Five American service members have been killed in a military plane crash over the eastern Mediterranean Sea during a training exercise.
The US European Command (EUCOM) on Sunday said all five crew members were killed when the aircraft went down on Friday evening “during a routine air refuelling mission as part of military training.”
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The military first announced the crash on Saturday and said the cause is under investigation, but there were no indications of any hostile activity involved. It said on Sunday that “search and rescue efforts began immediately, including nearby US military aircraft and ships”.
EUCOM said that out of respect for the families of the service members and in line with US Department of Defense policy, the identities of the crew members are being withheld until 24 hours after the next of kin notifications are completed.
The agency did not specify the type of plane or where it was flying from, but the US has deployed a carrier strike group to the area as part of efforts to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from spiralling into a regional conflict.
Washington rushed military support to Israel and bolstered its forces in the region – including with the USS Gerald R Ford aircraft carrier and other warships – after Hamas, the group that rules the Gaza Strip, carried out a surprise cross-border attack on October 7 that Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people.
Israel’s military responded with a relentless air, land and naval assault on Gaza that has killed more than 11,000 people in what independent observers have termed a genocide.
The US forces in the region have also faced a spike in attacks linked to the conflict in recent weeks and have been targeted more than 40 times since mid-October, leaving several American personnel with minor injuries.
Washington has blamed Iran-backed groups for the violence and has carried out three strikes against Tehran-linked sites in Syria – two on October 26 and one on Wednesday.
There have been multiple other crashes of US military aircraft in recent years, including an F-35 stealth warplane that went down in September, with the pilot able to eject.
In March, two US Army helicopters crashed during a nighttime training mission in Kentucky, killing all nine soldiers on board.