TEL AVIV, Israel -- The Israeli army said Israeli aircraft staged three lightning raids on the Entebbe, Uganda, airfield early Sunday and freed 61 Israelis and 43 French nationals held hostage by pro-Palestinian hijackers.
"Israeli forces extricated and freed the hostages and Air France crew from the airport at Entebbe," an army statement said.
The French Foreign Ministry in Paris said it had received word of the operation from its embassy in Kampala.
Foreign Ministry officials said the brief embassy dispatch reported the airfield was cordoned off shortly thereafter by Ugandan military forces.
"We are awaiting further news," a foreign ministry official said.
French radio quoted a French news agency report asserting that the commandos flew into Entebbe aboard three aircraft. There were no reports of the nationality of the commandos.
The report said an explosion shook the airfield area where the guerrillas are holding their hostages, who were hijacked in an Air France airbus over Greece last Sunday.
"We do not have any details, but some reports in Paris claim the raid may have been successful," a French radio newscast said.
On Saturday a French official said there was no chance of agreement being reached between Israel and the hijackers.
The hijackers, who divided their hostages into small groups and ringed them with dynamite, set a 7 a/m. EDT Sunday deadline for the release of a total of 53 prisoners from five countries.
The 61 Israelis are among 104 hostages held at gunpoint at the sweltering Entebbe airport, 20 miles from Kampala.
"We Israelis, hijacked near Athens on Sunday and flown to Entebbe, thank (Ugandan) President Idi Amin for his personal concern for our safety and comfort," Uganda Radio quoted a hostage spokesman as saying Saturday. "The president informed us of his unceasing efforts to obtain our release."
"We therefore ask our government to react positively to his efforts to secure our release."