By LUIS MARTINEZ and MATT SEYLER, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Five Americans were among seven international peacekeepers killed when their helicopter crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
The international observer mission in the Sinai Peninsula said all indications are that the crash, which also left one American peacekeeper injured, “appears to be mechanical in nature”.
The peacekeepers are part of the international mission that oversees the enforcement of the 1978 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss on November 12, 2020, of seven of our uniformed military colleagues from three countries who died in a helicopter crash during a routine mission,.” the MFO said in a revised statement issued on its website.
“This included one Czech, one French, and five U.S. MFO members, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these soldiers at this difficult time,” the statement continued. “We wish the one U.S. MFO Member who survived the crash a speedy recovery.”
The MFO had issued earlier statements with conflicting casualty numbers, reflecting the confusion around the incident. At one point the MFO said eight people died before revising the count.
The Israeli Defense Forces later confirmed that the American, who had injuries that were not life threatening, had been flown by a search-and-rescue team to an Israeli hospital for medical treatment.
“The Defense Department is deeply saddened by the loss of six 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),” said acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller in a statement issued before the casualty count was updated.
“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,” said Miller. “I extend the Department’s condolences to the families, friends and teammates of these service members.”
There are 452 U.S. military personnel among the force of 1,154 international peacekeepers that is part of the legacy mission in the Sinai Peninsula to enforce the 1978 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The treaty called for an enduring observer mission to ensure Israel’s return of the peninsula to Egypt.
The Pentagon recently assessed whether to keep participating in the mission, but ultimately decided it was required under the treaty.
Active duty military personnel were assigned to the mission for decades, but in recent years it has been carried out by National Guardsmen.
ABC News’ Bruno Nota contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.