Six Americans among 8 peacekeepers killed in Egypt crash
JERUSALEM — The international force that monitors the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement said Thursday that eight peacekeepers, including six Americans, were killed when one of its helicopters crashed during a routine mission in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. A ninth peacekeeper was badly injured.
The Multinational Force and Observers said a French peacekeeper and Czech member of the force were killed in addition to the Americans. It did not release the names of the dead, pending notification of their families. It said the injured peacekeeper was American.
The MFO said the helicopter crashed during a routine mission near Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular Egyptian resort city on the Red Sea, and that an investigation was underway. It did not give a precise location of the crash or say whether the helicopter fell on land or crashed into the sea.
An Egyptian official speaking on condition of anonymity per regulations, said the helicopter crashed over Red Sea waters outside Egyptian territorial boundaries.
Islamic militant groups and a regional affiliate of the Islamic State group are known to be active in Sinai. But the MFO said there were no signs of an attack.
“At this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident,” it said.
An Israeli official said the injured peacekeeper was airlifted by the peacekeeping force to the Israeli border city of Eilat. From there, he was flown to an Israeli hospital. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
The Israeli Air Force had scrambled a helicopter with a search-and-rescue team to the site, but that mission turned back when it was learned there were no other survivors.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed its “deepest sorrow” and said the MFO is “highly regarded for its work.”
“I send my sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wish a speedy recovery to all of the wounded,” Foreign
Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.
One of the fatalities of the Black Hawk’s crash was a Czech, it was confirmed. The Czech military said the cause of the crash was a malfunction and added that the survivor is in critical condition. The chief of the Czech army’s general staff, Gen. Ales Opata, identified the fatality in a Facebook post as Sgt. Maj. Michaela Ticha.
The MFO monitors the 4-decade-old peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. Thirteen countries contribute troops, with the United States making up the largest contingent. Its responsibilities include monitoring troop levels along the border and ensuring the freedom of navigation through the Strait of
In 2015, the Islamic State affiliate based in the northern Sinai asserted responsibility for downing a Russian passenger plane, killing all 224 people aboard.
Thursday’s deaths the day after Veterans Day was not lost on top U.S. officials.
“Yesterday we recognized the sacrifice of millions of American veterans who have defended our nation for generations, and today we are tragically reminded of the last full measure our uniformed warriors may pay for their service,” acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said in a statement. “I extend the Department’s condolences to the families, friends and teammates of these service members.”