Malaysia Airlines flight crash death toll rises to 298

Officials have increased the death toll in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash.

According to Reuters and BBC, 298 are dead after the aircraft was shot down Thursday in Eastern Ukraine. Fifteen of those are crew members. Initial reports indicated the number killed in the crash was 295.

U.S. officials confirmed none of those aboard are Americans.

Russian news agency Interfax reported the Boeing 777 went down near the border between Russia and Ukraine. 

Malaysia Airlines initially tweeted it had lost contact with the plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and then released the following statement:

"Malaysia Airlines confirms it received notification from Ukrainian ATC that it had lost contact with flight MH17 at 1415 (GMT) at 30km from Tamak waypoint, approximately 50km from the Russia-Ukraine border.

Flight MH17 operated on a Boeing 777 departed Amsterdam at 12.15pm (Amsterdam local time) and was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6.10 am (Malaysia local time) the next day."

An Associated Press journalist counted at least 22 bodies at the wreckage site 25 miles from the Russian border.

According to the Associated Press, The Boeing 777-200ER plane appeared to have broken up before impact and the burning wreckage — which included body parts and the belongings of passengers — was scattered over a wide area.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the downing an act of terrorism and called for an international investigation into the crash. He insisted that his forces did not shoot down the plane.

President Barack Obama called the crash a "terrible tragedy." 

In a call with Poroshenko, President Obama emphasized that all evidence from the crash site must remain in place on the territory of Ukraine until international investigators are able to examine all aspects of the tragedy, according to a White House news release regarding the call

The village of Grabovo is currently under the control of pro-Russia separatists and the area has seen severe fighting between the two sides in recent days.

The Ukrainian government and the pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied any responsibility for downing the plane.

Ukraine's security services said they had intercepted two telephone conversations that they said showed rebels were responsible, but neither could be independently confirmed, according to the AP. 

CNN reported that the United States has "nothing to substantiate" claims that pro-Russian separatists are responsible at this point.  

Russian reports indicate Ukrainian rebels intend to call a three-day cease-fire to allow a plane crash probe.

According to CNN military analyst Rick Francona, a retired Air Force colonel, a surface-to-air missile is most likely the case.

The Buk missile system operated by Russian and Ukrainian forces is a likely candidate.

The Kremlin released a statement indicating that President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken of the crash:

"The Russian leader informed the U.S. president of the report from air traffic controllers that the Malaysian plane had crashed on Ukrainian territory, which had arrived immediately before the phone call."

Putin later made a statement according to Reuters that the disaster would not have happened if Kiev had not renewed military operation against the rebels. 

No further details on what they discussed were released.

Aviation authorities in several countries, including the FAA in the United States, had issued warnings not to fly over parts of Ukraine prior to Thursday's crash. Within hours, several airlines, including Lufthansa and KLM, released statements Thursday saying they were avoiding parts of Ukrainian airspace.

Wasn't the plane that went missing over the Indian Ocean a Malaysia Airlines flight?

Yes. This is the second Boeing 777 jetliner loss in 131 days for Malaysia Airlines. The disappearance of Flight 370 is no closer to being solved, though searches are slated to resume in the South Indian Ocean in August.

Has a domestic flight been allegedly shot down like this before?

On April 20, 1978, Korean Airlines Flight 902 diverted from its planned course on a flight from Paris to Seoul and strayed over the Soviet Union. After being fired upon by an interceptor aircraft, the crew made a forced landing at night on the surface of a frozen lake. Two of the 97 passengers were killed by the hostile fire.

On September 1, 1983, Korean Airlines Flight 007, a domestic Korean Airlines flight from New York City to Seoul, was shot down in Russian airspace over the Sea of Japan. Soviet Union fighter pilots fired a heat-seeking missile that resulted in the loss of 269 passenger and crew lives. This escalated tensions between the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War.

On July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down by a surface to air missile from the American naval vessel U.S.S. Vincennes. All on board (16 crew and 274 passengers) were killed. 

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