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Originally published Sunday, December 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Turks bomb Kurdish rebel sites in Iraq

Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq on Saturday in the third confirmed cross-border offensive by Turkish forces ...

The Associated Press

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq on Saturday in the third confirmed cross-border offensive by Turkish forces in less than a week, the military said.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara said it was informed before the assault took place, but gave no further information. The United States and Iraq both have urged Turkey to avoid a major operation in the area, fearing it could destabilize what has been the calmest region in Iraq.

The bombing lasted nearly a half-hour Saturday afternoon, and was followed by shelling from inside Turkish borders, the military said in a statement posted on its Web site. It did not say how deep into Iraqi territory the warplanes penetrated or which areas were shelled.

Turkish jet fighters on Dec. 16 launched the first confirmed air assault on Iraqi soil since the U.S.-led invasion, bombing bases in northern Iraq held by the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

Two days after the first air assault, Turkey sent hundreds of troops into northern Iraq, but withdrew them later in the day.

Turkish forces periodically have shelled across the border, and sometimes have carried out "hot pursuits" — limited raids on the Iraqi side that sometimes last only a few hours.

The rebels have battled for autonomy in southeastern Turkey for more than two decades, and use strongholds in northern Iraq for cross-border strikes.

The United States has been providing Turkey with intelligence to go after the rebels, and a coordination center has been set up in Ankara so Turks, Iraqis and Americans can share information.

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