US F-15 Intercepts Iranian Passenger Plane Over Syria, Nearly Causes Collision

Update: according to an update from Reuters, the intercepting fighter jet was not Israeli but rather a US F-15, which as noted earlier, almost collided with the Iranian commercial airliner, in the process injuring several passengers as the two planes were flying over Syria. 

Iran's official IRIB news agency quoted a passenger describing how his head had hit the roof of the plane during the change in altitude, and video showed an elderly passenger sprawled on the floor. All the passengers left the plane, some with minor injuries, the head of the Beirut airport told Reuters. The plane arrived back in Tehran in the early hours of Friday, the Fars news agency reported.

The U.S. military's Central Command said the F-15 aircraft was conducting a visual inspection of the Iranian aircraft when it passed near the Tanf garrison in Syria where U.S. forces are present.

Captain Bill Urban, the senior Central Command spokesman, said the F-15 "conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of about 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) from the airliner this evening. The visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at 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."

He added the intercept was carried out in accordance with international standards.

The pilot of the passenger plane contacted the jet pilots to warn them to keep a safe distance and they identified themselves as American, IRIB reported.

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An Israeli fighter jet came close to an Iranian passenger plane over Syrian airspace causing the pilot to change altitude quickly to avoid collision, which injured several passengers, the official IRIB news agency reported on Thursday. Video posted by the agency showed a jet from the window of the plane and comments from a passenger who had blood on his face.

The Iranian plane, belonging to Mahan Air, was heading from Tehran to Beirut and landed safely in Beirut, an airport source told Reuters.

Israel and the United States have long accused Mahan Air of ferrying weapons for Iranian-linked guerrillas in Syria and elsewhere.

One passenger in the IRIB report described how his head had hit the roof of the plane during the change in altitude and video also showed an elderly passenger sprawled on the floor.

After the incident, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that Iran will hold the U.S. responsible for any damage to an Iranian passenger plane.

Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht-Ravanchi echoed the same message, telling the U.N. Secretary-General that the U.S. would be held responsible if anything happened to the plane while it was on its way back to Iran.  The warning was also relayed to the Swiss envoy to Tehran; the necessary political and legal measures will be taken once the government’s investigation into the incident concludes