Israel on Saturday assisted Egyptian and Russian authorities in the aftermath of a deadly crash of a Russian passenger jet with 224 people on board in the Sinai Peninsula, later claimed to have been shot down by an affiliate of the Islamic State terror group.
Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Peter Lerner said the army coordinated with Russia and Egypt and provided “aerial surveillance in the efforts to locate the Russian airplane that lost contact over the Sinai Peninsula.” Lerner said Israel offered additional IDF assistance to Egypt if necessary.
Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency services offered 30 ambulances and a number of air lift helicopters to assist in search and rescue efforts and help evacuate casualties to local hospitals.
MDA Director-General Eli Bin said that as a member of the International Red Cross, the MDA was tasked with assisting its Egyptian colleagues in providing medical assistance and humanitarian aid, and was reaching out to local authorities through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Walla news reported.
Hours later however, Egyptian and Russian authorities announced no survivors were found at the scene of the crash site roughly 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of the northern Sinai town of el-Arish.
An IS affiliate in Egypt claimed that it downed the plane, without saying how, but there has been no official word on the cause of the crash.
The plane with 214 Russian and three Ukrainian passengers, and seven crew, had taken off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in the south Sinai bound for St. Petersburg. It lost contact with air traffic control 23 minutes later.
Egyptian security and medical officials said there were no survivors, and that the bodies of the passengers and debris were spread out over an area of two square miles (five square kilometers).
The Russian embassy in Cairo said: “Unfortunately, all passengers of Kogalymavia flight 9268 Sharm el-Sheikh-Saint Petersburg have died. We issue condolences to family and friends.”
The IS affiliate, which is waging a deadly insurgency in the Sinai, claimed that “the soldiers of the caliphate succeeded in bringing down a Russian plane” there.
It said this was in revenge for Russian air strikes against militants in Syria, where IS controls territories that straddle Iraq.
Three military experts said IS in Sinai does not have surface-to-air missiles capable of hitting a plane at high altitude. But they could not exclude the possibility of a bomb on board or a surface-to-air missile strike if the plane had descended for an emergency landing.
The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Moscow’s emergency ministry to dispatch rescue teams to Egypt.
The Russian emergency ministry published a list of names of the passengers, ranging in age from a 10-month-old girl to a 77-year-old woman.
A senior Egyptian aviation official said the plane was a charter flight operated by a Russian firm, and was flying at an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) when communication was lost.
A senior Egyptian air traffic control official said the pilot told him in their last communication that he was having trouble with the radio system.
Millions of tourists, many of them Russian, visit the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, one of Egypt’s major attractions for holidaymakers looking for pristine beaches and scuba diving.
It and other resorts dotting the Red Sea coast are heavily secured by the military and police, as an Islamist militant insurgency rages in the north of the peninsula, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Militants in the north who pledged allegiance to the jihadist Islamic State group have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and policemen since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.