Tue, 05 Dec 2023

Ankara has launched airstrikes targeting alleged "terrorists" in Syria and Iraq

The Turkish military operation against alleged Kurdish "terrorists" in northern Iraq and Syria could be ramped up with a ground component, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday. The warning follows attacks on border checkpoints, with three Turkish civilians killed in the latest one on Monday, according to the Turkish Interior Ministry.

"This is not limited to just an air operation," Erdogan told journalists on his return flight from Qatar. "If someone disturbs our country and lands, we will make them pay the price."

The Turkish leader was referring to overnight airstrikes launched by Ankara against what the military called hideouts of the YPG/PKK. The YPG is a Syrian Kurdish militia force, which Ankara considers to be a part of the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers' Party. The Trkiye-based PKK fought a decades-long guerrilla war against the central government.

Erdogan said he did not warn either the US or Russia about the Turkish military plans, stating that both Washington and Moscow were aware that "we may come suddenly one night".

READ MORE: Trkiye attacks 'terrorist' targets in Syria and Iraq

The president's phrase was a reference to the Turkish military operation launched in 1974 in response to a military coup in Greece, which resulted in the split of Cyprus into parts controlled by Greeks and Turks respectively.

The hostilities appear to be taking a toll on Trkiye. On Monday, several mortar shells landed in the border district of Karkamis in the southeastern Gaziantep Province, officials said. The projectiles reportedly hit a school, two houses and a truck near a border checkpoint, and killed three civilians while injuring several others. Trkiye blamed the shelling on Kurdish militants.

In a separate incident on Sunday, a Turkish border checkpoint in the village of Oncupnar in the southeastern Kilis Province reportedly came under rocket artillery fire. Turkish authorities said a police commissioner, six police officers and a soldier were injured in the attack, which they attributed to a Kurdish group.

Ankara touted Sunday's air raids as retaliation for a bombing in Istanbul, which killed at six people and left 81 injured earlier this month. Police have detained dozens of suspects, including a woman who allegedly left a bag containing the explosive device on Istiklal Avenue. Trkiye claimed she was acting on orders from the YPG in Syria.

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