Turkish forces have attacked suspected Kurdish PKK positions in the southeast of the country, in the first major confrontation with the rebel group since peace talks began two years ago to end a 30-year conflict.
Military statements on Tuesday said rebels belonging to the PKK movement attacked an outpost in Hakkari with long barreled weapons on Monday, prompting the military to retaliate “in the strongest way” using “fire support” vehicles.
Various reports from Turkish media said the military had used jets to attack PKK positions, reports that remain unconfirmed by Turkish authorities.
The Firat news agency, which is close to the PKK, said five PKK positions in Hakari were attacked from the air following three days of artillery fire from Turkish positions. It said the PKK had retaliated to the artillery.
The attacks come amid accusations by Kurds that Turkey is standing idly by while Syrian Kurds are being slaughtered across the border in the besieged town of Kobane.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Urfa, near the Turkish border with Syria, said that Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, was expected to issue a statement on Wednesday that should indicate how the group would react to the attack.
“The back story is that last week the acting leader of the PKK said that effectively the two-year peace process with Turkey was over because of the Turkish military build-up along the Iraq and Syria border,” said Smith.
“And it is over because the Turkish government has resorted to heavy-handed tactics in cracking down on Kurdish protesters.”
Smith was referring to the protesters who took to the streets in several cities in the southeast over the past week because of frustration for what has been seen as Turkey’s lack of action to stop the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group in northern Syria where Kurds are under threat.
Scores died during a police crackdown on the demonstrations.