JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel sent its condolences to Russia over the crash of a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai that killed all 224 people aboard, including a former program director for Hillel Russia.
“I offer condolences to the government of Russia, to President Putin, to the Russian people and, of course, to the families of the victims,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. “This was a very serious disaster. We share in their grief. We are, of course, in continuous contact with the governments of Russia and of Egypt regarding the circumstances of the incident.”
The Sinai affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for bringing down the Kogalymavia flight on Saturday, saying it was in retaliation for Russian airstrikes on rebels in Syria’s civil war. Russia’s Transportation Ministry rejected the claim, saying the group did not offer any evidence as to how it was able to cause the plane to crash.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail said experts do not believe that weapons held by the Islamic State could down a plane at the altitude of the flight when it came down, the BBC reported.
Russian officials opened an investigation into the crash, looking for gross negligence and safety violations.
Among the passengers was Anna Tishinskaya, 27, the ex-Hillel program director.
Israel Defense Forces spokesman Peter Lerner posted Saturday on Twitter that the IDF assisted with aerial surveillance in efforts to locate the flight, which was traveling from the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg in Russia
Three airlines – Emirates, Air France and Lufthansa – have decided not to fly over the Sinai Peninsula until a determination is made as to how the plane crashed, the BBC reported.