The US military’s Central Command, which oversees American troops in the region, said the F-15 was conducting a visual inspection of the Iranian airliner when it passed near the Tanf garrison in Syria, home to US forces.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."The visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel 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.The pilot of the passenger plane contacted the jet pilots to warn them to keep a safe distance and they identified themselves as American, Iran's official IRIB news agency reported.Iranian Transport Minister Mohammad Eslami was quoted by the semi-official ISNA news agency on Friday as saying Tehran had lodged a formal complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organization, describing Thursday's incident as a "terrorist act, one of aggression."Laya Joneydi, vice president for legal affairs, was quoted as saying by Iranian media that the US action was "harassment of a passenger plane" and a "clear violation of aviation security and freedom of civilian aircraft.""The explanations provided so far (by the US military) are unjustified and unconvincing," she was quoted as saying.Iran's Foreign Ministry said the encounter may be linked to the upcoming US presidential election, state media reported."The security of West Asia should not become a plaything in the US election campaign," ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said. He did not elaborate."Iran won't leave any hostile move against its nation unanswered and shall respond decisively and appropriately to any irrational move in due time," Mousavi said. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States of endangering civilian passengers."These outlaws must be stopped before disaster," he tweeted.The Iranian plane was heading from Tehran to Beirut at the time.Video footage showed oxygen masks fallen from the overhead roof panels. One jet can be seen through a seat window flying some distance away in a clear blue sky."I saw a black plane approaching us, and then we lost our balance," one unidentified injured passenger told state TV."It was a jet. Almost so near our plane."One of the passengers was lying on the floor by the toilets and another passenger put a cushion under his head as cabin crew tended to others.
An #Iran-ian passenger plane (belonging to Mahan) bound for Beirut was approached by two fighter jets, likely #Israeli ones, in Syrian airspace. An Iranian journalist on board says the fighters were in 100 to 200 meters distance from the plane. Some passengers have been injured. pic.twitter.com/SYdecBsSct— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) July 23, 2020