Fighter jets intercept Iranian airliner over Syria
Damascus, Jul 23 (efe-epa).- Several people suffered minor injuries Thursday when an Iranian airliner was forced to take evasive action during an encounter with a pair of fighter jets in Syrian airspace, Syria’s official news agency said.
The Mahan Air plane later landed safely at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, SANA reported.
SANA said that the incident took place in the skies over the Al Tanf area of southern Syria, where the United States maintains a military base over the objections of the Syrian government.
The state-run media outlet published video from inside the airliner showing the passengers reacting with alarm as the pilot made an abrupt change in altitude to avoid a collision.
At least one passenger appears to be bleeding from his head.
Sources at Hariri International told Efe that none of the passengers aboard Mahan Air Flight 1152 from Tehran to Beirut was seriously hurt.
Media in Iran initially identified the warplanes that intercepted the airliner as Israeli, but subsequently said that the encounter was with US fighters.
A military jet can be seen in a video taken from the window of the Mahan plane posted by the IRIB news agency.
Iranian state television cited the Mahan Air pilot as saying that when he radioed the fighters to warn them they were too close to the passenger plane, the pilots told him that they were American.
The Mahan Air pilot resorted to changing altitude when the jets were within 100m (328ft) of the airliner, according to Iranian TV, which said that three passengers were taken to the hospital after the plane reached Beirut.
The government in Tehran contacted the United Nations about the incident and a foreign ministry spokesperson issued a warning to Washington.
The US and Iran have not had diplomatic relations for 40 years, but Switzerland serves as a conduit for formal communications between the two governments.
Iranian officials asked the Swiss Embassy to convey to the US that Tehran would hold Washington responsible for any harm to the plane or those aboard.
The US has extensive sanctions in place against both Iran and Syria.
Mahan Air is one of the numerous Iranian entities subject to those sanctions. EFE