French peacekeeper dies with six colleagues in Sinai helicopter crash
Seven international observers were killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Among the people on board, a French and a Czech and five Americans. The only survivor was evacuated to an Israeli hospital. A mechanical failure was attributed to the accident.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss, on November 12, 2020, of seven of our military colleagues in uniform from three countries who died in a helicopter crash during a routine mission,” said the Multinational Observer Force (MFO) the peacekeeping force said Thursday evening.
“A full investigation into the cause of the accident, which appears to be mechanical in nature, has been launched,” the peacekeeping force said.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed its condolences “as a government and as a people” in a statement Thursday evening confirming that the cause of the crash was a mechanical failure near the island of Tiran.
Egyptian officials in the south Sinai governor’s office did not provide AFP with more details on the exact site of the crash, nor did the MFO.
The Czech army said in a statement that “the cause of the accident was a technical fault”, also identifying the Czech victim as Sergeant Michaela Ticha.
Alternative to the UN mission
The MFO was created by Israel and Egypt to oversee parts of their landmark 1979 peace treaty after the United Nations did not approve a peacekeeping force for Sinai.
It was established as an alternative to a UN mission, but has always enjoyed significant international support, especially from the United States.
Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is facing an ISIS-affiliated insurgency in the north of the region, while the south is home to tourist resorts on the Red Sea near the crash site.
More than 930 suspected militants have been killed in the North Sinai region since a security mission began in 2018, along with dozens of security personnel, according to official figures.
US President-elect Joe Biden tweeted his “deep condolences to the relatives of the peacekeepers who died on the island of Tiran.”
The strategic island of Tiran, with Sanafir, in the Red Sea, was officially ceded to Saudi Arabia in 2017 as part of a maritime agreement.
Tributes to the victims
The only survivor of the crash was medically evacuated by the Israel Defense Forces, the MFO added.
Chris Miller, Acting US Secretary of Defense, said in a statement he was “deeply saddened” by the loss of life.
Jonathan Cohen, the US Ambassador to Egypt, also paid tribute to the victims.
“These six Americans, a French and a Czech embody the noble spirit of preserving peace between our partners Israel and Egypt,” he said on Twitter.
The MFO currently has more than 1,100 troops, including from Australia, the United States, Canada and France, and receives funding from Egypt, Israel and the United States.
The force’s website lists only one French member of its contingent, a liaison officer.