Iran has protested the “flagrant violation” of international law to the United Nations after it said United States fighter jets sparked panic on an Iranian passenger plane over Syria.
Iran’s state-run television broadcast footage of Thursday’s incident with passengers screaming as the pilot of a Mahan Air plane on a flight from Tehran to Beirut changed altitude to avoid collision with a US fighter jet.
A passenger with blood running down his forehead and another who had fallen to the floor were seen in the video, and one jet could be seen through the window in the video.
Iran’s official news agency IRNA said a protest letter would be submitted to the UN Security Council (UNSC) and secretary-general over “the threat posed to the Mahan Air passenger plane”.
On Friday, Iran’s foreign ministry said protest had been lodged with the International Civil Aviation Organization – a UN agency – and the Swiss embassy in Tehran that handles US interests in Iran since ties were cut in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
“If anything happens to the aircraft on its return flight, Iran will hold the United States responsible,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told IRNA.
U.S. illegally occupies territory of another State and then harasses a scheduled civil airliner—endangering innocent civilian passengers—ostensibly to protect its occupation forces. Audacity to compound lawlessness upon lawlessness These outlaws must be stopped before disaster.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 24, 2020
The US military said an “F-15 on a routine air mission … conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of approximately 1,000 metres (yards)”.
Captain Bill Urban, the senior Central Command spokesman, said the “visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at Tanf garrison”.
“Once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft,” Urban added.
US CENTCOM, which covers the whole of the wider Middle East, insisted it was a “professional intercept … conducted in accordance with international standards”.
The IRNA said the Mahan Air pilot made contact on the radio with two US fighter planes, before the aircraft landed safely in the Lebanese capital.
Iranian television called the incident “provocative and dangerous”.
Initial ADS-B data regarding a reported incident involving an Iranian airliner today enroute to Beirut. https://t.co/Lh7krY14Sc We are currently processing granular data. pic.twitter.com/38T7fA4J4w
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) July 23, 2020
Data from the flight recorded by website FlightRadar24.com showed the airliner climbed from 34,000 feet to 34,600 feet in under two minutes around the time of the incident, then dropped back down to 34,000 feet within a minute.
The incident comes amid tensions between Tehran and Washington, with ties deteriorating since 2018 when US President Donald Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed sanctions that have battered Iran’s economy.