Turkish warplanes pound Mount Sinjar, Makhmour, and Qandil

Beginning Operation “Claw-Eagle”

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SULAIMANI — In a major escalation, Turkish forces launched a series of airstrikes across northern Iraq and the Kurdistan Region early on Monday morning (June 15), hitting targets in Qandil and Makhmour and on Mount Sinjar.

Ankara routinely conducts cross-border attacks against alleged targets of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which sometimes result in civilian casualties. It was not immediately clear whether there were any deaths as a result of the most recent round of airstrikes.

The strikes on Mount Sinjar in particular sparked outrage on social media, since the area is home to thousands of displaced Ezidis. Observers counted approximately 28 strikes on the mountain, according to reports online.

A number of commenters on social media decried Turkey’s decision to hit targets in such close proximity to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps sheltering Ezidis, many of whom are unable to return home almost six years after Islamic State (ISIS) militants committed an attempted genocide against their community in August 2014.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Ezidi activist Nadia Murad tweeted a condemnation of the attack, describing Mount Sinjar as “a war zone.” Just days ago, 150 Ezidi families returned to Sinjar from IDP camps, but the new attacks may discourage others from doing so.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the Turkish Defense Ministry justified its actions as necessary for Turkey's national security and in the interests of self-defense.

“The Claw-Eagle Operation has started. Our planes are bringing the caves down on the terrorists’ heads,” the Turkish Defense Ministry said, referring to the PKK.

“The PKK and other terrorist elements are threatening the security of our people and borders with attacks increasing every day on the areas of our outposts and bases,” it added, according to Reuters.

The PKK has waged a decades-long campaign against the Turkish government seeking autonomy for the Kurdish-populated southeastern part of Turkey. It is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union, and the US.

Its main base of operations is in the Qandil Mountains, north of Sulaimani city, and has a significant presence near Makhmour, which is a refugee camp established under the auspices of the UN in the 1990s to shelter thousands of Kurds fleeing the conflict in Turkey.

Following the 2014 genocide, local Ezidis set up the Sinjar Resistance Units (YPB) with the help of the PKK. As a result, its members have also been targets for Turkish airstrikes.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Turkey have close political and economic ties. As a result, official statements from Erbil usually criticize both Ankara as well as the PKK.

The KRG has not yet released an official statement about the airstrikes on Monday.

(NRT Digital Media)