A ‘stray’ missile struck Cyprus at 1am Monday, 20km northeast of the densely populated capital Nicosia. It crashed in the Turkish-occupied region of Tashkent, a small village also known as Vouno on the slopes of the Pentadaktylos mountain range towering above Nicosia. The impact set hills ablaze and was heard for miles around, but there was no crater, leading experts to ascertain that the explosion took place before impact.

Authorities of the occupied region evacuated homes for precautionary purposes. Though the attack itself did not have casualties, there are fears that the freak incident may be used by the Turkish occupied north as a way to engage in international politics though it is not recognised as a sovereign state by any country apart from Turkey.

Turkish Cypriot representative Kudret Ozersay, acting as the occupied region’s foreign spokesperson, shared news of the incident on Facebook and proceeded to give interviews as the pseudostate’s ‘foreign minister’.

He said that the missile could have been a spillover of an Israeli strike on Syria and a counter response by Syria that missed its target. At the time of the missile an Israeli airstrike was underway, and Syrian state media reported that their country’s air defences had fired in response to the attack.

A special task force from the Turkish Ministry of Interior Disaster (AFAD) was reportedly in the region to examine the site, according to Mr Ozersay, who said he spoke to Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, and he added that “Turkey will soon discuss the matter with neighbouring countries in the area. We will also take action at an international level to convey our concern to the various countries.”

Debris from the missile.

READ MORE: ‘Unidentified object’ over Cyprus turns out to be a stray missile

Greek-Cypriots left guessing

In the aftermath of the incident, the official government of Cyprus in Nicosia was left seeking reliable information from third parties as there was no access or official form of communication with the leadership of the occupied state.

Cyprus government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the official government of Cyprus had got in touch with the Turkish Cypriot administration offering help in the investigation of the incident.

“The Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, thanked us for the offer but he said that no assistance was needed,” Mr Prodromou said, adding that the Cypriot government is in touch with UNFICYP, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus, which polices a buffer zone. The government of Cyprus has also made contact with the governments of Russia, Israel, the United States and the UK, that has two military bases in the area, in order to better understand the situation and equipment used.

“The incident was a reminder of how fragile the situation in the region is. We wish it will remain an isolated incident,” Mr Prodromou said.

Neos Kosmos reached out to the High Commission of the Cyprus Republic in Australia to ask questions regarding the incident, and received the following statement by the Cyprus Foreign Affairs Ministry: “The authorities of the Republic of Cyprus are continuously evaluating all pertinent information concerning what appears to have been an explosion in the air of a projectile whose debris crashed in the vicinity of Vouno in the Turkish-occupied area of the Republic of Cyprus shortly after midnight. The Cypriot authorities are engaging with the authorities of neighbouring and other friendly countries in order to gather relevant facts and information. At the present time, no definitive conclusions can be drawn concerning last night’s occurrence.”

Greek Cypriot former army leader, retired lieutenant general Andreas Pentaras said photos of the debris and inscriptions suggested that the missile belonged to a Russian-made S-200 built in the 1970s, which can fire at a range of 400 kilometres and is created to explode in mid-air when it misses its target.

“What I saw in pictures was what I believe was the base of the wings of an S-200 with Russian letters on it. It could not be a drone plane as original information suggested, as drones are usually used for spying and do not carry explosives,” Pentaras told state television, adding that jamming technology could have diverted the missile.

READ MORE: Justice for Cyprus sought by Melbourne rally for freedom and human rights

Safety concerns

Cyprus is equipped with systems that provide anti-missile protection but their operation is determined on the basis of possible risks and the evaluation of war-like danger. Though the island – the most easterly EU member – is less than 320 km from Syria, it is the first time that the region has been impacted by conflict in the Middle East. The case is viewed as an isolated incident and not seen as a real threat bearing in mind that Cyprus was not the target of the missile which has a range of 400km.

Nonetheless, the incident has sparked debate on the island – especially bearing in mind that the coast of Syria is visible from the northern parts of the island. Though more attacks seem unlikely, they are not impossible and have raised fears.

The UniteCyprusNow pro-unity group saw the incident as a “wake-up call” to those who feel that a permanent division could avert crises.

READ MORE: Cyprus: dangerous row over gas exploration dates back to British colonial meddling

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Christos Petrou, the executive director of the Mediterranean Flight Safety Foundation, expressed his concern that “a missile which enters the FIR constitutes a danger for the flights’ safety”.

“Such incidences pose a threat to flights of civil aircraft, particularly those which are landing or taking off, or have to fly at a lower altitude for any reason,” he said.