According to the sources, the American warplanes’ first harassment occurred when the Iranian airliner was flying over Syria’s Al-Tanf region, near the border with Jordan and Iraq.
"The second instance took place over Syrian-Lebanese border," the sources said.
They noted that the US fighter jets took off from Al-Azraq airbase in Jordan, adding that the base is presumably the same one from which a US drone took off to assassinate the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Quds Force, Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani outside the Baghdad International Airport in early January.
The sources said the airliner’s pilot had to drop altitude to avoid collision with US warplanes over the Syria-Lebanon border.
On Thursday night, US warplanes conducted some “dangerous” maneuvering close to the Mahan Air flight that sparked panic, causing injuries among passengers.
Iran’s Nour News website on Friday cited an unnamed source familiar with the matter that contrary to the remarks made by CENTCOM’s spokesman, Bill Urban, the US jets “intercepted the Iranian plane after violating Lebanon’s airspace” and were not on “a routine air mission” when they flew close to the Mahan Air plane.
The source said the F-15s harassed the Iranian plane in Lebanon’s sky when it was dropping its altitude to approach the Beirut airport.
CENTCOM said that a single F-15 had made a “visual inspection” of the Iranian airliner “in accordance with international standards ... to ensure the safety of coalition personnel” at the military base in Al-Tanf.
It added that the F-15 conducted “a standard visual inspection of a Mahan Air passenger airliner at a safe distance of approximately 1,000 meters.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday denounced the United States for harassing a scheduled Iranian civil airliner over Syria and endangering the lives of civilians, saying the American government must be reined in to prevent more disasters.
"US illegally occupies territory of another State and then harasses a scheduled civil airliner —endangering innocent civilian passengers ostensibly to protect its occupation forces," Zarif said.
‘Blatant example of terrorist acts’
On Sunday, Iran's ambassador to Lebanon said the incident was a "blatant example of terrorist acts by the US" in the region.
Mohammad-Jalal Firouznia made the remarks at Beirut’s Al Rasoul al-Aazam Hospital, where he visited passengers injured on the Iranian airliner.
“The move by the American fighter jets is a blatant example of terrorist and criminal acts committed by Washington in the region,” he said, adding, “Iran will take all necessary juridical and legal action to condemn the actions of US fighter jets, and will pursue the issue at the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organization and related courts, especially with regard to passengers and those injured.”
The incident is “by no means justifiable,” the Iranian ambassador stressed, adding, “the United States bears the responsibility for all the consequences of this terrorist and coward act.”
Firouznia said all regional problems stem from the Americans’ illegitimate presence, adding their expulsion is the only way to end insecurity and threats in the Middle East.
“The harassment of the Mahan Air passenger plane by US fighter jets is a criminal act committed by the Americans. They had no right to approach the plane in the first place. By doing so, they endangered the lives of all passengers on the flight and threatened international aviation security. We will definitely follow up on this issue,” he noted.
Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari described the fly-by as “a double crime,” stressing that the Americans had not only violated the Syrian sovereignty, but also contravened the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation by staging the maneuvering.
“This is not the first time they threaten Iranian passenger planes… they dropped an Iranian plane over the Persian Gulf waters on July 3,1988 that led to the martyrdom of 290 passengers,” Jaafari said.
He reiterated Damascus’ position of the 2014-present presence of US-led forces in Syria, rejecting the deployment as completely illegal.
Washington and its allies launched deployed forces to Syria in 2014 under the pretext of battling the terrorist group of Daesh, forgoing any permission from Damascus. The US-led forces retain the presence, although the terror groups were defeated in late 2017.
According to the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Syria’s Ambassador in Tehran Adnan Mahmoud also called the harassment “a tangible embodiment of the US terrorist method that targets the lives of civilians, including children and women, in a flagrant violation of international conventions.”
“The hostile act can’t be separated from the US practices in supporting terrorism and looting the Syrian people’s resources,” Adnan said in a statement.