Apparent Syrian air-defense missile crashes in northern Cyprus

Apparent Syrian air-defense missile crashes in northern Cyprus

Blast comes during reported Israeli strikes on Syria, leading to speculation it was a stray Syrian anti-aircraft projectile

Authorities in northern Cyprus examine the wreckage of a mystery object that crashed causing a large explosion on July 1 2019 (Screencapture/Twitter)
Authorities in northern Cyprus examine the wreckage of a mystery object that crashed causing a large explosion on July 1 2019 (Screencapture/Twitter)

Officials in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus were investigating a mysterious explosion that rocked the Mediterranean island and caused a large fire early Monday, apparently caused by a Syrian surface-to-air missile.

A Turkish Cypriot official said that a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that missed its target may have been the cause of the explosion outside a village. No injuries were reported.

Photographs from the scene appeared to show the tail fins of a missile.

The explosion came amid a reported wave of Israeli strikes on targets in nearby Syria, during which the Syrian military fired large numbers of anti-aircraft missiles toward attacking Israeli fighter jets, the country’s official SANA news outlet reported. Israel had no comment on the reported strike.

Kudret Ozersay, the north’s foreign minister, posted on his personal Facebook account that an initial assessment of the predawn blast indicated that a Russian-made missile that was part of an anti-aircraft battery had missed its target during the overnight airstrikes.

Ozersay said the missile likely blew up in flight because there was no impact crater and pieces of the object were found several kilometers from the main debris field outside the village of Tashkent, or Vouno, as it’s known by its Greek name.

He said the writing on debris matches that found on pieces of a Russian-made S-200 missile that crashed in Gaziantep, Turkey, in July 2018.

According to Turkish Cypriot broadcaster BRT, Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said no one was hurt in the explosion and that firefighting crews had contained a blaze that the burning debris had ignited.

It would not be the first time Syrian air defenses have gone off target.

In September, Syrian air defenses shot down a Russian military aircraft during Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in the country, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

Russia, which is allied with Damascus, blamed the Israeli military for the incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and later transferred advanced S-300 air-defense systems to Syria.

On Sunday, an Israeli satellite imagery analysis company said Syria’s entire S-300 air defense system appeared to be operational, indicating a greater threat to Israel’s ability to conduct airstrikes against Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in the country.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in July 1974 following a coup on the island that it opposed. About 150,000 Greek Cypriots were expelled from the areas captured by the Turkish army. In 1983 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus declared its independence, although it is not recognized by the international community or the United Nations, which see the area as occupied.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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