Photo Credit: Mohammadhosein Movahedinejad / Tasnim News Agency
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

The East Azerbaijan provincial commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced late Sunday night that a signal was received from the helicopter and the satellite mobile phone of one of the crew members at the site where the helicopter crashed earlier in the day while carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other officials.

“Military forces are heading to the location and hope to have some good news,” the commander was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.

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Extreme cold, dense fog and rain have further complicated the rescue effort as the night wore on. By 11 pm, the rain had turned to snow, heaping on misery for searchers tramping through the muck as it slowly turned to ice.

An hour earlier, Iranian search and rescue teams arrived at a site that was identified with coordinates from the Iranian Space Agency, according to the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society.

But rescue teams had not yet found the helicopter, despite a report by the British Daily Mail citing Iranian state media claims that the helicopter had been found, although no details had been released about its location or whether there were any survivors.

“Five Red Crescent teams have arrived in the coordinates they received from the Iranian Space Agency. Three spots in the area were searched but nothing found yet,” IRCS chief Pir Hossein Kolivand told state media, denying the report.

Iranian President’s Helicopter Crashes in Mountainous Terrain, Raisi Believed Dead

Iran reportedly requested assistance from Turkey in its search and rescue efforts; in response, Ankara sent dozens of rescue workers, off-road vehicles and sets of night vision gear.

European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, told reporters, “Upon an Iranian request for assistance we are activating the European Union’s ‘Copernicus EMS’ rapid response satellite mapping service, in view of the helicopter accident reportedly carrying the President of Iran and its foreign minister.”

Earlier in the evening, Iranian executive vice president Mohammad Mokhber and several cabinet members headed for Tabriz, the city closest to the crash site.

Iranian Vice President for Executive Affairs Mohsen Mansouri told the semi-official FARS news agency that a passenger and crew member from the helicopter carrying Raisi and his entourage had “communicated with us several times since the incident happened.”

But although the Ministry of Communications and other security agencies said they had identified the incident area within a two-kilometer radius, weather conditions made access to the site “challenging.”

Regional leaders have expressed support and sympathy for Iran as it awaits word on the fate of its president, foreign minister and other officials aboard the helicopter. Among the countries offering assistance and support were Azerbaijan, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Iran’s proxy terror organization in Gaza, Hamas, also expressed the hope that Raisi and his delegation would be found alive.

“In this painful incident, we express our full solidarity with the Islamic Republic of Iran, its leadership, government, and people, and we ask Allah Almighty to protect and ensure the safety of the Iranian President and his accompanying delegation, and to keep all harm away from the brotherly Iranian people,” Hamas said in a statement.

Hamas receives generous support from Iran.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.