Turkish aircraft are reported to have bombed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) positions in southeast Turkey, in a move which many fear will put an ongoing peace process at risk.
F-16 and F-4 jets flying from bases in Malatya and Diyarbakir struck PKK outposts in the mountainous Daglica district in Hakkari province late on Monday night in response to previously unreported RPG attacks by the group on a military guard post in the area, according to the English language Hurriyet Daily. The area has been the site of regular clashes between the Turkish armed forces and the PKK, which has fought for more than 30 years for greater autonomy within Turkey and is considered by authorities to be a terrorist organization.
They were the first strikes of their kind since a government initiated peace process with the PKK began in 2013. Parts of southeastern Turkey recently saw widespread protests in response to Ankara's lack of action in the face of a major offensive by Islamic State (IS) jihadists on the majority Kurdish town of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border. Violent clashes between pro-Kobane protesters, security forces and Islamist Kurds broke out as a result, killing at least 37.
The attacks came ahead of an October 15 deadline by which jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan said his group would abandon the peace process unless Turkey moved to progress it. Many Kurds believe that a condition of the process continuing should be that Turkey allow a corridor into Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arab, for Kurdish fighters and humanitarian and military aid.
Turkey has previously said it would not allow Kobane to fall, and parliament recently passed legislation allowing military operations against IS in Syria and Iraq, but so far it has not taken action. Its reluctance may be because the People's Protection Units (YPG) defending the city have links to the PKK.
Omar Boran, a teacher at the Kurdish-language institute in Batman, southern Turkey, told VICE News that the strikes risked jeopardising the entire peace process. "It is becoming a new war these days, both politically and militarily. It's very dangerous for the Turkish government to do something like this as the situation in all of its neighbors - like Syria and Iraq - is unstable with no power or security. Turkey should be strengthening, not divide itself.... If it wants real peace, the government should take Ocalan seriously."
Nevertheless, there still seems to be desire for peace amongst PKK supporters. Fadil, a businessman from Diyarbakir who declined to give his last name, said that he still hoped diplomacy would help deliver a peaceful outcome. "A political solution would save the blood of the people," he told VICE News in a backstreet cafe surrounded by members of the PKK-affiliated Patriotic Revolutionist Youth Movement (YDG-H). "Otherwise, it will be war and all sides will suffer."
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