The Israelis may have been behind the hijacking of an Air France airbus at Entebbe, according to an extraordinary claim in secret Government documents
The Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Beit, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) joined forces in an "unholy alliance" to seize the aeroplane in June 1976 and re-write French Middle East policy, it was suggested.
The theory, recalled by a British diplomat at the Paris Embassy, comes from a contact at the Euro-Arab Parliamentary Association.
The aeroplane was hijacked shortly after take-off from Athens and flown to Entebbe, Uganda, where 98 people were held hostage.
The document, released by the National Archives, was penned to the Foreign Office on 30 June 1976 as the world wondered how the hostage crisis would end and if it would lead to bloodshed.
DH Colvin of the Paris Embassy writes: "According to his information, the hijack was the work of the PFLP, with help from the Israeli Secret Service, the Shin Beit.
"The operation was designed to torpedo the PLO's standing in France and to prevent what they see as a growing rapprochement between the PLO and the Americans.
"Their nightmare is that after the November elections, one will witness the imposition in the Middle East of a Pax Americana, which will be the advantage of the PLO (who will gain international respectability and perhaps the right to establish a state on evacuated territories) and to the disadvantage of the Refusal Front (who will be squeezed right out in any overall peace settlement and will lose their raison d'etre) and Israel who will be forced to evacuate occupied territory).
"Hence the unholy alliance of the hijacking.
"My contact said the PFLP had attracted all sorts of wild elements, some of whom had been planted by the Israelis."
The operation had been staffed by a "miscellaneous collection of revolutionary extremists", the document adds.
The hijackers left Benghazi to help ramp up international pressure outside Libya and the Middle East, the theory continues, noting that "pressures in Uganda will be of a different variety".
There was general agreement that although Ugandan president Idi Amin had frequently visited the hostages and tried to encourage them, that he may have been collaborating with the hijackers.
The hijackers demands included a list of countries that should release Palestinians or others fighting for the Palestinian cause.
Kenya was included to "appeal to President Amin if the people concerned are his supporters," the document says.
France was being sent the message that a pro-Palestinian policy is "no guarantee" it would not be targeted by Palestinian terrorists. Effective international action and collaboration would be needed to counter international terrorism.
Particularly if it ends in bloodshed, "the incident will have damaged the Palestinian cause with French public opinion," it was noted.
The diplomat concludes: "If the incident does lead to a re-appraisal of French Middle East policy (which seems unlikely), it is likely to lend weight to the arguments of those who call for an early resumption of moves leading to an overall peace settlement, including the creation of a Palestinian state on territory to be evacuated by Israel.
"Unless this is done, the indiscipline of the Palestinians will become more marked and incidents of this kind will become more frequent."
In July Israeli commandos rescued the hostages.
They flew about 2,500 miles to carry out the rescue, receiving co-operation from neighbouring Kenya to mount their assault. They engaged seven hijackers and about 80 Ugandan soldiers in a 36-minute battle at the airport.
Two Israeli civilian hostages died in the shooting, and a third died later in a Nairobi hospital. One officer commanding the raiders was killed by shooting from the airport tower.
President Amin claimed the raiders killed 20 Ugandan servicemen as well as seven hijackers who were guarding the hostages.
Documents claim Israel aided Entebbe hijack
Israel secret services 'involved in 1976 Air France hijack'
Israel hijack role 'was queried'
Israeli agents 'helped Entebbe hijackers'