Turkey uses Israel-supplied drones against Kurdish rebels in Iraq

Turkey’s once-close relations with Israel are in jeopardy following the deadly Israeli naval attack on a Turkish-organized “Free Gaza” aid flotilla, with Ankara reportedly instating on a freeze on deals with Israeli defense contractors. But this has not kept the Turkish military from using Israeli-supplied drones against the Kurdish PKK rebelsā€”inside Iraq. According to Turkish sources, the army has been using Israeli-made drones to locate PKK positions, both in eastern Turkey and northern Iraq. After delays of more than two years, a partnership of Israel Aerospace Industries and the Israeli defense firm Elbit delivered six Heron drones to the Turkish military in April. Four more are expected later this month. (Ha’aretz, Hurriyet Daily News, June 20)

This week, 10 members of a group 34 Kurds who returned to Turkey last October after several years in exile in northern Iraq were arrested after being charged with “supporting a terrorist organization.” The group’s return was one of the first visible tests of the government’s new peace initiative in the eastern regionsā€”sometimes referred to as the “Kurdish opening.” More groups of exiled Kurds were supposed to come after the first one, but the heroes’ welcome given to the initial group and the fact that jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan said they returned at his command, made the affair politically costly for the government; plans for further returns have been put on hold. (Hurriyet Daily News, June 17)

Comments Yigal Schleifer on his Istanbul Calling blog: “So much for amnesty and reconciliation.”

See our last posts on Israel/Palestine and Iraq, Turkey and the Kurds.

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  1. Turkish officers in Israel for drone instruction
    File under “Life’s little ironies.” From YNet, June 23:

    Despite growing strains in Turkey’s relationship with Israel, which reached a nadir following the deadly commando raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, a delegation of more than 20 Turkish officers and soldiers landed in the Jewish state on Tuesday for a two-week visit, during which they will be trained to operate the Heron drone, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

    Turkey has purchased 10 Heron drones for an estimated $190 million. Six of them have already been delivered. The Turkish delegation, which also includes senior government officials, is expected to return to Ankara with the remaining four drones.

    The drones, which are manufactured by the Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems, are used by the Turkish military to gather intelligence in the ongoing conflict with Kurdish insurgents. More than 300 insurgents have been killed by Turkish forces in the past few days.