Fighting between Turkish soldiers and Kurdish rebels near the border with Iraq has left 12 soldiers and 23 rebels dead, said Turkish military officials. The army sent reinforcements, including helicopters, to the area after soldiers were ambushed early on Sunday morning.

The clashes come days after Turkey’s parliament authorized the army to cross the border into Iraq to pursue rebels. The vote followed attacks blamed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which killed nearly 30 troops and civilians.

Not far from the scene of the fighting, in south-eastern Hakkari province, an explosion from a land-mine hit a minibus injuring 10 people, the state news agency Anatolia said.

A statement from the Turkish military said a large group of PKK rebels had crossed the border from Iraq and launched their attack shortly after midnight.

The United States, Turkey’s NATO ally, has led international calls for restraint. [ A NATO ally regardless of the boneheaded Democratic congress antagonistic actions this month insulting Turkey over a disputed historical tragic killing which occurred back in 1913! — zz ]

The US and Iraq fear any incursions would destabilize Iraq’s most peaceful area – the autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

Turkey has been urging the US and Iraq to do something about the PKK rebels based in the remote, mountainous area along the border with Turkey.

The parliamentary vote is a sign that Turkey is serious about wanting its allies and neighbors to help tackle the PKK, says our correspondent.

Washington lists the PKK as a terrorist organization but has said Turkey should work with Iraq to solve the problem.

Iraqi leaders have said they are determined to end the PKK’s activities in Iraq but have urged Turkey not to make an incursion.

The autonomous Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq warned Turkish MPs that any intervention would be “illegal” and has denied providing the PKK with any help.

The rebels themselves said they would fight any Turkish forces which cross the border.

More than 30,000 people have been killed since the PKK began fighting for greater autonomy for the largely-Kurdish south-eastern Turkey since 1984. — excerpts from BBC

This is a situation that is unlikely to be contained given the incompetence of the present Iraqi government. The U.S. can do little without the full support of the political leaders in northern Iraq who have resisted asking the U.S. to call in heavy support. There is no doubt some level of sympathy with the rebels but it is unclear to what extent Iraqi forces are willing to now spread more civil unrest in the north by launching a full blown assault on the PKK. There is little doubt in this editor’s mind that Turkey will have no choice but to do a quick strike incursion military campaign to send a message to the PKK that it has had enough of their terrorists attacks on Turkish soil. Expect this story to mushroom in the next few days… ZZ