Thousands flee southeast Turkey over heavy clashes

Thousands of Kurdish residents of a district in Turkey’s embattled southeastern city of Diyarbakir have fled the area amid intense clashes between government forces and militants.

More than 2,000 people left the ancient Sur district as local authorities beefed up security measures and extended a round-the-clock curfew zone to five more neighborhoods.

The curfew bars residents from leaving their homes. It also prevents journalists and observers from entering the areas, where clashes are underway between Turkish army forces and the  outlawed PKK militants.

Sur has suffered extensive damage in the fighting and much of it has been under a 24-hour curfew since December 2, 2015.

The military says at least 134 militants have been killed in the army’s anti-PKK campaign ever since.

Kurds leave their houses with their belongings after new curfews were imposed in the Sur district, southeastern Turkey, Jan. 27, 2016. (© AFP)

On Wednesday, at least 23 people, including three Turkish soldiers and 20 Kurdish fighters, were killed in street battles in southeastern Turkey.

According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, at least 198 civilians, including 39 children, have been killed in military operations against PKK members since last August.

Human Rights Watch criticized Ankara for not providing the exact number of civilian casualties, and failing to provide urgent medical evacuations for civilians trapped in conflict zones.

“Many people have died in circumstances which are extremely difficult to scrutinize because of the curfews,” HRW’s senior Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb said on Wednesday.

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