CUKURCA, Turkey – Turkish troops have killed 77 Kurdish rebels in night-long clashes in northern Iraq, the military said Wednesday. Five soldiers were also killed.
Meanwhile, more than 40 military trucks ferried troops toward the Iraqi border Wednesday, a day after heavy snow slowed down Turkey's ground incursion against Kurdish rebels.
F-16 warplanes and helicopters were seen flying over the border town of Cukurca toward Iraq.
The death toll for the rebels reached to 230, the military said. The death toll for soldiers stood at 24. The military said three pro-government village guards were also killed during the operation that began last week.
Iraq has demanded an immediate end to the operation. Turkey, however, says it will continue the incursion until it achieves its military goals.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, before his arrival in Turkey later Wednesday, said in India that he will tell Turkish leaders they need to wrap up their military operations in northern Iraq quickly, and that the ongoing assault must not last longer than a week or two.
Gates also said he will call on Turkey to address some of the complaints of the Kurds and move from combat to economic and political initiatives to solve the problems.
"It's very important that the Turks make this operation as short as possible and then leave. They have to be mindful of Iraqi sovereignty," said Gates.
He added: "I measure quick in terms of days, a week or two, something like that, not months."
It was the first time that Gates put any time limit on the incursion, which Turkey launched in northern Iraq on Thursday against rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The rebels are fighting for autonomy in the largely Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey, and have carried out attacks from northern Iraq.
The Turkish military said Tuesday that warplanes and artillery hit targets in Iraq but that snow had hampered combat operations of some units, which instead engaged in patrols and supply runs.
It is the first confirmed Turkish military ground operation in Iraq in about a decade. The conflict has killed up to 40,000 people since 1984. The U.S. and European Union consider the PKK to be a terrorist group.