RNA - Addressing a large and fervent congregation of the people in Tehran on Friday, Hojjatoleslam Haj Ali Akbari said, "The Strait of Hormuz belongs to Iran and Iran's Armed Forces will turn it into a graveyard for any aggressor."
The senior cleric, meantime, lauded the downing of the US drone by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, and said, "The United States has a long history of human rights violations against Iran."
Hojjatoleslam Haj Ali Akbari reiterated that the drone had sneaked into Iran's airspace and territorial waters.
He further condemned the US authorities’ claim that their drone had been flying over international waters, ridiculing the last night meeting at the White House on the incident for its insistence on the wrong claim.
"The Strait of Hormuz belongs to Iran and it has always been and will always be a graveyard for the aggressors," the senior cleric underlined.
The IRGC had announced in a statement early Thursday that the US-made Global Hawk surveillance drone was brought down by its Air Force near the Kouh-e Mobarak region in the Central district of Jask after the aircraft violated Iran's airspace.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) can fly at high altitudes for more than 30 hours, gathering near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather.
Meantime, a US official said a US Navy MQ-4C Triton high-altitude drone was shot down by Iranian surface-to-air missile.
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) issued a second statement on Thursday disclosing details about the shooting down of the US spy drone near the Strait of Hormuz, stressing that the unmanned aircraft was targeted after violating Iran's airspace over the Southern coasts.
"The Global Hawk spy drone took off from one of the US forces' bases South of the Persian Gulf at 00:14 am today and turned off all its Identification (Identification Friend or Foe) equipment and continued flight from the Strait of Hormuz to Chabahar port in a full stealth mode," the statement said on Thursday noon after the IRGC declared in an earlier statement that it had shot down the drone at dawn.
"The drone started collecting intel in a spying operation when it was returning towards the Western parts of the region near the Strait of Hormuz and it violated the airspace over the Islamic Republic of Iran's territory," it added.
"The IRGC Aerospace Force's air defense system targeted and destroyed the hostile aircraft which had entered Iran's territorial airspace at 04:05 am," the statement said.
After the incident, the Iranian foreign ministry strongly deplored violation of the country's airspace, warning of consequences of any aggression.
"We strongly protest at such aggressive and provocative measures and firmly warn against any illegal and aggressive flight of any hostile foreign flying objects over the country's sky and violation of its airspace," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said on Thursday.
He warned that the aggressors should account for the consequences of such moves.
Also, IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami confirmed downing of the US spy drone on the Southern coasts of Iran on Thursday, stressing that the move should alert Washington officials to stay away.
"At dawn, the IRGC Air Force bravely downed an enemy spy drone which had crossed our borders and was violating our national security," General Salami said, addressing a congress in the Western province of Kurdistan.
He added that the incident sent "a clear message" to the US and other enemies that Iran will show a firm and crushing response to any aggression.
"Borders are our red lines and any enemy which violates them will not go back home and will be annihilated. The only way for enemies is to respect Iran's territorial integrity and national interests," General Salami said.
"We declare that we do not want war with any country but we are fully ready for war and the today incident was a clear instance of this precise message," he underscored.
On Thursday evening, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that his country has retrieved parts of the US Global Hawk that was shot down on Thursday morning from the country's territorial waters, rejecting Washington's claim that the aircraft was targeted in international waters.
"[The] US drone took off from UAE in stealth mode and violated Iranian airspace," Zarif wrote on Twitter on Thursday night, adding that the Global Hawk drone "was targeted near... Kouh-e Mobarak" region in the Central district of Jask in Hormuzgan province after the aircraft violated Iran's airspace.
Zarif even provided the coordinates where the US aircraft was intercepted, and added, "We've retrieved sections of the US military drone in OUR territorial waters where it was shot down."
In an earlier tweet, Zarif stated that Iran "will take this US new aggression to [the] UN and show that the US is lying about international waters".
According to Fars News Agancy, the Iranian foreign minister noted that Tehran does not want war, "but will zealously defend our skies, land and waters".
Major General Salami stressed that the move should alert Washington officials to stay away.
The incident sent "a clear message" to the US and other enemies that Iran will show a firm and crushing response to any aggression, Salami stated.
"Borders are our red lines and any enemy which violates them will not go back home and will be annihilated. The only way for enemies is to respect Iran's territorial integrity and national interests," the major general noted.