JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli and Egyptian officials say a helicopter belonging to an international peacekeeping force has crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing at least seven people, including five Americans, according to the Multinational Force and Observers.
“During a routine mission in the vicinity of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, eight uniformed members of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) were involved in a helicopter crash,” said a statement from the MFO. “We are deeply saddened to report that seven MFO members were killed; this includes five U.S. citizens, one French, and one Czech.”
One U.S. MFO member survived and was medically evacuated, according to MFO. Names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
“The MFO will conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the accident,” according to the statement. “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 in the recovery effort.
The helicopter belonged to the international force known as MFO that monitors the 40-year-old peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. Thirteen countries contribute troops to the mission, with the United States making up the largest contingent.
The Egyptian official said the UH-60 Black Hawk was on a reconnaissance mission and crashed near the island of Tiran, apparently because of a technical failure.
MFO officials said an investigation was underway but gave no further details.
Both the Israeli and the Egyptian official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media on the matter.
Since 1981, MFO has safeguarded the peace between Egypt and Israel. The administration’s recent budget calls for $30 million in funding for MFO, but former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley have both informed lawmakers that the U.S. may soon prepare to withdraw its military forces from this mission.
Under the guidance of President Jimmy Carter in 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords, which called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Sinai Peninsula and an international peacekeeping mission. After the United Nations Security Council failed to oversee the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, the United States became instrumental in creating and maintaining the MFO.
The MFO draws most of its budget in relatively equal proportion from the United States, Israel, and Egypt. Last year, the U.S. provided $31 million to the MFO.
This is a developing story. Stay with Military Times for updates.