The U.S. military confirmed on Thursday that one of its drones was shot down and said the incident took place in international airspace, challenging Iran's account that the U.S. aircraft had been flying over Iranian territory.
U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that the drone was unarmed and clearly in international waters and that it could have been shot down by someone who was "loose and stupid." Asked how the U.S. will respond, Trump said to reporters, "You'll find out."
"I think probably Iran made a mistake - I would imagine it was a general or somebody that made a mistake in shooting that drone down," Trump said during an appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
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Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif rejected the claim, saying on Twitter on that the United States is lying over its drone being hit in international waters, saying Tehran will take the matter to the United Nations.
"The US wages #EconomicTerrorism on Iran, has conducted covert action against us & now encroaches on our territory. We don't seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters. We'll take this new aggression to #UN & show that the US is lying about international waters," Zarif tweeted.
He later tweeted that the American drone that was shot down had taken off from the United Arab Emirates.
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"At 00:14 US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode & violated Iranian airspace. It was targeted at 04:05 at the coordinates (25°59'43"N 57°02'25"E) near Kouh-e Mobarak. We've retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down," Zarif said.
Earlier, Trump made his first statement on the incident on Twitter, only writing, "Iran made a very big mistake!" In May 2019, Trump had warned Iran about threatening the United States, "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!"
"Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false," said Navy Captain Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. military's Central Command.
"This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace."
He said the shoot-down took place in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz at approximately 11:35 p.m. GMT on June 19, 2019.
A U.S. official told Reuters that the debris field from the drone is in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, and U.S. naval assets have been dispatched to the area, contradicting Iran's account of the shoot-down.
The U.S. military did not immediately comment about the location of the debris from the Navy MQ-4C Triton drone.
But if the location of the debris field is confirmed, it would appear to provide physical evidence casting doubt on Iran's account that it shot down the drone over the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan, which is on the Gulf, with a locally made "3 Khordad" missile.
Netanyahu, Putin weigh in
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile appealed to "all peace-loving countries" to support American efforts to halt what he called escalating Iranian provocations.
Speaking Thursday at a reception for the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Netanyahu said that "in the last 24 hours, Iran has intensified its aggression against the United States and against all of us," adding that "Israel stands by the United States and its military."
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called the shoot-down an escalation and wrote on Twitter: Imperative the US clearly inform the Iranians that any effort to increase uranium enrichment will be seen as a hostile act against the US and our allies in Israel, and will not go unanswered."
Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, warned the U.S. against using force on Iran, saying it would have catastrophic consequences.
Speaking on Thursday during a televised call-in show, Putin said the U.S. military action against Iran would be a "catastrophe for the region as a minimum."
He added that it would trigger an escalation of hostilities with unpredictable results.
Noa Landau and The Associated Press contributed to this report.