A host of major airlines said on Friday that their planes are no longer flying over the Strait of Hormuz, after Iranian forces shot down a U.S. drone in the area.
Lufthansa, Germany’s largest airline, said the re-routing began on Thursday with a decision to have the planes steer clear of the strait, located between Oman and Iran.
The restricted zone was expanded on Friday to parts of Iranian airspace.
Australian airline Qantas and Dutch airline KLM also adjusted their flight paths on Friday, saying that their carriers were avoiding the Strait of Hormuz and nearby Gulf of Oman.
British Airways said it was taking measures to avoid Iranian airspace.
U.S. carrier, United, said it suspended service between the New York City area and Mumbai, India out of precaution as the route passed over Iran, according to U.S. media.
The slew of announcements came after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration banned flights for U.S.-registered aircraft over some Iranian-controlled airspace, citing heightened military activities and increased political tensions.
Meanwhile, hawkish rhetoric between Washington and Tehran continued to escalate over the downing of the unmanned U.S. reconnaissance drone, which Iran says entered its airspace.
The U.S. military says the drone was shot down in international waters while over the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically important waterway for global oil shipments.
“We hope that our enemies do not make such mistakes again,’’ said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi in an interview with state broadcaster IRIB.
“We have informed the UN and lodged a protest against this clear and provocative violation of the United States.’’ he added
To back the government’s claim, Iran’s chief diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted what he said were the coordinates of the drone at the time it was targeted.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps held a press conference on Friday during which it displayed parts of the wreckage, which it says was recovered in Iranian waters.
According to the New York Times, U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for the downing of the drone, but pulled back from launching them late Thursday.
Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.
The operation was under way in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, according to the report.
Whether the president changed his mind on the strikes or the administration altered course because of logistics or strategy was not clear.
However, it was also unclear whether the strikes were to go ahead in the future.
Trump warned on Thursday that Tehran had made a “very big mistake’’ in downing a U.S. military spy drone, while saying he believed the shooting was unintentional.
“This country will not stand for it,’’ Trump said about the downing, even as he seemed open to downgrading the severity of the incident.
“I find it hard to believe it was intentional, it could have been someone who was loose and stupid.’’
When asked by reporters if Washington was gearing up for war with Iran, Trump said: “You will soon find out.’’
Washington has blamed Iran for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf and sent more troops and military assets to the region, to back up its substantial forces already based in Arab Gulf monarchies. Iran denies involvement in the oil tanker attacks.
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