Eight peacekeepers killed in military helicopter crash in Sinai

Israel Air Force's search-and-rescue unit reportedly evacuated one person in critical condition to Soroka hospital in Beersheba.

THE SINAI Desert. (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)
A Multinational Force and Observers helicopter crashed on Thursday in the Egyptian Sinai near the resort town of Sharm e-Sheikh, killing eight members of the peacekeeping force, the US-led MFO said.
The victims were six Americans, a French national and a Czech national, all of them military service members, the MFO said in a statement. One American MFO member survived and was evacuated for medical treatment, it said.
The IDF said it evacuated the injured peacekeeper to an Israeli hospital.
The accident was caused by mechanical failure, an official with knowledge about the matter told Reuters.
The Czech Defense Ministry confirmed that a Czech army member was among those killed. The cause of the crash was a technical malfunction, it said in a statement.
Acting US Defense Secretary Christopher Miller confirmed that six Americans had been killed and said on Twitter he was saddened by the deaths.
The MFO was installed to monitor the demilitarization of the Sinai under the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace accord. It has decreased in size in recent years as the neighboring countries tightened security cooperation against Islamist-led Sinai insurgents.
However, both Israel and Egypt have, in the past, opposed proposals by Washington to reduce US participation in the MFO, whose website lists some 452 Americans among the force’s 1,154 military personnel.
Cairo sees the MFO as part of a relationship with Israel that, while unpopular with many Egyptians, has brought it billions of dollars in US defense aid, sweetening the foreign-enforced demilitarization of its Sinai territory.
For Israel, the MFO offers strategic reassurance in a region where allegiances can shift. In a statement of condolence, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi described the MFO as “extremely important... to maintaining security and stability.”
“I send my sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded,” he said in a statement.
The helicopter was on a routine mission when it crashed, the MFO statement said.
According to its website, the MFO draws personnel from 13 countries and covers an area of more than 10,000 square kilometers in the Sinai.
The IAF’s search-and-rescue unit evacuated one person in critical condition to Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba, according to Ynet.
The IDF “offered medical assistance to evacuate the wounded from the helicopter crash of the multinational observer force in Sinai,” IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.
The Foreign Ministry said in a press release: “The Foreign Ministry expresses deep sorrow over the deaths of eight members of the Sinai MFO following a helicopter crash that occurred this afternoon. The force is stationed in Sinai under the peace agreements with Egypt and is highly regarded for its work.”
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.