SIRNAK, Turkey - – Turkey is shelling suspected Kurdish rebel camps across the border in northern Iraq, a newspaper reported Wednesday, but the government appeared unlikely to move toward sending ground troops until next week.
A member of the governing Justice and Development Party said a request for parliamentary approval for a cross-border ground offensive was unlikely to come to the floor before the end of a four-day religious holiday on Sunday. He asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that preparations for the parliamentary authorization were under way but he did not say when a motion could reach the floor.
A large-scale military incursion would disrupt one of the few relatively peaceful areas of Iraq and jeopardize Turkey's ties with the United States, which has urged Ankara not to take unilateral steps.
The Turkish military launched a major offensive on its side of the border this week in response to more than a week of deadly attacks in southeastern Turkey by the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.
Turkish troops targeting the guerrillas' suspected escape routes in mountainous areas in Sirnak province have "squeezed" a group of about 80 rebels on Mt. Gabar, in Sirnak, the Hurriyet newspaper reported. Escape routes were being bombed by helicopter gunships while transport helicopters were airlifting special commando units to strategic points.
Turkish troops were also shelling suspected PKK camps in the regions of Kanimasa, Nazdur and Sinath, in northern Iraq, from positions in Turkey's Hakkari province, just across the border, Hurriyet reported. Tanks were positioned near the town of Silopi, in Sirnak province, the paper said.
The paper said the government would impose an information blackout on its preparations for a possible cross-border offensive.
In the event that parliament gives its approval, the military could choose to immediately launch an operation or wait to see if the United States and its allies, jolted by the Turkish action, decide to crack down on the rebels.
Turkey conducted two dozen large-scale incursions into Iraq between the late 1980s and 1997. The last such operation, in 1997, involved tens of thousands of troops and government-paid village guards.
Other punitive measure at Turkey's disposal including cutting electricity supplies and closing the border with Iraq.