Turkey continues to hit ISIL in Syria, strikes PKK militants in north Iraq
Turkish military officials gave a briefing to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu about the ongoing airstrikes against ISIL and the PKK targets on July 24.The Turkish military on July 25 carried out fresh airstrikes and shelling against targets controlled by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists in Syria and embarked on a new air campaign to bombard camps of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants in northern Iraq.
"We have approved the third wave of airstrikes in Syria [against ISIL] and the second wave in Iraq [against PKK]," Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in a press conference in Ankara on July 25. Both operations were completed later in the day, according to Turkish media.
"These operations are not 'one-point operations' and will continue as long as there is a threat against Turkey," Davutoğlu said, before heading to Istanbul, where he was due to meet with President Tayyip Erdoğan and the head of the army later in the day.
The two-pronged operation against ISIL and the PKK -- two groups who are themselves bitterly opposed -- came after a week of deadly violence in Turkey the authorities blamed on the organisations.
The Turkish F-16 jets all returned safely to their base in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır early July 25 after the latest raids, the official Anatolia news agency reported.
Private broadcaster NTV reported that five war planes took off from Diyarbakır later in the day, after Turkish artillery in the Kilis province launched a fresh bombing campaign targeting the ISIL positions in northern Syria on July 25.
The raids against ISIL, which had begun before dawn July 24, marked a major shift in policy towards the group by key NATO member Turkey, which has faced severe criticism from its Western allies for not doing enough to combat the jihadists.
But on this occasion planes also bombed positions of the PKK in neighbouring Iraq, where the outlawed group’s military forces are based.
"Strikes were carried out on targets of the Daesh (ISIL) terror group in Syria and the PKK terror group in northern Iraq," the office of Davutoğlu said in a statement.
It said shelters and warehouses containing PKK weapons were hit in the northern Iraq operation, listing seven locations where the strikes had been carried out including Mount Kandil, where the PKK’s military leadership is based.
In addition to the air raids, Turkish ground forces also carried out artillery strikes against ISIL in Syria and the PKK in northern Iraq, the statement said, adding that NATO and the United Nations have been kept informed of the operations.
PKK blames President Erdoğan
"At around 11:00 pm (2000 GMT) tonight, Turkish warplanes started bombing our positions near the border, accompanied by heavy artillery shelling," PKK spokesman in Iraq Bakhtiar Dogan confirmed to AFP.
"We are still committed to the directives of our leader (Abdullah) Öcalan... but it seems Erdoğan wants to drag us back into war," Dogan said. "When things reach this level and when all of our areas are bombed, I think by then the ceasefire has no meaning anymore."
The PKK has for decades waged a deadly insurgency in the southeast of Turkey for self-rule that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The violence in Turkey erupted after the killing of 32 people in a suicide bombing Monday in the Turkish town of Suruç on the Syrian border carried out by a 20-year old Turkish man linked to ISIL.
That attack sparked an upsurge in violence in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast, where many accuse Turkish authorities of collaborating with ISIL.
The PKK then outraged the government by claiming the shooting dead of two Turkish police at home while they slept.
Turkish security forces July 25 launched new raids to arrest suspected ISIL and PKK members in Istanbul and other cities, adding to hundreds of detentions already made the day earlier.
A total of 320 people have so far been arrested in 22 provinces across Turkey, Davutoğlu’s office said.
Tensions run high across Turkey
As well as ISIL and the PKK, the arrest operations also targeted suspected members of the PKK’s youth wing, The Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), and the Marxist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C).
With tensions running high across the country, Turkish police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a protest in the Istanbul district of Kadıköy by hundreds of people to denounce ISIL violence.
Protesters in Gazi also defiantly carried the coffin of Günay Özarslan, a suspected would-be suicide bomber for the DHKP-C who was killed in clashes with police on July 24 during a raid on leftist militants.
Thousands are expected to respond to a call from Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party and turn out for a "march for peace" on July 26 in Istanbul which is set to be monitored by a heavy security presence.
Green light for key air base
Turkey has been accused of colluding with ISIL extremists in the hope they might further Ankara’s aim of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Ankara has always vehemently denied the claims but the NATO member has dodged playing a full role in the US-led coalition assisting Kurds fighting ISIL militants.
Now, however, Ankara has finally given the green light to US forces for the use of its Incirlik base for air strikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, according to American and Turkish officials.
"A decision has been taken for Turkey’s own security," Davutoğlu added, declining to give details on the agreement.
Doğan News Agency said three war planes had taken off from İncirlik to strike targets inside Syria as part of the raids overnight July 24.