Netanyahu, Yonatan (Yoni)

   Born on13 March 1946 in Tel Aviv, Yonatan Netanyahu was the commander of the ground forces of the operation to rescue Israeli hostages being held by terrorists at the Entebbe airport in Uganda, and he was the only Israeli military casualty of Operation Entebbe. His younger brother Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister of Israel from 1996-99, and currently serves as Likud party leader.
   Yonatan Netanyahu joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 1964 and proceeded to officer training, where he excelled. During the Six-Day War (1967) his paratroop battalion fought in the Sinai Desert and then reinforced Israeli forces in the Golan Heights, where he received a wound to his elbow while assisting an injured fellow soldier. After the Six-Day War, Netanyahu studied briefly at Harvard University in the United States but returned because of the War of Attrition (1969-70) and studied instead at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In the early 1970s, he joined the IDF's elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit and in the summer of 1972 was appointed the unit's deputy commander. In 1972, he commanded a raid in which senior Syrian officers were captured and exchanged in return for captive Israeli pilots. The following year, he participated in an operation in which members of the Black September terrorist group responsible for the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany (see MUNICH MASSACRE) were tracked and killed.
   During the Yom Kippur War (1973), Netanyahu commanded a Sayeret Matkal unit in the Golan Heights that killed more than 40 Syrian commando officers in a battle that thwarted the Syrian commandos' raid in the Golan's heartland. Also during the war, Netanyahu rescued a fellow soldier who was lying wounded behind Syrian lines. For his wartime bravery, Netanyahu was awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service, Israel's third highest military decoration. Following the Yom Kippur War, Netanyahu volunteered to transfer to the tank corps, which had suffered heavy casualties during the war. Under Netanyahu's command, the Barak Armored Brigade became the leading military unit in the Golan Heights. In June 1975, Netanyahu left the Armored Corps and returned to the Sayeret Matkal as unit commander. The operation to rescue Israeli hostages at Entebbe airport was his first major operation since returning to the unit. He was killed in action on 4 July 1976. Operation Entebbe was posthumously renamed Operation Yonatan in honor of Netanyahu.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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