The Israeli military has offered its help to Egypt and Russia after a Russian airliner carrying 224 passengers and crew crashed in the Sinai peninsula, all of whom were apparently killed.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu offered his condolences to President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people: “This was a great disaster. We identify with the sorrow and are of course in constant touch with the government of Russia and the government of Egypt to try and figure out the circumstances of the case.”
“Since this morning the IDF assisted with aerial surveillance in the efforts to locate the Russian airplane that lost contact over the Sinai Peninsula. The IDF has offered continued assistance to both Russia and Egypt if required,” a military statement said.
The Airbus A-321, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia with registration number KGL-9268, was flying from the Sinai Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg in Russia when it went down in a desolate mountainous area of central Sinai soon after daybreak, the Egyptian aviation ministry said.
The plane was completely destroyed and all those on board are likely to have died, an Egyptian security officer who arrived at the scene told Reuters by telephone.
Initial reports indicated that terrorism was not the likely cause, despite a claim made by a terrorist group affiliated to Islamic State in Egypt who said they downed the plane.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told a news conference that there did not appear to be any unusual activity behind the crash, but added that the investigation was ongoing and no conclusions could be reached yet. Experts were expected to begin examining the black boxes at the civil aviation ministry in Cairo on Sunday, judiciary and ministry sources said.
Former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, Zvi Mazel, told The Jerusalem Post, “ISIS does not have the sophisticated missiles and the means to shoot a plane flying at the height of about six miles.”
Mazel did concede, however, that the area of crash is a combat zone between ISIS terrorists and the Egyptian army. “But it’s not enough to be sure that they are really capable of doing it,” he added.
Egypt’s former minister of civil aviation, Wail al-Madawi, told Russian news outlet RT that the Sinai terrorist groups lack the resources for such an attack.
“I am a former air force officer, and I have the expert knowledge that taking down a plane flying so high requires the kind of capacities only a state can have. It requires some very significant resources: One would need search radars, radars to locate the plane, radars to control the fire. Only a state can have such resources, no militant group like that can,” RT quoted him as saying.