he oversaw the withdrawal of troops from the Israeli-held Sinai peninsula after Israel's historic 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.

Born on a kibbutz collective farm near the Sea of Galilee in 1937, Shomron enlisted as a paratrooper in 1955 and fought in the Sinai campaign the next year, when British, French and Israeli troops invaded Egypt after it nationalized the Suez Canal.

The 1967 Middle East War saw him back in the Sinai fighting Egyptian troops again. According to his military resume, he was the first Israeli paratrooper to reach the canal.

By 1974, he had reached the rank of brigadier general and was put in command of the paratroopers and infantry.

Two years later, he headed the daring Entebbe mission, when his commandos flew into the Ugandan airport under the cover of darkness and rescued more than 100 hostages held by Palestinian and German hijackers. The flight, whose passengers were mostly Israeli and Jewish, had originated in Tel Aviv a week earlier.

After leaving the military in 1991, Shomron became chairman of state-owned arms manufacturer Israel Military Industries. He was called out of retirement in 2006 to head an internal military inquiry into Israel's inconclusive Lebanon war that year, which found that the general staff at the time failed to translate Olmert's policy objectives into defined military targets.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was Shomron's deputy before succeeding him as chief of staff, said he was one of the army's most outstanding field commanders, and its bravest, in recent decades.

"I knew him for many years, since we were both young captains," Barak said. "I loved him very much. I loved working with him."

Information on survivors was incomplete Tuesday.

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