Zarif blasts US over fighter jet incident

Iranian officials criticize interception of Iranian passenger plane by US fighter jet over Syria.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iranian officials on Friday slammed the interception of an Iranian passenger plane by a US fighter jet in the skies over Syria the previous day as "illegal" and threatened action against Washington over the incident, The Associated Press reported.

Iran had said that one of its airliners, flying from Tehran to Beirut on Thursday, was "harassed" by fighter jets, but later landed safely in Lebanon.

A US official confirmed a US jet had passed by the Iranian airliner, but at a safe distance.

Iranian state TV claimed that two fighter jets came within a distance of 100 meters (328 feet) of the Iranian Airbus A310. The pilot of Mahan Air Flight 1152 quickly took the aircraft to a lower altitude to avoid a collision, the report said. The sharp maneuver caused slight injuries among some of the passengers.

However, US Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a Central Command spokesman, told AP that a US F-15 fighter jet "conducted a standard visual inspection" of the Iranian plane "at a safe distance of approximately 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) from the airliner."

He said the inspection was meant to ensure the safety of US coalition troops in al-Tanf in Syria as the plane was flying over that area. He said once the aircraft was identified as a passenger plane, "the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft."

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 foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Friday that what happened was an act of "lawlessness upon lawlessness."

"US illegally occupies territory of another State and then harasses a scheduled civil airliner—endangering innocent civilian passengers—ostensibly to protect its occupation forces," he wrote.

Iran's Transportation Minister Mohammad Eslami described the incident as a "terrorist act" and said Tehran would complain to the International Civil Aviation Organization.

"We expect this to lead to condemnation of the terrorist act by the US government," Eslami said, according to AP.

The ICAO said Friday it had not yet received a complaint from Iran.

Tensions between the US and Iran have escalated since the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. In addition, the US and Iran have had several close encounters in the Persian Gulf.

The US Navy recently issued a warning to mariners in the Gulf to stay 100 meters away from US warships or risk being “interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures”.

While no mention was made of Iran in the notice, it followed President Donald Trump’s threat to fire on any Iranian ships that harass Navy vessels.

Trump’s warning came after a tense encounter between US and Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf.

The US military said at the time that 11 Revolutionary Guards naval vessels from the Guards navy came close to US Navy and coast guard ships in the Gulf, calling the moves “dangerous and provocative”.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard acknowledged that the incident had taken place, but also claimed that it was American forces who sparked the incident.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)