AKROTIRI, Cyprus (Reuters) – Pro-Palestinian activists protested at the gates of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus on Sunday, angry that the British base was used as a launch pad for strikes against the Houthi militia in Yemen.
U.S. and British warplanes, ships and submarines launched dozens of air strikes against Houthi forces in Yemen overnight Thursday to Friday in retaliation for attacks on Red Sea shipping that the Iran-backed group says is a response to the war in Gaza.
RAF Akrotiri was used as a staging point for Typhoon fighter jets involved in the operation.
Several hundred protesters chanted “Out with the Bases of Death” at the entrance to RAF Akrotiri, one of two bases Britain retains in Cyprus, a former colony.
The iron gates to the heavily-guarded compound, which sits on a peninsula on Cyprus’s southernmost tip, were locked with dozens of police present.
“We are here because we condemn the complicity of the UK government and using Cypriot land for their agenda to support Israel in their onslaught of Gaza,” said Natalia Olivia of the Cyprus-based United for Palestine organisation.
Another activist, Nicos Panayiotou, called the use of the British bases a disgrace. “They are using Cypriot land to do something every Cypriot is condemning,” he said.
Britain is not obliged to seek permission from Cyprus for operations out of Akrotiri under the terms of the bases’ presence on the island.
The strikes have added to concerns that the Israel-Gaza war could spread through the Middle East, with Iran’s allies also entering the fray from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
Sunday’s demonstration was organised before Akrotiri was used for the strikes on Yemen amid perceptions – denied by Britain – that the base is being used to offer logistical support to Israel.
In response to the protests, a British Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “British Forces Cyprus continue to support the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza and no RAF flights into Israel have transported any lethal cargo.”
(Reporting By Michele Kambas; editing by Christina Fincher)