A US F-15 fighter sparking a panic on board the civilian craft and a plunge that left several injured after flying near an Iranian passenger plane over Syria late on Thursday.
Iran says it intended to raise the incident before the UN Security Council.
Happening over #Syria’s airspace: 2 US fighter jets fly close to an #Iranian civilian airliner en route to Beirut, forcing the pilot to drop altitude to avoid collision
Several passengers were injured
Interview with @S_M_Marandi#MahanAirFlight1152 #MahanAirlines #MahanAir #Iran pic.twitter.com/NQY1kykiG3
— Press TV Interviews (@PressTVIntvws) July 24, 2020
A video taken aboard the Mahan Air flight 1152 from Tehran to Beirut showed passengers yelling in terror and calling out prayers as oxygen masks hung from the cabin ceiling. The plane finally landed without suffering any damage at the international airport in Beirut.
Some of the passengers aboard appeared shaken up and fidgeting. One passenger aboard the plane said, “the plane suddenly went up and down and my head hit the ceiling,” in a video posted online, apparently by an Iranian state television reporter who happened to be on board the flight.
The US affirmed that two F-15 fighter jets approached the Mahan Air flight to manage a “standard” visual inspection at a “safe distance” of 1,000 metres.
Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for US Central Command, said in a statement, “once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft. The professional intercept was conducted in accordance with international standards.”
The Pentagon has yet to elaborate what kind of visual scrutiny a pilot flying a warplane near the speed of sound could provide of a moving civilian jet, or what the pilot might have done had they identified anything suspicious.
Mahan Air is under close scrutiny and sanctioned by the US for allegedly transporting fighters and military material to and from conflict zones in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. It has also been charged for moving goods between Iran and China and Venezuela to circumvent US sanctions.
Iranians recently criticized the state-owned airline for continuing flights to China even as most countries of the world had discontinued them this year to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which epidemiologists say likely originated in the Chinese province of Wuhan.
Iran and the U.S. have been in a state of conflict since a 1979 uprising overturned Tehran’s pro-American monarch and established rule by Islamist radicals.