08:53 GMT +3 hours29 May 2016
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People carry the coffin of Medeni Orak, a man killed in Nusaybin, Turkey, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015.

Brink of Civil War: Civilian Casualties Soar in Turkish Assault on Kurds

© AP Photo/ Cagdas Erdogan
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The death toll among civilians has surged as Turkish security forces continue a large-scale operation against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey, shattering the last hopes to conclude a truce between the opposing sides.

Government forces have killed over 150 civilians and at least 200 Kurdish insurgents within the last week, according to human rights groups and local officials, cited by the New York Times. Amid escalating fighting across southeastern Turkey, hundreds of thousands of residents have abandoned their homes for safer regions.

“What people here in the west [of Turkey] do not realize is that we are one step away from a civil war,” Engin Gur, a resident of the Turkish South East who moved to Istanbul, told the New York Times.

The frozen conflict between state authorities and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) reignited last July following the failure of a two-year ceasefire agreement.

Many experts observed that Turkish President Erdogan initially aimed to use the Kurdish conflict as a tool to strengthen the position of his Justice and Development Party (AKP), and consolidate the nation around its leader in the run up to parliamentary elections in November.

As soon as AKP won the elections by a large margin, the violence erupted.

Erdogan promised to eradicate the PKK, claiming that the group is the primary enemy of Turkey in spite of significant military achievements by the Kurds in Syria, including territorial gains that are aligned with the stated policies of Ankara.

“You will be annihilated in those houses, those buildings, those ditches which you have dug,” Erdogan pronounced, referring to trenches made by rebels in many southeastern cities. “Our security forces will continue this fight until it has been completely cleansed and a peaceful atmosphere established.”

At the same time Ankara officially claims it seeks a political settlement to the conflict. Once the military operation is finished, authorities state, talks with Kurds will be resumed.

It’s unknown who would take part in those negotiations on behalf of Kurds. Ankara has ruled out talking with the leader of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas following his calls for Kurdish self-rule in the southeast of the country.

According to the New York Times, the most probable candidate for the role of Kurdish diplomat is jailed rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

“They do not want to deal with the legitimate political actors, that is, the HDP or the PKK leadership directly,” Asli Aydintasbas, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said, commenting on the stance of Turkish officials in the Kurdish conflict.

Aydintasbas added that Ocalan will likely demand a “form of self-rule or autonomy” for the Kurdish population.

As a result of the recent conflict, many settlements in southeastern Turkey have no electricity and many citizens are trapped in their houses with no food, according to the New York Times. Scarce reports from those regions say that once densely populated areas now resemble war zones similar to those of Syria and Iraq.

“The tanks fire all day and we have nowhere left to hide,” Nurettin Kurtay, a resident of Turkey’s southeastern province of Sirnak told the New York Times by phone.

Related:
Protests Resume in Turkey Amid Ankara's Assault on Kurds
Iraq Needs Kurds' Help to Recapture Mosul From Daesh
Middle Eastern Knot: What 2016 Will Bring for Syria?
Tags:
military campaign, Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Ankara
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  • Gollum has been arguing that Assad is a dictator and the killer of his own people and that he must go as he has murdered the civilians in Syria.

    What is it that Gollum is doing now with the Kurds?

    If I put 2 and 2 together...
  • A question to the Sputnik community

    What do you think who is more moderate, the rebels in Syria or the rebels in Turkey?

    And one more question, thanks!

    Can you name the moderate rebels (if any) in Syria, and also (if any) in Turkey?
  • tony pin reply to (Show commentHide comment)
    vendor, Which ones have more guns?
  • in reply totony p(Show commentHide comment)
    tony p, Are you referring to Turks/Syrians or Kurds/Syrian terrorists?
  • Ivan Buckeye
    All of these groups of people being able to blow each away isn't serving any of them any benefit.
  • teddy j
    this is an exact , real-time unfolding of a greek drama lesson:


    HUBRIS eventually meets with NEMESIS -- as the ancient greeks said...
    turkey is reaping what it sowed...

    trying to EXPAND ''BACK to the ottoman empire" -- it is in danger of REDUCTION -- swifter than erdogan imagined............

    the would-be empire of west asia trying to grab middle east in asia (such as syria and iraq) --

    clearly is ending up being REDUCED .....as clearly it DESERVES.
  • isaalikaya
    If western countries would support Kurds in Syria with money that they promised to give 3 bln euro to ErdogansTurkey. Kurds could set a real life in Syria and ppl could settle in Rojava instead of moving towards Europe. I think western countries locked up in their heads and cannot see the outcoming of new ErdogansTurkey. ErdogansTurkey is new Adolf Hitler who has full hate of Kurds, shite ppl, europeans, jewish, americans and now to Russia because of Russian supportive act to shiite Iran and Syria. ErdogansTurkey so dedicated to stand against Western Countries with Nuke in their hands also they so aggresive to set a blockage together with Sunni Arabs... Before it's late, Western Countries have to act against no law statefor Kurds Turkey.
  • teddy jin reply to (Show commentHide comment)
    vendor, BUT -- not to forget -- this genocidal character harks back to what TURKEY DID to ARMENIANS across the BLACK sea....remember?

    the pattern in their history gets clearer...

    from the BOSPORUS section or shores of the black sea (the western shores) TURKEY has tried to 'land forces" into --

    the EASTERN shores -- crimea, south ukraine, armenia...and ''behind" them -- russia...

    and OF COURSE the ottoman empire did expand southwards to syria, iraq...which it is today trying to ''repossess"...

    remember also -- that it was the turks that were the main cause of RUSSIA AND SERBIA , ROMANIA ''Defending orthodoxy" centuries ago....

    clearly -- TURKEY is a VERY aggressing nation.

    what seems
  • teddy j
    russia -- CRIMEA. SOUTH UKRAINE

    ARMENIA
    kurds.
    iraq
    syria.
    greece..

    THAT's THE list of direct neighbors that turkey has been involved in -- literally breaking through borders..............

    my. my -- but the turks ARE ambitious aren't they?
  • in reply toteddy j(Show commentHide comment)
    teddy j, :) you know a bit about the Turks don't you? A Filipino guy? Quite impressive :)


    No more Janissaries!
  • teddy jin reply to (Show commentHide comment)
    vendor, I don't know if i know more than anyone about turkey.

    i just try to read and learn about events like you and others.
    but it's just hard to not notice the pattern of the history. i mean i DID learn a little about the crimean wars when i was a kid because my mom always instilled in us to be interested in history and cultures...and i remember one of the first examples was the ''crimean wars"...just general stuff.

    but when you look back -- it's hard not to make an observation:

    "quarreling with greece on air-space ? incursing inside syria and iraq? historic problem with armenians? crimea? russia? alliance with westerners at least 2 (now 3) times against russia 3 separate times? introducing problematic relation into EU, to the balkans regions? tatar ''crimeans" blowing up electric grid ? NATO ? trying to ''beat egypt" as rival for ''leadership" in middle east ? claiming "national interest" as far away as even saudi arabia and parts of iran already? - nest and smuggling route for ''turkmen" from central asia..terrorists? smuggling? --

    i mean -- that's the M.O. of a serial quarrelsome ''neighbor"

    the neighbors are DIFFERENT VARIETIES...

    they have ONE COMMON denominator they all SHARE -=- problems with ...........turkey.

    can they ALL be wrong?
  • budgie102
    One day not to long Turkey willl no longer be hidding behind nato, and then with any luck we can have a kurd state
  • in reply tobudgie102(Show commentHide comment)
    budgie102, just delete the last word. :)
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