The state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) network claimed on Thursday afternoon that fighter jets had harassed a Mahar Air commercial flight over Syria. Various state-run Iranian and Syrian outlets disputed if the identity of the fighter jets was Israeli or American.
Footage circulated on social media Thursday, apparently broadcast by IRIB, of passengers recording a fighter jet from a distance, before the pilot suddenly flipped the plane to avoid collision. Subsequent videos appear to show a man bleeding from the head from a blow caused by the plane’s sudden movement. No outlets have reported any serious injuries and the Iranian state-run outlet PressTV denied rumors that anyone had died on the flight.
URGENT: Israeli fighter jet reportedly nears Iranian passenger plane over Syrian airspace, forcing pilot to change altitude quickly to avoid collision; injuries reported
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) July 23, 2020
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The Mahan Air flight had reportedly departed Tehran en route to Beirut, Lebanon, and landed safely after the incident.
Many of the details of the encounter remain disputed. PressTV reported that the fighter jets had intercepted the flight “over the Syrian capital Damascus,” where there is no significant Israeli or American air presence. The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), dictator Bashar al-Assad’s news network, said that the incident occurred over al-Tanf, where the U.S. maintains a military presence. Al-Tanf is about a three-hour drive from Damascus.
“Civil aviation sources revealed that a flight believed to be affiliated with the United States-led coalition intercepted an Iranian civilian aircraft in the Syrian airspace in the Al-Tanf area, which forced the pilot to drop sharply and led to minor injuries among passengers,” SANA posted on its Telegram account.
Fars News Agency, another Iranian state propaganda outlet, claimed that the pilot of the Mahan Air flight had told Iranian officials the fighter jets in question were American.
“In a conversation between the pilot of the Mahan plane and the pilots of the two fighter jets to warn them to keep a safe distance, they introduced themselves as American,” Fars stated on Twitter.
The agency added that Israeli officials had denied any involvement in the interaction. Reuters claimed to have reached out to Israeli officials and received no comment. No American officials have commented at press time.
PressTV, however, led its story on the exchange by definitively stating that “an Israeli warplane” had caused the dramatic flip by the commercial flight.
“An Israeli warplane has conducted some ‘dangerous’ maneuvering in an appallingly close distance from a Beirut-bound Iranian airliner as the latter was flying over the Syrian capital Damascus, injuring some of the passengers,” PressTV reported. The PressTV report appears to precede the Fars News updates.