Rebel forces in southeastern Ukraine appear to be responsible for downing a civilian plane with 295 passengers and crew aboard. The U.S. has confirmed someone shot the plane down with a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile:
An unnamed American official has confirmed that the Malaysian passenger jet that crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday was shot down, according to multiple media reports.
The official told CNN that a radar spotted a surface-to-air missile track an aircraft right before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed. According to the official, another system captured a "heat signature" right at the time the plane was struck.
The missile, suspected to be a Russian-made Buk, is capable of hitting aircraft well over 20 km above the ground; MH17 was flying at 10 km.
James Fallows reports that American airplanes have been prohibited from the area since April:
Nearly three months ago, on the "Special Rules" section of its site, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration put out an order prohibiting American pilots, airlines, charter carriers, and everyone else over whom the FAA has direct jurisdiction, from flying over southern parts of Ukraine.
Rebel forces appeared to take responsibility for the attack, even after learning the plane was civilian, but took down the smoking-gun post when they discovered it wasn't Ukrainian.
This is a developing situation, and because the crash site is in rebel-held territory, it might be some time before all the details emerge. For now, it appears that Russian separatists murdered nearly 300 people. What they hoped to accomplish by attacking an airplane is beyond me. That they downed this airplane is sickening.