The weather may be a balmy 22C in Cyprus as the holiday season kicks off, but residents and tourists on the Mediterranean island have been distracted by a unexpected development: the possibility of military strikes.
With Theresa May reportedly prepared to take action against the Assad regime in Syria, in retaliation for the chemical attack on the town of Douma, there are now fears that Britain’s military airbase in Cyprus could become a target.
Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, yesterday warned that any US missiles fired at Syria would be shot down – and the launch site targeted.
RAF Akrotiri, the UK’s strategic military hub for the Middle East, is currently home to eight cruise missile-armed Tornado fighter bombers and six Typhoon jets, which are likely to be deployed if the government proceeds with military action.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has yet to update official advice to Brits travelling to Cyprus, suggesting that the threat level remains low.
More than 1.2 million Brits visited Cyprus last year, and the island is also home to thousands of ex-pats, including British service personnel and their families stationed in the country.
But with RAF Akrotiri just an hour away from Paphos - one of the island’s top tourist hotspots - travellers are still worried how potential action could affect them.
“Really looking forward to son’s wedding in Cyprus in June #syria #battlezone,” one holidaymaker tweeted alongside an illustration of military forces in the region.
Another visitor, who is currently vacationing on the island, joked he was having an “amazing time”, despite the threat of “WW3″.
A traveller named Lea, who is set to holiday in Paphos, said she was worried her flights would be cancelled. “At the risk of sounding selfish if it all kicks off in Syria I’m hoping it won’t affect me going to Cyprus in June,” she wrote.
Airline pilots flying from the UK to Cyprus were yesterday issued with a “rapid alert” from European aviation authorities warning them to be aware of possible air-to-ground strikes or cruise missiles into Syria “within the next 72 hours”.
Travel providers have attempted to dampen fears, telling customers that safety remains the “first priority” and that they are “monitoring the situation closely”.
A spokesperson from Thomas Cook told HuffPost UK: “None of our customers on holiday are currently affected and our flights are operating as normal.”
Meanwhile, an EasyJet representative added: “The safety and security of its passengers and crew is EasyJet’s highest priority.
“EasyJet always takes its advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, whose advice remains unchanged for travel to Cyprus and our flights to and from Cyprus are unaffected.”
One social media user, named David, made a personal plea to Theresa May online, calling on her to “remember Brits who live in Cyprus”.
“Government action could give Russia and allies an excuse to strike - it would be like striking the UK!”
Meanwhile, one 19-year-old Cypriot student, now living in London, said he was “deeply upset” that Britain’s military action could put Cyprus “in Moscow’s sights”.
The FCO has yet to respond to HuffPost UK’s requests for further comment.