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Iran’s president and foreign minister die in helicopter crash at moment of high tensions in Mideast

The crash comes as the Israel-Hamas war roils the region. Iran-backed Hamas led the attack that started the conflict, and Hezbollah, also supported by Tehran, has fired rockets at Israel. Last month, Iran launched its own unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel.

A hard-liner who formerly led the country’s judiciary, Raisi, 63, was viewed as a protege of Khamenei. During his tenure, relations continued to deteriorate with the West as Iran enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels and supplied bomb-carrying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

The crash killed all eight people aboard a Bell 212 helicopter that Iran purchased in the early 2000s, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. Among the dead were Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, a senior cleric from Tabriz, a Revolutionary Guard official and three crew members, IRNA said.

The Associated Press’ news director for the Gulf and Iran, Jon Gambrell, explains tensions facing Iran after a helicopter crash killed its president. (AP video shot by Bassam Hatoum)

Iran has flown Bell helicopters extensively since the shah’s era. But aircraft in Iran face a shortage of parts because of Western sanctions, and often fly without safety checks. Against that backdrop, former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sought to blame the United States for the crash.

“One of the main culprits of yesterday’s tragedy is the United States, which … embargoed the sale of aircraft and aviation parts to Iran and does not allow the people of Iran to enjoy good aviation facilities,” Zarif told The Associated Press. Ali Vaez, Iran project director with the International Crisis Group, said that while U.S. sanctions have deprived Iran of the ability to renew and repair its fleet for decades, “one can’t overlook human error and the weather’s role in this particular accident.

Read more: Iran’s president and foreign minister die in helicopter crash at moment of high tensions in Mideast

Source: AP

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