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In April, Turkey launched two new major military operations, named Claw-Lightning and Claw-Thunderbolt, against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the northern border areas of the Kurdistan Region where the PKK has bases. The goal of the operation is to limit PKK movement, cutting off access to Turkey and northeast Syria. Turkish air and ground forces are involved in the operations and have set up new military outposts on Kurdistan Region soil. Several villages have been emptied as residents fled the conflict, and acres of land have burned in fires sparked by artillery fire.
Early Thursday morning, Turkish drones bombed near two villages in northern Duhok province.
Three months into the conflict, tensions between the PKK and Kurdistan Region forces have risen, raising fears of civil war.
“We urge the Government to use its diplomatic position to stop the invasion and prevent an intra-Kurdish war. We particularly ask for the Government to put in place sanctions to be lifted only when Turkey ceases its military operations in South Kurdistan [Kurdistan Region],” read the letter signed by the chairs of Kurdish People’s Democratic Assembly, the National Federation of Cypriots, and the Armenian National Committee in Britain. They delivered it on Wednesday to Downing Street.
“In light of Turkish support for Azerbaijan in the 44-day war with Armenia last year, the Turkish state’s general stance in its bordering regions can only be described as aggressive,” the letter stated.
“Following Turkey's devastating invasion of Cyprus in 1974, we are worried about the possibility of history repeating itself if the UK doesn't do more. Turkey is a fellow NATO country to the UK, and therefore these military actions must be of concern to the Government,” it added.
The PKK is an armed Kurdish group fighting for the increased rights of Kurds in Turkey. Ankara considers it a terrorist organization and a threat to its national security, and it regularly sends forces across the Kurdistan Region’s borders to pursue the group.
On Thursday, Turkish security forces said they captured a senior PKK member in the Kurdistan Region and brought him across the border to Turkey. The man, identified as Cimsit Demir, code-named Piro Karker, was caught by Turkish intelligence operatives as he was preparing an escape to Europe, Anadolu Agency reported.
Turkish forces have advanced between 15 and 45 kilometres into the Kurdistan Region and have established more than 70 military and security posts along the border, Balambo Kokoy, a Kurdish lawmaker who was part of a parliamentary committee investigating the conflict, said earlier this month.
Scores of civilians have been killed and injured in decades of Turkish-PKK conflict in the Kurdistan Region.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) walks a fine line. It has called on Turkey to “respect” its sovereignty and on the PKK to leave the areas “in order not to cause chaos in the Kurdistan Region’s bordering areas.”
Recently, however, there have been several incidents between the PKK and forces aligned with the Kurdistan Democratic Forces (KDP), the ruling party in Duhok province. These clashes have sparked fears of an intra-Kurdish war.
On Thursday, the PKK accused KDP forces of killing a number of their fighters. A group of guerrillas were moving between positions, but the PKK lost contact with them on July 26 in the Khalifan area.
“According to the information we received from local people, the forces affiliated with the KDP surrounded the group and attacked it. Some of our friends fell [as] martyrs,” read a statement from the PKK’s armed wing, the HPG.
The Ministry of Peshmerga on July 26 issued a statement saying PKK fighters opened fire on a Peshmerga base. “A number of PKK militants opened fire on a Peshmerga forces base, which lies between the Khalifan and Bekhma districts." The statement added that they responded to the attack.
Tensions have been brewing between the KDP and the PKK for a year, both sides trying to assert control in areas of northern Duhok province where Turkey is carrying out its operations.
The PKK have been blamed for two separate attacks on Peshmerga forces that resulted in the death of six Peshmerga, allegations the PKK have denied.