The S-200 missile that crashed into an area in the north in the early hours of Monday had likely self-destructed in the air, a geopolitical analyst has told the Cyprus Mail.
“Surface-to-air missiles like the S-200 have a self-destruct setting when they miss their target,” said Zenonas Tziarras of the Geopolitical Cyprus think-tank.
That would be consistent with reports from the north from people saying they heard an explosion before the remains of the object crashed onto the ground. There was also no impact crater, Turkish Cypriot authorities said, lending weight to the hypothesis the missile had exploded before hitting the ground.
“It’s the most plausible scenario as of now. Alternatively, though less likely, the missile might have hit an object mid-air, causing it to detonate,” Tziarras said.
The S-200’s effective range is widely quoted as between 150 km and 300 km depending on the model.
The maximum flight range goes beyond that.
The distance from the Syrian coastal mountain range to Cyprus, in a straight line, is approximately 240km – well within the envelope of the S-200.
The Syrian military was defending against an overnight air strike by Israel. The Israeli strike was launched from Lebanese airspace, the Syrian defence ministry said in a brief report on its Telegram feed.
The missile launched by the Syrians would therefore be travelling in an east-to-west direction. Assuming it missed its target, it would have continued on toward Cyprus.
Tziarras said reports online suggest the projectile was probably fired from Syria’s defence installation at Masyaf, near Latakia.
Latakia’s latitude is consistent with that of the area in the north of Cyprus where the missile crashed.
The National Guard’s Tor-M1 and Buk surface to air missiles can track and intercept such targets but they are not deployed during peacetime.
Unconfirmed reports said Israel fired over 100 surface-to-air and cruise missiles in this latest attack on Syria.
In recent years, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria. This is despite the fact that officially the two nations are not at war.
In September 2018, a Russian military plane was accidentally shot down by the Syrian military, with Russia blaming Israel for the incident. Fifteen personnel on board the plane died.
The Russian defence ministry said at the time that Israeli jets put the Il-20 plane into the path of Syrian air defence systems after failing to give Moscow enough warning of a strike on Syrian targets.
Soon after Russia began delivery of the S-300 missile system to Syria.