Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan raged against the PKK as an attack in southeast Turkey kills 9 security forces, bringing the last month's total death toll up to 31.
At least 8 Turkish troops, including a major and a village guard, were killed Wednesday in an ambush by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the eastern province of Hakkari's Çukurca district in southeast Turkey, Doğan News Agency, or DHA, reported. The attack came just hours after the government announced plans to usher in a new era in the fight against terrorism in response to the deaths of 31 soldiers in the last month.
"We are at the point where words fail. There is no need to talk, but to act. You will see the measures once they are taken," Erdoğan told reporters in Istanbul, vowing retaliation following a top security board meeting scheduled for Thursday. "We are at the point where our patience with regard to Ramadan has run out. Those who do not distance themselves from terror will pay the price."
The soldiers were killed as a result of four mine explosions targeting special forces teams at two different points along the Hakkari-Çukurca road, the Hakkari Governor's Office said in a statement. The attack also wounded 15 soldiers. Possible responses to the PKK attack are expected to be discussed during the National Security Council, or MGK, meeting Thursday. Erdoğan announced late Tuesday that the government was about to complete work on a new strategy in the anti-terror fight.
"We will overcome this through God's blessing by renewing our strategies according to new developments," Erdoğan said. "A new era is beginning. Our nation will see that the murderous gang who possesses nothing sacred will be eliminated."
Erdoğan was criticized when he hinted that the government was planning to delay operations until Ramadan ends. His statement Wednesday that the government's patience with regard to Ramadan had run out suggests that measures could be taken within days. President Abdullah Gül and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said the military would retaliate against the terrorists.
"This [fight] has no day and night [and doesn't stop for any religious] festival. Our forces are always on alert," Gül said in Ankara.
Yılmaz also expressed his anger, saying the military would retaliate strongly against the terrorists.
"They are testing our patience. We'll retaliate in kind," he said.
The attack came hours after the a "new era" was announced in the fight in terrorism in response to the deaths of 31 soldiers in the last month. Responses are expected to be discussed during today's MGK meeting.
Turkish Jets Bomb PKK Bases in Iraq
Turkish jets launched air raids on suspected bases belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq on Wednesday, Turkish media reported.
The raids came hours after eight soldiers and a village guard were killed in an ambush by PKK members. Some 15 warplanes took off from a Turkish base to strike at bases which the PKK use as a springboard to attack targets inside Turkey, according to a report on the NTV news channel. CNNTürk television said Turkish F-16s were involved in the raids. Pro-PKK Firat news agency said the Turkish jets were also targeting Qandil, a mountain on the Iraqi-Iranian border, where the PKK leaders are believed to be hiding.
The Turkish reports were based on unidentified sources and there was no immediate official confirmation of the strikes. If confirmed, the raids would be Turkey's first cross-border offensive since last summer, when Turkish warplanes carried out a series of retaliatory air raids on suspected PKK hideouts across the border.
Turkish officials warned of a major offensive against the PKK following the ambush on a military convoy near the border with Iraq, that killed eight soldiers and a village guard working with them. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said armored personnel carriers in the convoy came under rocket fire after being attacked with roadside bombs.
Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz vowed tough response immediately after the attack, as the military launched an air and ground offensive in the largely Kurdish Hakkari province where the attack happened, Turkey's state television reported.
"The retaliation they will find will be manifold stronger," Yılmaz said.
Earlier this week, Erdoğan said Turkey is at the end of its tether and hinted toward a strong offensive after the end of the holy month of Ramadan. But Wednesday's attack appears to have forced Turkey to move plans forward.
Asked earlier Wednesday about the possibility of a cross-border offensive, Erdoğan replied: "These things are not talked about, they are done."
PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
PKK Terrorists Stage Ambush, Kill Nine
PKK terrorists have staged another heinous ambush on security forces in Cukurca town of the southeastern province of Hakkari. Nine troops, including a major and a village guard, were killed. The attack caused outrage in Turkey, which has already lost 43 of its sons in the almost two months and 6,821 in the last 27 years.
