European air traffic control warns airlines about missile strikes over Mediterranean

Key Points
  • A European air traffic agency has warned of a missile threat into Syria.
  • Airlines told to exercise caution over the eastern Mediterranean through next 72 hours.
  • Russia warns western allies over military action.
Lt. Emily R. King checks the controls of a Boeing EA-18G Growler on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier. The carrier conducted strikes from the eastern Mediterranean in February 2017.
Getty Images | AFP | Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

The air traffic control agency that oversees Europe has warned airlines to consider the danger of air-to-ground strikes or cruise missiles when flying over the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Eurocontrol said that air strikes into Syria could take place over the next 72 hours. The pan-European agency issued the "rapid alert notification" on its site early Wednesday.

"Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the eastern Mediterranean/Nicosia FIR area [control center in Cyprus]," the warning reads.

The alert to airlines makes no reference to any source of the threat, but the U.S. and its allies the U.K. and France have said that those responsible for an alleged chemical attack in Syria should be held to account. President Donald Trump has met with military commanders to consider the reported chemical weapons attack, allegedly carried out by the Syrian Army. Trump has pledged a "forceful response."

Trump then canceled a trip to South America this week, sending Vice President Mike Pence instead. The White House told reporters Tuesday that Trump will stay in the U.S. in order to "oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world."

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has said the international community must respond to the attack in order to "uphold the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons."

French President Emmanuel Macron said that if military action was taken, it would target "the regime's chemical capabilities," and not the forces of its allies, Russia or Iran.

Russia, which provides military support to Syrian leader Bashar Assad, has said there is no evidence of a chemical attack and has vetoed a U.S. request at the United Nations to investigate the cause.