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Jet which came too close to Iranian passenger aircraft was American

Several passengers on an Iranian airline were injured on Thursday over Syria after the pilot changed altitude to avoid collision with a US fighter jet, Reuters reported, citing Iranian media.

The Mahan Air aircraft, flight 1152, quickly descended on the way to Beirut to prevent a collision, reported the Iranian state broadcaster IRIB. Several passengers were injured.

The U.S. military later confirmed the approach of its own aircraft to the passenger jet for identification.

According to an IRIB reporter who was on board, the Syrian control tower said that it was two Israeli fighter jets. The reporter claimed that they had approached the commercial aircraft up to 200 meters. Three passengers were slightly injured in the dive. “It was not just a threat, but a de facto attack by the Zionists (Israel) on the Iranian machine,” said the reporter.

The US military, however, said its F-15 was at a safe distance from the Iranian plane.

The Iranian plane, belonging to Mahan Air, was heading from Tehran to Beirut when the pilot staged a safety maneuver, in an incident that Iran’s Foreign Ministry said would be investigated.

The incident was initially blamed on Israel, with Iranian television claiming that an Israeli fighter jet had flew “threateningly close” to an Iranian passenger plane over the skies of Damascus.

Iran’s official IRIB news agency quoted a passenger from the Iranian plane 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.

The director of Beirut airport told Lebanese TV station New that the Iranian plane had landed in Beirut at 8:30 p.m. local time. “All passengers are fine, but some have minor injuries,” he said. “But most of them suffered from shock and fear.” The head of the Lebanese Red Cross, George Kettneh, told the DPA News: “Our teams have not brought any injuries to hospitals.” Most of the passengers were in shock, it said.

Videos circulated on the Internet that are said to have been recorded on the aircraft and showed passengers wearing life jackets and objects in the aisle. The authenticity of the recordings could not be determined.

The plane arrived back in Tehran in the early hours of Friday, the Fars news agency reported.

The US military’s Central Command, which oversees American troops in the region, said the F-15 aircraft was conducting a visual inspection of the Iranian aircraft when it passed near the Tanf garrison in Syria where US 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,” Urban said. “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.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the necessary legal and political actions would be taken, according to the ministry’s website.

Mahan Air has been accused by the US of ferrying weapons for Iranian-linked guerrillas in Syria and elsewhere.

Iranian security agencies have in the past secretly transferred wounded and dead soldiers and ammunition from the battle sectors in Syria and Yemen via Mahan Air’s civilian flights.

In July of 2018, the US Treasury Department sanctioned Mahan Travel and Tourism Sdn Bhd, a Malaysia-based sales agent for Mahan Air.

Last year, Germany announced it had banned Mahan Air from its airports, in an escalation of sanctions adopted by the European Union against Tehran over attacks on opponents in the bloc.

The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.

Source: Arutz Sheva