Iran has accused Washington of endangering civilians after U.S. military aircraft intercepted an Iranian passenger plane over Syria as it was flying to Beirut from Tehran in a "standard visual inspection."
U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, said an F-15 fighter jet on July 24 "conducted a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of approximately 1,000 meters" while on a routine air mission near At-Tanf in Syria.
The U.S. military, which has a small desert base at At-Tanf near the border with Jordan and Iraq, said the "professional intercept was conducted in accordance with international standards."
But IRIB TV aired unverified amateur footage of passengers on board screaming as the pilot sharply reduced the altitude of the flight, saying it caused some injuries among passengers.
"U.S....harasses a scheduled civil airliner -- endangering innocent civilian passengers -- ostensibly to protect its occupation forces," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.
"These outlaws must be stopped before disaster," he added.
U.S. Central Command spokesman Bill Urban said that once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 "safely opened distance from the aircraft."
"The visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at At-Tanf garrison," he added.
The head of Beirut airport, Fadi al-Hassan, told local Lebanese broadcaster New Television that the Iranian plane landed in the Lebanese capital in the evening.
"All the passengers are well, but some suffered from minor wounds...most suffered from shock and fear," Hassan said.
Israel and the United States have long accused Mahan Air of shipping weapons and fighters to the Lebanese militant group Hizballah and Iran-linked groups in Syria and the region.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011.