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RAF bombers on standby in Cyprus

TAGS: Defense, Cyprus

Tornado bombers at RAF Akrotiri are on standby and ready to strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if such an order is given out, just days after a US missile destroyer left Larnaca port.

A lot of activity is taking place at Britain’s Tornado base in Cyprus, according to the British press, as the world is waiting to see if a military strike from the west will be the response to a chemical attack over the weekend in Syria’s Douma.

Airline companies also received warnings to exercise caution in civilian airspace for the next 72 hours due to possible airstrikes, with Eurocontrol saying surface-to-air cruise missiles could be launched during that time in that region.

The only commercial flights above Syria on Wednesday were being flown by Syrian Air and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24.

The Eurocontrol statement included a broader area outside the airspace controlled by Damascus.

The Nicosia flight information region named in the Eurocontrol statement covers the island of Cyprus and surrounding waters, according to a map on the agency’s website. The same map did not designate any specific territory as being the “Eastern Mediterranean” region.

This comes after British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump vowed to stop Syria from using chemical weapons, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the country’s experts found “no trace” of chemical weapons use in Douma.

There has been heightened awareness by regulators and airlines of the risks that conflict zones pose to commercial jets since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed by a surface-to-air missile over Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people on board.

Last year, North Korea tested missiles without warning, leading some airlines to re-route flights to avoid portions of the Sea of Japan.

On Monday, USS Donald Cook left Larnaca to join the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, which is overseeing regional stability in the region. Greek Cypriot media cited online sources saying that the USS Donald Cook was part of a bigger expedition en route to Eastern Mediterranean, just a short distance from Syria.

The British bases in Cyprus have been used in the past for military strikes, such as last year when similar activity preceded attacks against the Islamic State.

[Kathimerini Cyprus]

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