Erdogan: Words and Patience Have Ended
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan strongly reacted to the attack in Cukurca, saying: "As we said earlier, we are at a point where the words ended. Our patience regarding Ramadan has ended."
BDP Glorifies Terror Attack
While Turkey was grieving for 11 troops who were killed in an ambush in the southeastern province of Hakkari, it was the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, which glorified the terrorism. The BDP, which tried anything to sabotage Turkey's brotherhood project, declared a suicide bomber as a "martyr," becoming the accomplice in the massacres. BDP condemned the heinous attack with a meager statement. Between the lines of the statement, the BDP used threatening expressions, saying "terrible days are awaiting Turkey."
PKK Camps Hit by Artillery, Air Strikes
Turkey's military completed a number of successful strikes against targets belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in northern Iraq late Wednesday, the General Staff said in an official report released Thursday morning.
"An aerial assault against 60 pre-determined targets belonging to the separatist organization was completed successfully," the report said. The report revealed that 168 additional targets were struck by "intense" artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border prior to the air strike."
Such operations will be carried out within and outside of Turkey with determination until the separatist organization is neutralized," the report said.
'Panther' Squadron Carried Out Strikes
The Turkish government ordered the Air Force Command to initiate an aerial assault at around 3 p.m. Wednesday. Afterward, unmanned aircraft were launched to locate PKK targets in the area, the Daily Hürriyet reported on its Web site Thursday. Fourteen F-16 warplanes from the 181st air squadron, known as the "Panther" squadron, took off from the airbase in Diyarbakır in two rounds around 8 p.m. The squadron's planes are known as "lantern" planes because of their night vision and night bombardment capabilities.
The planes first took out 17 anti-aircraft battery installations belonging to the PKK before attacking other targets, Hürriyet reported. Laser-guided MAC 82-84 bombs, each weighing two tons, were used in the operation.Camps where PKK leaders Murat Karayılan, Cemil Bayık and Duran Kalkan are known to be hiding were also struck. The first wave of air strikes was completed by 11 p.m. Six F-16s, which took off from Diyarbakır air base around 2:45 a.m. Thursday, struck PKK camps in a second wave of attacks, the report said.The strikes came in response to a PKK ambush Wednesday morning in which eight soldiers and one village guard were killed.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
Turkish President Reiterates State's Determiniation to Fight Terrorism
Turkish President Abdullah Gul repeated Turkey's state's determination in fight against terrorism. Gul met representatives of business and profession institutions over a fast-breaking dinner in Ankara on Wednesday. Gul said that nobody should doubt that the Turkish state was determined in the fight against terrorism and it would use all facilities in this fight.
President Gul also offered condolences to the relatives of the people who were killed in a terrorist attack in the southeastern province of Hakkari earlier today. Seven Turkish soldiers and a village guard were killed and 14 others were wounded in an attack of PKK terrorist organization in Hakkari.
MGK Agenda is to Discuss Terror
MGK will get together today with the new commanders and discuss terror. President Abdullah Gul said: "Our government and military staff is extensively working on fight against terrorism."
Gul to Discuss MGK Meeting with Parliament, Opposition
President Abdullah Gul will meet Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek and main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu on Friday after the MGK meeting on Thursday. For the first time, Parliament Speaker and the main opposition leader will be informed about the matters discussed in MGK.
U.S. State Department Sends Condolences Over Terrorist Attack
The U.S. State Department expressed sorrow over the terrorist attack which killed eight Turkish soldiers in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Wednesday. Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland, in a press conference, offered condolences to the relatives of the victims.
Earlier today, 7 Turkish soldiers and a village guard were killed, and 14 others were wounded, in an attack of PKK terrorist organization in Hakkari.Nuland called the PKK a terrorist organization, which caused the death of tens of thousands of Turks, and said that her country was supporting Turkey in its fight against the PKK. She said that they would continue to cooperate with the Turkish government in the fight against all types of terrorism.
U.S. Urges Turks, Saudis to Press Assad to Step Down
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other governments should call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, but declined to make that call herself.
