An Iranian passenger plane flying from Tehran to Beirut has been “harassed” by fighter jets, according to Iranian state media.
The report said the plane managed to safely land in the Lebanese capital but some passengers had sustained injuries, with three taken to hospital.
The pilot was forced to change altitude quickly to avoid collision with the two jets — which state media initially said were Iranian but later quoted the pilot as saying the jets identified themselves as American via radio communications.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, two US officials said that an American F-15 fighter jet came within visual range of an Iranian passenger aircraft in Syrian airspace on Thursday but was at a safe distance.
Video posted by Iran’s IRIB news agency on Thursday showed a single jet from the window of the plane, followed by shacky footage with the sounds of passengers screaming.
An elderly man is seen collapsed on the floor of the plane. Another man, his face streaked with blood, described how his head hit the roof of the plane during the change in altitude.
“The place went up and down,” one passenger says in another video posted by Iran’s Press TV.
“I banged my head against the ceiling and my chair broke and my arm is scratched too. I looked to the right and saw a fighter jet flying by.”
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.
The Iranian plane, belonging to Mahan Air, was heading from Tehran to Beirut and landed safely in Beirut, an airport source said.
The plane arrived back in Tehran in the early hours of Friday morning, the Fars news agency reported.
The incident is being investigated and Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said the necessary legal and political action would be taken, according to the Foreign Ministry website.
Iran and the United States haven’t had formal diplomatic relations for decades, and at times appear on the brink of war. But why?
Israel and the United States have long accused Mahan Air of ferrying weapons for Iranian-linked guerrillas in Syria and elsewhere.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
Tensions have spiked between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when US President Donald Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions that have battered Iran’s economy.
Iran’s foreign ministry said that following the incident, a protest note was sent to the Swiss Embassy, which represents America’s interests in Iran, warning that if any accident happens on the plane’s return flight to Tehran, it will be the responsibility of the United States.
The same note was also delivered to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres by Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-e Ravanchi.