Editor’s Note: This post was updated at 19:25 on 11/12 to reflect new information about the number of American service members killed.
Between seven peacekeepers, including five Americans, were killed today when a Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a routine reconnaissance mission in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. A French and a Czech member of the force, Sgt. Maj. Michaela Ticha, were also killed. One additional American service member was critically injured.
The chief of the Czech army’s general staff, Gen. Ales Opata, expressed his condolences.
The names of the American dead have not been released yet, pending notification of their families. A ninth peacekeeper, believed to be American, was severely injured.
Secretary of Defense Chris Miller acknowledged the crash in a brief statement from the Pentagon moments ago saying “the Defense Department is deeply saddened by the loss of five U.S. and two partner nation service members in a helicopter crash in the Sinai Peninsula operating with the United Nations Multinational Force and Observers (MFO).”
According to an Egyptian official, the helicopter crashed over Red Sea waters outside Egyptian territorial boundaries, near the island of Tiran. The cause of the crash was apparently a technical failure.
The Israeli Air Force tweeted that, “As a part of the IDF assistance, a short while ago, an IDF helicopter carrying elite search and rescue soldiers from IAF Unit 669, evacuated an injured American MFO peacekeeper to an Israeli hospital for medical treatment.”
Additionally, an Israeli official said the peacekeeping force airlifted the wounded peacekeeper to the Israeli border city of Eilat. From there, they flew him to an Israeli hospital. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
The MFO said the helicopter crashed during a routine mission near Sharm el-Sheikh, a famous Egyptian resort city on the Red Sea. It did not give the precise location of the crash or say whether the helicopter fell on land or crashed into the sea.
It added that there were no signs of an attack. “At this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident,” it specified.
The MFO further stated that “[We will] conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the accident. At this point, there is no information to indicate the crash was anything except an accident. We greatly appreciate the cooperation and support of Egypt and Israel.”
The mission of the MFO is to supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace and employ best efforts to prevent any violation of its terms.
There are between 30 and 400 American troops based in the Sinai as part of a UN peacekeeping mission that dates back to the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979.