"It's not going to be any news if the United States says Assad needs to go," Clinton said, suggesting the world's reaction to such a move would be, "'OK, fine. What's next?' If Turkey says it, if King Abdullah (of Saudi Arabia) says it, if other people say it, there's no way the Assad regime can ignore it," Clinton said during an appearance with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the U.S. National Defense University.
U.S. officials said privately last week that the United States was preparing to explicitly urge al-Assad to quit power over his regime's deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests, but Clinton made clear Washington was not ready to do so. Indicating the Turks, Saudis and other regional powers have more influence on Syria, Clinton said,"We don't have very much going on with Syria because of the long history of challenging problems with that."
When pressed on whether President Barack Obama's administration should demand that al-Assad step down, Clinton replied: "I am a big believer in results over rhetoric." She said the U.S. diplomatic approach toward Syria amounts to "smart power," noting such an approach is an alternative to using brute force and unilateralism.
"It's being smart enough to say, 'you know what, we want a bunch of people singing out of the same hymn book,'" Clinton said.
The Obama administration has been working with the international community to ratchet up pressure on al-Assad, who has been deaf to growing calls to stop a crackdown that human rights groups say has killed more than 2,000 people since mid-March. Clinton sought to deflect suggestions that the United States was taking a back seat to other countries.
"We are leading, but part of leading is making sure you get other people on the field," she said.
Iran, Turkey Should Work Together in Talks with Syria, Iranian Ambassador Says
Iran's Ambassador in Ankara, Bahman Husseinpur, said a foreign intervention in Syria would stir the region. Husseinpur said Turkey should act together with Iran and talk to Syria. He claimed that the United States was trying to put the countries of the region into fire.
Israel Refuses Apology for Mavi Marmara Attack
Turkey is standing firm on its demand for Israel to apologize to the families of nine people killed in a raid on a Gaza flotilla by Israeli soldiers last May. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects any apology, according to an official.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdoğan said Wednesday that it was impossible for Turkish-Israeli relations to return to normal unless Israel apologizes to Turkey for the killing of nine Turks aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Gaza-bound aid ship, and lifts the embargo on Gaza.
"Turkey will not take a step back. From now on, we will act with the families who lost their relatives in the flotilla attack," Erdoğan said. An Israeli official said earlier Wednesday that Israel would stick to its refusal to apologize to Turkey, dampening any prospects for reconciliation between the former allies.
The decision, which the official said Netanyahu conveyed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a telephone call, was made days before the publication of the findings of a UN inquiry into the seizure of the Mavi Marmara last year, Reuters reported. The so-called Palmer Report was repeatedly delayed to allow for Israeli-Turkish rapprochement talks amid concerns in Washington over the rift between two countries that had been strategic partners in an increasingly stormy Middle East.
Israeli officials, citing advance copies of the report, have said it would vindicate Israel's blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Turkey, which, like Israel, had a delegate on the UN panel headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, has said it would not accept such a finding. The Mavi Marmara was part of an activist flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza when it was boarded by Israeli marines on the Mediterranean high seas on May 31, 2010. The marines shot dead nine Turks, including a dual U.S. citizen, during fierce deck brawls. Netanyahu voiced regret over the killings, but Turkey insisted on a formal apology and compensation for those bereaved and injured.
An Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, said Wednesday that Israeli diplomats in Washington handed the government a message from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying the Israel-Turkey crisis was interfering with U.S. attempts to deal with the bloodshed in Syria. A similar message was given to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak when he visited Washington in late July and Clinton asked him to do everything in his power to resolve the crisis , including apologizing, the paper said.
"We're firm on not apologizing," the Israeli official said. Asked if Israel might change tack after the Palmer Report's publication, the official said: "Why would we do that? We know the report supports our position." İpek Yezdani contributed to this report from the Istanbul Bureau Quartet condemns Israeli settlements.
The United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations on Tuesday attacked Israel's move to expand a West Bank settlement as a threat to peace efforts. The new public condemnation of Israel came amid intense efforts by Tony Blair, the diplomatic Quartet's special envoy to get the Palestinians and Israelis back into direct talks, diplomats reported.
"The Quartet is greatly concerned by Israel's recent announcements to advance planning for new housing units in Ariel and east Jerusalem," the four said in a statement. "This comes at a critical juncture with Quartet efforts ongoing to resume negotiations, which are the only way to a just and durable solution to the conflict," the statement said.
Israel on Monday approved the building of 277 new homes in Ariel, a Jewish settlement inside the occupied West Bank, taking the total to more than 2,700 new settler homes approved in the past two weeks. The planned expansion has brought a furious response from the Palestinian Authority, which has shunned direct talks since Israel ended a moratorium on settlement building in September last year. Israel has rejected the international criticism, insisting that the settlements are not an obstacle to direct talks.
"The Palestinians have negotiated many times when settlements were in existence," said Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor.
Clinton Says Turkey Should Call for Assad Resignation
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other governments should call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, declining to make that call herself. But Turkey is not willing to be the leading country in that role.
Ankara does not rule out that option, but says it's too early to call for al-Assad's departure.It is crucial to develop a common regional attitude toward Syria, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters on Wednesday in response to a question recalling Clinton's remarks.
"We'll extend contacts in our region to develop a joint attitude on Syria. We'd do the best for timing and for what to say," Davutoğlu said."If there will be call on Assad to step down, it should not be Turkey to make the call, but everyone, first of all Syrian people should say that first," a diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Turkey does not rule out the option, but also is not considering it at the moment, another Turkish official told the Daily News.
"It's not going to be any news if the U.S. says Assad needs to go," Clinton said, suggesting the world's reaction to such a move would be, "'OK, fine. What's next?' If Turkey says it, if King Abdullah says it, if other people say it, there's no way the Assad regime can ignore it," she said Tuesday. When asked whether the Obama administration should demand that al-Assad step down, Clinton said: "I am a big believer in results over rhetoric."
She also said the U.S. diplomatic approach toward Syria amounts to "smart power," noting such an approach is an alternative to using brute force and unilateralism. Ankara has not indicated willingness to lead an international coalition to conduct coercive diplomacy to push drastic measures on the Syrian administration, but instead it is seeking coherence with regional countries. Along with Western actors, Turkey has been discussing the situation with regional countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Turkey does not favor military intervention, Davutoğlu said late Tuesday, but added that the Syrian army's military operation against civilians was not acceptable.
"We are determined to take every necessary measure to make sure the operations stop. This is for us an issue that closely concerns our own stability," Davutoğlu said. Turkey will also continue to talk with Syria, as it would with other countries, Davutoğlu told reporters in a joint press appearance with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh on Wednesday.
Although Ankara might have not succeeded with its preventive diplomacy on Syria, since al-Assad has not taken steps to end the violence or implement urgent reforms, Turkey prefers diplomatic ambiguity before applying isolation policies to Damascus. A limited engagement policy could continue for the Syrian administration, the diplomatic source said.
Turkey is considering developments in Syria putting two threshold points to take further measures. The crisis in Syria is at the level of a human rights violation, but it could lead to a crisis on Turkey's border, the diplomatic source warned. The next level of threat could be a regional crisis, the source added.
Davutoğlu denied claims that Turkey was establishing a buffer zone on the Turkish-Syrian border.
"We are talking about a 900-kilometer border. We cannot talk about such a development right now," he said, adding however that the possibility of a safe heaven is on the agenda. If thousands of people gather on the Turkish-Syrian border, Ankara could take security measures and set up a safe haven, the diplomatic source said.
'Kılıçdaroğlu Must Apologize'
Davutoğlu also slammed the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for his criticism of the government for not informing the opposition regarding the developments in the foreign policy. Davutoğlu said Kılıçdaroğlu should first apologize to him for calling him a "subcontractor" regarding Turkey's Syria policy.
Erdogan to Deliver Assistance to Somalia
Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, convened in Istanbul and listened to the screams of Somalia.
Representatives from 40 countries, which convened under the leadership of Turkey, collected $500 million in assistance for Somalia striving against famine. Turkey made the biggest donation which is $200 million.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who will travel to Somalia on Friday, will deliver the assistance himself.