Debris from a Ukrainian International Airlines plane which crashed near Tehran I
Debris from a Ukrainian International Airlines plane which crashed near Tehran INazanin Tabatabaee/WANA/Reuters

An Iranian commander has taken responsibility for downing a Ukrainian International Airlines civilian plane earlier this week, leading to the deaths of 176 people.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh on Saturday said the plane was downed due to "human error" and that his unit accepts "full responsibility" for the mistake.

In a statement, Hajizadeh said the plane few close to a sensitive military site which belonged to elite Revolutionary Guard units, and that it therefore led led to "heightened sensitivity" by the air defense units.

In a Saturday address broadcast by state TV, Hajizadeh said, "Iran's Revolutionary Guards take full responsibility for bringing down the plane."

"Our air defense systems sent a signal to the plane and after ten seconds in which no response was received, it was decided to shoot it down." He added that "the one responsible believed that the plane was a cruise missile" and that he "wished he was dead" after learning of his error.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted: "The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences."

"Armed Forces' internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted: "A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces: Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations."