Unknown gunmen attacked an office of the Kurdistan Information Center in Paris on Jan. 9, killing three women: Sakine Cansız, a legendary founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK); Fidan Doğan, Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress (KNK); and Leyla Söylemez, also of the KNK. Outraged Kurds poured into the street in Paris, blaming Turkey in the attack. Turkish officials meanwhile said the killings were probably a dispute among Kurds, perhaps intended to derail new peace talks between the government and the PKK's imprisoned leader, or to settle a score. (NYT, Hurriyet Daily News, Jan. 10)
With pitched fighting in Damascus, Al Jazeera reports that the Internet is down across Syria, and mobile phone services also disrupted in some areas. Syrian state TV denied the blackout is nationwide, but Renesys, a US-based network security firm that studies Net disruptions, said Syria has effectively disappeared from the Internet. There is some talk that the Net blackout may be due to insurgent attacks, but the regime seems to be conniving in it, at the very least. Recall that when Mubarak pulled the same stunt in January 2011, it proved to be the 10-day countdown to his overthrow.
Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi announced Nov. 17 that peace talks are progressing toward a ceasefire in the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel. Mursi invited Qatar's Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to Cairo for ceasefire discussions after the recent violence broke the informal truce brokered by Egypt between Israel and Hamas in October. After rocket attacks by Palestinian militants into Israel this week, violence began to escalate on Nov. 14 with the killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari in a targeted air strike by the Israel Defense Forces. The next day Palestinian forces responded with rocket fire aimed at multiple Israeli cities and towns. Thus far, 45 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed and hundreds more have been injured.
The Turkish military carried out a ground operation against guerillas of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq Nov. 6, followed by airstrikes in the Kandil Mountains along the border in the following days. Turkish Maroon Beret troops crossed the border and went five kilometers into northern Iraqi to carry out an operation against PKK forces, and returned to Turkey after completing the operation. No official statements have been released by the General Staff about the ground operation pr air strikes, but they were confirmed by local officials on both the Turkish and Iraqi sides of the border. Skirmishes were also reported in Turkey's southeastern province of Şırnak, leaving at least three PKK fighters dead, while 23 people were detained in the eastern province of Van on charges of attacking schools with Molotov cocktails over the past months. This past summer saw an upsurge in PKK attacks in southeast Turkey, notably in the Hakkari region. (Reuters, Nov. 9; Today's Zaman via Phantom Report, Nov. 7)
Thousands have held demonstrations in Ankara, Istanbul and Diyarbakir over the past month to show solidarity with Kurdish political prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Turkey. About 70 Kurdish prisoners started an indefinite hunger strike in prisons across the country on Sept. 12. In the ensuing weeks, hundreds more prisoners have joined them, with the total refusing food now standing at 715. Their demands include greater cultural and political rights for Trukey's Kurds, the country's largest ethnic minority that now numbers some 20 million. Most of the strikers are supporters of the outlawed Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), the so-called "urban branch" of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is labelled a "terrorist organization." They come from a wide range of backgrounds: journalists, students, teachers, professionals, lawyers, town mayors, and even two elected members of parliament. The strikers’ first demand is the "right to defense in Kurdish"—that is, the ability to give their testimony in Turkish courts in their native tongue. The Turkish government is refusing to consider their demands, and has repeatedly unleahsed repression against protesters marching in support of the hunger strikers.
A Turkish court on Nov. 6 opened a trial in absentia for former Israeli military commanders accused of killing nine Turkish citizens aboard a ship attempting to pass through the Gaza blockade in 2010. The Turkish judge began the proceedings with testimony from people who were on board the flotilla, as well as from relatives of the deceased. Prosecutors have demanded life in prison for the Israeli commanders involved in the May 2010 raid to enforce the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The case illustrates tension between Turkey and Israel, which have previously maintained close diplomatic ties. Israel has criticized the trial of the four Israeli commanders, dismissing the proceedings as politically motivated. Hundreds of protestors showed up outside the courthouse to voice their opposition to the actions of the commanders. Turkey has demanded an end to the Gaza blockade, a formal apology and compensation for the victims and their family.
Turkey's parliament in an emergency session on Oct. 4 authorized military action against Syria following deadly cross-border fire—while insisting it was not a war mandate. The vote came as Turkey retaliated for shelling that killed five Turkish nationals. An artillery shell fired from Syria during the clashes between government forces and the Free Syrian Army there landed on a house in the district of Akçakale in the southeastern province of Urfa; a mother and her four children lost their lives, and another 13 people were injured. Although shells have fallen across the border before, it marked the first time that Turkish citizens were killed by Syrian fire. Although Damascus issued an apology, Turkish retaliatory fire continues, killing several Syrian soldiers. An evacuation of Akçakale has been ordered.