US-Iran Conflict: Plane crash, missile attack and a quake, 5 developments you must know

Iran on Wednesday launched missile attacks on US-led forces in Iraq in the early hours of Wednesday in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike on an Iranian commander whose killing raised fears of a wider war in the Middle East.

In a major escalation that brought the United States of America and Iran closer to war after the killing of a top Iranian general, Iran on Wednesday fired a series of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops.

The ballistic missile attack, however, was not the only news that the world woke up to. Wednesday morning saw many developments with a private plane crash in Tehran and an earthquake rocking the region. In the wake of ongoing US-Iran conflict, here are the top five developments that have taken place on Wednesday.

1. Iran missile attacks target US forces in Iraq

Iran on Wednesday launched missile attacks on US-led forces in Iraq in the early hours of Wednesday in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike on an Iranian commander whose killing raised fears of a wider war in the Middle East.

Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles from its territory against at least two Iraqi facilities hosting U.S.-led coalition personnel at about 1:30 am (2230 GMT on Tuesday), the US military said.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps confirmed they fired the missiles in retaliation for last week's killing of Qassem Soleimani, according to a statement on state TV. The force advised the United States to withdraw its troops from the region to prevent more deaths and warned US allies including Israel not to allow attacks from their territories. Iranian television reported a senior official in the Iranian Supreme Leader's office said the missile attacks were the "weakest" of several retaliation scenarios.

More than 5,000 US troops remain in Iraq along with other foreign forces as part of a coalition that has trained and backed up Iraqi security forces against the threat of Islamic State militants.

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Also Read: 35 casualities at funeral of slain Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani 

US President Donald Trump said in a tweet that an assessment of casualties and damage from the strikes was underway and that he would make a statement on Wednesday morning. "All is well!" Trump, who visited the al-Asad airbase in December 2018, said in the Twitter post. One source said early indications were of no U.S. casualties.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has also said it would ban US carriers from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and several Asian carriers said there were avoiding flying over the region.

2. Took and concluded proportionate self-defence, says Iran

Iran said it had carried out and "concluded" its reprisal over the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani when it targeted US forces in Iraq with a missile strike.

"Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defence" targeting a base from which a "cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials" was launched, said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Twitter. "We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps confirmed they fired the missiles in retaliation for last week's killing of Qassem Soleimani. The force advised the United States to withdraw its troops from the region to prevent more deaths and warned US allies including Israel not to allow attacks from their territories.

The escalation came after the US killed top Iranian commander General Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Soleimani, a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran's long-standing campaign to drive US forces out of Iraq, was also responsible for building up Tehran's network of proxy armies across the Middle East. A stampede had broken out Tuesday at a funeral for the top Iranian general and at least 56 people were killed and more than 200 were injured as thousands thronged the procession.

3. Ukrainian Boeing 737 with at least 170 on board crashes in Iran

A Ukrainian airliner with at least 170 people on board crashed on Wednesday due to technical problems soon after taking off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport, Iran's official as reported.

Rescue teams have been sent to an area near the airport where the Boeing 737 belonging to Ukraine International Airlines crashed, Reza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, told state television.

"The plane is on fire but we have sent crews ... and we may be able to save some passengers." Pirhossein Koulivand, head of Iran's emergency services, told the television. Jafarzadeh put the number of passengers at 170.

IRNA said according to preliminary information "the plane was bound for Kiev ... and had 180 passengers and crew."

4. Earthquake near Iran nuclear power plant

A natural, 4.9-magnitude earthquake struck Iran near the Bushehr nuclear plant Wednesday, reports said. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake struck 10 km southeast of Borazjan, Iran -- marked with a gold star on the map below -- and at a depth of 10 km.

The map shows the respective locations of the earthquake's epicentre and the city of Bushehr, near which the nuclear plant is located. Borazjan is a nearly 70-km drive away from Bushehr.

"The depth and epicenter indicate it was a natural event and unrelated to this evening's [US time] events. A similar earthquake struck in late December," the website Strategic Sentinel tweeted.

5. Iran rocket strike on US forces jolts markets; Nifty, Sensex dive

Oil prices jumped to their highest in months on Wednesday after Iran attacked American forces in Iraq in response to a US strike that killed an Iranian general last week, raising the spectre of a spiralling conflict and disrupted oil supplies.

But prices cooled a fraction after the early heat as analysts said market tension could ease as long as oil production facilities remain unaffected by attacks.

Brent crude futures rose $1.56, or 2.3%, to $69.83 by around 0207 GMT, after earlier rising to $71.75, the highest since mid-September 2019. West Texas Intermediate crude futures climbed $1.25, or 2%, to $63.95 a barrel. It earlier reached a high of $65.85, the most since late April last year.

"It's getting really serious ... but there is a feeling of achievement in terms of technical charts as Brent has surged to above $70/barrel and near a high in September, 2019 after attacks on Saudi Arabian oil sites," said Hideshi Matsunaga, analyst at Sunward Trading in Tokyo.

"We have to see how much and what damage the latest attacks have caused, but oil markets may come down, just like last September, if we can confirm that oil facilities have not been affected," he said.

Indian stocks also sank and the rupee weakened on Wednesday in the aftermath of a retaliatory attack on US-led forces by Iran.

Other Asian shares and US Treasury yields also tumbled while gold shot higher after Iran fired missiles at Iraqi facilities hosting US-led coalition personnel, in retaliation for the US strike killing an Iranian commander last week.

India imports much of its crude from the Middle East, and its markets are sensitive to swings in prices, which have rallied this week on fears of a disruption to oil supplies.

WHAT LED TO THE ESCALATION

Soleimani, a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran's long-standing campaign to drive US forces out of Iraq, was responsible for building up Tehran's network of proxy armies across the Middle East. He was a national hero to many Iranians but viewed as a dangerous villain by Western governments opposed to Iran's arc of influence running across the Levant and into the Gulf region.

The commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, General Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a US drone strike on Friday. US officials said Soleimani was killed because of solid intelligence indicating forces under his command planned attacks on US targets in the region, although they have provided no evidence.

Soleimani's burial went ahead after several hours of delay following a stampede that killed at least 56 people and injured more than 210. Iran TV reported Soleimani was buried after the missile attacks. "His revenge was taken and now he can rest in peace," it said.

The missiles were launched on Wednesday at the same time that he was killed last Friday.

Soleimani's body had been taken to holy Shi'ite Muslim cities in Iraq and Iran, as well as the Iranian capital, Tehran, before arriving to be buried in the city cemetery's "martyrs' section", according to the semi-official news agency ISNA. In each place, huge numbers of people filled thoroughfares, chanting: "Death to America" and weeping with emotion. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept as he led prayers in Tehran.

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