Several passengers aboard an Iranian jet flying from Tehran to Beirut were injured Thursday when the plane was "harassed" by US fighter jets over Syria, according to Iranian and Syrian media. Syrian state media reported that two jets, part of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, "intercepted" Mahan Air Flight 1152 over al-Tanf, where US troops have been present since 2016, per the AP. Iran's IRIB news agency noted a passenger hit his head when the pilot was forced to change altitude to avoid a collision and claimed the jets came within 100 meters (that's 328 feet) of the aircraft. It also showed footage of an elderly passenger lying on the floor, per Reuters. A rep for the US Central Command acknowledges an American F-15 fighter jet passed by the airliner during "a standard visual inspection." But he says it was at a safe distance 10 times that: 1,000 meters.
"The visual inspection occurred to ensure the safety of coalition personnel at al-Tanf garrison," says US Navy Capt. Bill Urban. "Once the F-15 pilot identified the aircraft as a Mahan Air passenger plane, the F-15 safely opened distance from the aircraft." Flight data suggests the passenger plane climbed 600 feet in under two minutes before descending back to its original altitude within a minute. There might've been wake turbulence had the aircraft come within 2,000 feet of each other, per the AP. Three passengers were taken to a hospital, IRIB reported, citing officials at the Beirut airport. "One who minds the lives of its leaders does not play with the lives of our passengers," Hessameddin Ashena, an advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, later tweeted. (Read more Syria stories.)