Turkish military jets leave Kurdish village in ruins, kill 9 - local media
The president of Iraq's Kurdistan region has condemned a deadly bombardment of Zargala village by the Turkish military, calling for all sides to return to the negotiating table. At least 9 people were reportedly killed in the attack.
"We condemn this bombardment that led to the martyrdom of people from the Kurdistan region and call on Turkey not to bombard civilians again," Massoud Barzani said in a statement on Saturday, Reuters reported.
“The PKK must keep the battlefield away from the Kurdish region in order for civilians not to become victims of this war,” Barzani added.
On Saturday, Turkish fighter jets reportedly bombed a village located on the outskirts of Kandil Mountains, where PKK camps are based. Local media say at least nine civilians were killed, a pregnant woman among them, while 15 others were injured.
“There were six houses in this area, and all of them have been destroyed. The people targeted here are innocent civilians. The Turkish state is targeting Kurdish villagers on the excuse of PKK guerrillas,” a local villager and a witness, Feqi Muhammed, told Firat news agency.
The first attack on Saturday started at 4 a.m. local time, killing families, animals, destroying houses. Twitter is flooded with blood-chilling photographs from the scene, with the hashtags #BabyKillerErdogan and #ZergeleKöyündeKATLİAM gaining pace.
This week, Turkey has continually targeted the camps of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters, based in northern Iraq, blaming the group for a series of killings of police officers and soldiers.
The week of air strikes has left some 260 militants deads and left hundreds of others wounded, Anatolia news agency reported on Saturday.
Later that day, the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement that “An investigation has been initiated into the allegations,” as cited by AFP news agency, and promised that its results “will be shared with the public as soon as possible.”
“All the allegations that have been brought forward will be investigated fully,” it said, adding that the reports of civilian deaths had been received “with sorrow”.
Yet the ministry also stated that the Saturday operation had targeted solely the PKK camp and been launched based on information provided by intelligence that indicated there were no civilians in the area. It accused the PKK of using “civilians as human shields.”
On Wednesday, the Iraqi Parliament urged the Turkish government to put an end to the air strikes of the border villages that are violating the country’s "sovereignty and airspace."
"The Turkish military aircraft have inflicted serious damage to the lives and property of the Iraqi people and neighboring border villages during their bombing operations inside Iraqi territory," a statement by the Parliament said.
The attacks, launched this week, are expected to continue. They were initially set to target both Islamic State militants and PKK, but so far they have been focusing on Kurdish shelters and arms depots.
A representative of the Turkish government told AFP, "This is not a soccer game," and refused to provide the news agency with the official death toll.
The conflict between Turkey and Kurdish insurgent groups, who have been demanding an independent Kurdistan or for greater autonomy, lasts for several decades. The main insurgent group, considered as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and NATO, PKK, was founded in 1978 and has clashed with Turkish security forces ever since.
The conflict, that took lives of tens of thousands of people, saw a ceasefire in 2013.
“Those who threaten [Turkey] will face the response,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters, as Istanbul launched the operation during the July crisis.
The end of July saw the escalation of the conflict. It started as a dozen police and military personnel were killed in Turkey, which has pointed the finger of blame at the Kurdish militant group. Several suspected PKK members were killed in various border regions of the country, during clashes with the police.
On July 20, the Turkish town of Suruc, located on the southern border with Syria, saw a terrorist attack, performed by a suspected Islamic State suicide bomber, that took lives of at least 31 people and injured over 100 people.
Following the attack, the Kurdistan Workers’ party accused the Turkish government of “supporting and cultivating” Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS/ISIL). Its leaders said that Erdogan used Kurds as a buffer against ISIS, and the Kurds held massive demonstrations to express their discontent with the current policy.