Turkish airstrikes cause widespread forest fires, displacement in Kurdistan Region
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local officials in the Kurdistan Region’s province of Duhok announced on Wednesday that, in addition to displacement caused by recent Turkish military bombardment targeting members of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), large swaths of forestland have also burned in multiple rural mountainous areas.
“Turkish bombing of border areas in the northern part of the province has caused the burning of 25 to 30 percent of the forests in those areas, as well as the deaths of wild animals and other impacts on wildlife,” said Mohammed Tahir, director of the governorate’s Environment Directorate, in a statement.
“The damaged locations included forests in the border regions of the Amedi, Zakho, and Akre districts, known for their dense forests with pine, oak, and other trees,” added Tahir.
On Monday evening, Turkish artillery shelling targeted the center of Kani-Masi sub-district in Duhok province, “with two Turkish artillery shells, landed 100 meters from the sub-District building, in an accident first of its kind, of a sub-district center being targeted by Turkey,” Sarbast Akrey confirmed to Kurdistan 24.
Four days earlier, a the Turkish military caused severe damage to a house in a village in Zakho, also in Duhok.
Turkish air and artillery strikes throughout border areas of the Kurdistan Region have become an almost daily event in recent weeks, causing great material losses for residents and farmers and a mass evacuation of hundreds of residents from dozens of villages.
With the beginning of the harvest season for local agricultural crops, notable among them wheat and barley, many farmers are afraid to return to their lands due to the intense Turkish bombardment ostensibly targeting the PKK fighters in or near such villages.
Ibrahim Ahmed, who fled his border village in the district of Batifa earlier this week out of fear, said, “Turkish forces are invading any area they want to reach without anyone preventing them.” He called for an end to the attacks which he said target sites near villages where the PKK has no presence at all.
Turkey has intensified its air and artillery shelling, and ground attacks into border areas within the Kurdistan Region since mid-June, causing significant property damage and multiple civilian casualties.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has condemned the attacks and demanded that both Turkey and PKK withdraw from the autonomous region and take the fight elsewhere. Baghdad has also condemned the Turkish attacks and summoned the Turkish ambassador twice to deliver two strongly worded protest notes.
The federal government in Baghdad has also dispatched border guards at several points in Duhok’s border areas.
There is, however, no indication that Ankara is planning to decrease its cross border military operations within the Kurdistan Region.
Editing by John J. Catherine