The incursion, later dubbed a “goad-and-probe” sortie, happened within days of six Typhoon fighters, the UK’s newest interceptor jets, arriving at RAF Akrotiri, Britain’s military base in Cyprus, in readiness for any attack by Syrian forces.

The scare also led to Turkey scrambling two F-16 fighters from its base in Incirlik after radar detected “suspicious flights” over the occupied part of Cyprus’s eastern coast.

Last night the Ministry of Defence confirmed the deployment of two Typhoons after the unidentified fighter jets, thought to be Russian-made Sukhoi Su-24s, were spotted but said they did not leave international airspace before flying away.

However, Cypriot newspapers cited reports by local air traffic control sources that the Syrian air force jets had been observed flying over the city of Famagusta.

Last night one senior RAF source said: “As the delivery of six Typhoons would suggest, Akrotiri is on high readiness in case of any Syrian incursion.

“It seems that this incident may have been a case of a goad-and-probe sortie by a Syrian air force acting more brazenly than ever after recent inaction by the West.”

While all British activities within Syria were suspended after Parliament failed to support David Cameron’s vote for intervention, the UK is still involved in “non-kinetic” operations.

These are focused on electronic counter measures, monitoring Syrian air force movements and communication intercepts gathered at the British top-secret “Pluto” signals base on Mount Olympus.

More than 600 Royal Marines from 30 and 42 Commando units will arrive in Aqaba, Jordan, next week for planned war-games, kitted out with chemical warfare equipment.

Their numbers will include signallers from the Y Troop unit, mobile cyber war specialists attached to 3 Commando. Foreign Secretary William Hague was last night expected to meet resistance as he urged EU involvement at a meeting of European foreign ministers and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vilnius, Lithuania.

On Friday French President Francois Hollande indicated for the first time that he would wait for a UN report before committing France to military action.

Monday’s sortie happened just two days after US President Obama announced that he would seek a vote in Congress before launching any unilateral US military strike against Syria.

Despite support in the Senate, indications last night remained strong that Mr Obama was heading for a defeat in the House of Representatives.

Many, mostly Republican, districts in key states have already declared that they will oppose any resolution for military intervention in a vote expected to take place in the next few days.

Wisconsin congressman Jim Sensenbrenner summed up the mood when he told the Sunday Express: “President Obama set a red line for action in Syria and is now in denial.

“The actions by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime are reprehensible but Congress did not set a red line for military action in Syria, President Obama did.

“His plan for military force will not help the Syrian people or promote the freedom or security of the United States.”

All so-called “votes of conscience” in Congress are free and without pressure from whips. However, the substance of any resolution is likely to be considerably watered down by amendments imposed by both sides of the House.

Daily Express

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