“Operation Claw-Tiger has begun. Our special forces heroes are in Haftanin,” some 15 kilometers into neighboring Iraq, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement on its Twitter page on Wednesday.
The ministry said the commando force was backed up by the Air Force, ATAK helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs).
The deployment, it added, had been preceded by an intense artillery bombardment.
Attempting to justify the move, the ministry said the incursion was a response to a recent rise in “harassment and attacks on our police station and base areas.”
“#Operation Claw-Tiger is being carried out as part of our legitimate defense rights arising from international law oriented against the PKK and other terrorist elements,” it claimed.
The Turkish Air Force had begun pounding alleged PKK hideouts in northern Iraq as part of the operation a day earlier.
Ankara’s latest military offensive is likely to intensify tensions with Iraq, whose Foreign Ministry summoned Turkish Ambassador Fatih Yildiz on Monday and served him with a memorandum communicating Baghdad’s outrage over the air raids earlier in the day.
The note condemned violations of the Arab country’s sovereignty and airspace by the Turkish forces. The airstrikes, it added, contravened the international law and ran counter to the principle of good-neighborliness.
Baghdad then urged Turkey to stop the attacks and expressed readiness for joint cooperation in controlling border security in a manner that served the interests of both sides.
Arab lawmakers slam Turkey
Separately, the Arab Parliament — the legislative arm of the Arab League — denounced Turkey’s raids in Iraq on Tuesday, calling on Ankara to respect the sovereignty of its neighbor and put an end to its unilateral military operations there.
Arab Parliament Speaker Meshaal bin Fahim al-Salami said in a statement that “these actions are an infringement on the sovereignty of Iraq, a flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and international norms, and in violation of Security Council resolutions.”
The statement also voiced support for Iraq’s stance against Turkey’s moves.
Iraqi lawmakers also reacted to the latest developments, condemning Ankara’s operations in a statement and calling on the Baghdad government to take action to protect civilians and stop Turkish violations of the country’s sovereignty.
Ankara has been embroiled in a decades-long war on the homegrown Kurdish militant group, which has been after carving out an independent state in southeastern Turkey. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Since 2016, the Turkish government has been arbitrarily extending the mandate of its forces in targeting not only alleged PKK strongholds, but also other Kurdish militants, whom it associates with the PKK.
The attacks have seen Turkish warplanes and ground forces invading Kurdish-populated regions in northern Syria, in what Damascus has, similar to Baghdad, described as an outright violation of its sovereignty.