Minutes after take-off from Imam Khomeini International Airport, Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 crashed near the town of Sabashahr in Tehran Province. It took off from the airport at 6:13 a.m. local time. The Ukranian plane crash killed all 176 passengers, including the crew members. Initially, the reason for the crash had been considered to be a mechanical failure. However, American, Canadian and British officials stated that they believed the aircraft had been shot down. Since then, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran have confessed to shooting the plane down, although unintentionally.
WHAT DID IRGC SAY?
Brigadier-General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force claimed to have informed authorities on Wednesday that a short-range missile had downed the Ukrainian plane. IRGC has said that the airplane was hit because of human error and that they deeply regret it. An air defence operator is said to have identified the plane as a cruise missile. Since the operator could not contact the central air defence command to confirm this, an immediate decision had to be made. In the 10 seconds the operator had to make a decision about shooting or not shooting the Ukranian plane, they decided to shoot.
Hajizadeh accepted full responsibility for the incident and said once it became clear what had happened, he thought: “I wish I was dead.”
General Amir also partly blamed the US for this attack. Amid rising political tensions, he said that Iran was on high alert.
WHAT ARE THESE POLITICAL TENSIONS?
A US drone strike on 3 January 2020 killed a top-ranking Iranian officer, Major General Qasem Soleimani. He was considered the second most powerful person of Iran, and commander of the Quds force. It has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The strike took place near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad Governorate at approximately 1:00 a.m.
In response to Soleimani’s assassination, Iranian forces bombed US troop bases in Iraq on 8 January 2020. They launched nearly a dozen launched ballistic missiles at the Al Asad Airbase and an airbase near Erbil, both in Iraq. No Iraqi or American casualties have been reported so far.
The airstrike killed other Iranian officials as well. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chairman of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) was also killed. He was also the commander of Kata’ib Hezbollah. He was listed as a terrorist in the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.