Following Iran's admission it shot down a Ukrainian airliner, General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, Commander of the Revolutionary Guard's Aerospace Force, has accepted "all responsibility" and said he wished he had died when he heard about his force's responsibility for the tragedy, official IRNA news agency reported.
The Iranian military's admission came amid high international pressure on Tehran to allow an independent investigation of the incident, only a day after the Head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization denied claims that the Ukrainian airliner had been shot down by Iran.
Hajizadeh said Iran's air defense was in the highest alert state and had been told that [American] cruise missiles had been fired. The operator of the system that fired the missile at the plane took it for a missile and due to overload or possible jamming of the communication system could not establish contact with the command center. "He had 10 seconds to decide to fire or not and unfortunately took the bad decision of firing and hit the plane," Hajizadeh added.
Hajizadeh also blamed the United States for the tragedy and said this was the cost paid for United States' "mischief" in the region. The Commander of the Revolutionary Guards' Aerospace Force added that other Iranian officials including the government and aviation organization have no responsibility for what happened.
However, this is the second serious setback for IRGC this month, after the targeted killing of its Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
In reaction to Iran's official admission of responsibility for the downing of a Ukrainian flight on Wednesday, the President of Ukraine and Prime Minister of Canada have demanded transparency, compensation, and an apology from Iran.
On Saturday morning Iranian state TV, citing a statement by Iran's Armed Forces General Headquarters on Saturday morning admitted that the Ukrainian airliner had been "unintentionally" targeted by an Iranian air defense missile and blamed "human error" for the downing of the plane.
All passengers onboard the Ukrainian airliner were killed in the tragedy that claimed 176 lives including 63 Canadians and 10 Ukrainians.
President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded Saturday that Iran should punish those responsible for the downing the plane, pay compensation and apologize.
"We expect Iran... to bring the guilty to the courts," the Ukrainian leader wrote on Facebook, calling also for the "payment of compensation" and the return of remains.
UIA chief Yevhenii Dykhne also posted on Facebook, saying: "We never had any doubt that our crew and our plane could be the cause of this terrible catastrophe. They were the best."
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday emphasized that closure and accountability were needed and demanded "transparency, and justice for the families and loved ones of the victims," of whom many were Canadian dual nationals.
"This is a national tragedy, and all Canadians are mourning together," Trudeau's office said in a statement.
According to Reuters, the Canadian prime minister has also said that Canada will continue working with its partners around the world to ensure a complete and thorough investigation into the plane crash.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted. "Armed Forces' internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people," he added. "Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake."