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Turkey Shells Rebel Camps at Iraq Border

Turkey is reportedly shelling suspected Kurdish rebel camps across the border in northern Iraq, but the government appeared unlikely to move toward sending ground troops until next week because of a holiday.

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, according to media reports Wednesday.

Further, an opposition nationalist party that has long been advocating an incursion into Iraq called on the government to swiftly take the motion to parliament and said it would back it.

If parliament approves, 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.

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.

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 said preparations for the parliamentary authorization were under way but he did not say when a motion could reach the floor.

Turkish troops targeting the guerrillas' suspected escape routes in mountainous areas in Sirnak province have "squeezed" a group of about 80 rebels on Mount Gabar in Sirnak, the Hurriyet newspaper reported. Escape routes were being bombed by helicopter gun ships while transport helicopters were airlifting special commando units to strategic points.

Turkish authorities have detained 20 suspected Kurdish rebels at a border crossing with Iraq, the office for the governor of Sirnak said in a written statement.

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.

At least one artillery unit was seen positioned on the Turkish side of the border, across from the Iraqi Kurdish town of Zakho, with guns facing toward Iraq.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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