Pro-Kurdish MPs blocked from Cizre amid security and humanitarian fears
Turkey will not let a delegation of pro-Kurdish MPs enter the city of Cizre in southeastern Turkey, the interior minister said on Thursday, amid security fears and a humanitarian crisis in the area.
"We will not allow them (the Peoples' Democratic Party - HDP delegation) to go to Cizre," Interior Minister Selami Altinok told reporters in Ankara. "It is our duty to protect them."
The government says it has launched a military operation in Cizre and imposed the curfew to eliminate Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants after a string of attacks on Turkish police and army forces that killed at least 29 since Sunday night.
Anltinok said 30-32 members of the PKK had been killed by the armed forces in the Cizre military operation. He said that 800 kilogrammes of explosives had been destroyed, 10 suspected PKK members arrested and caches of arms seized.
He added that one civilian had been killed in clashes.
Altinok said that the curfew, which is now in its seventh day, would be continued so long as required and insisted it was in line with the law.
"Once our activities (the military operation) have been completed as soon as possible, we want to lift the curfew."
Some reports coming out of Cizre say the situation is escalating with the nubmer of civilians casualities rising.
Translation: A family in Cizre, a man, his wife and daughter, grandfather and baby all killed in an explosion in their home.
The HDP, meanwhile, claimed that 21 civilians, including children, have been killed in the operation and a humanitarian crisis is worsening by the day.
In a statement published by on Thursday, the HDP alleged that the state by "cutting off all communication including phone and internet lines, blocking off press and observers" was trying "to prevent the truth about what is happening on the ground from reaching national and international public attention."
But according to a senior Turkish official, it was the PKK and not the military who is responsible for the situation in Cizre.
"We cannot confirm the number of civilian casualties but the use of civilians as human shields and fighting the military forces in civilian areas has become part of the PKK's recent strategy," the official told MEE.
"The PKK has taken over the town and is now holdings its residents under siege. They barricaded certain neighbourhoods, preventing state officials, food and medical aid, as well as ambulances from entering the town," he added.
HDP delegation holds sit-in near Cizre
HDP co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas has been leading fellow deputies and dozens of supporters on a march to Cizre to end the curfew and draw attention to the plight of its 120,000 residents.
But the security forces on Thursday blocked their foot march outside the town of Idil west of Cizre, still a few dozen kilometres from the city, the party and Turkish media said.
On Thursday the delegation staged a sit-down protest on a hillside near the border with Syria and Iraq after soldiers with riot shields blocked their path, party officials said.
According to the Turish state official, the HDP delegation has been prevented from entering because no civilians are allowed into the combat zone.
Reports have said that the delegation was attacked by police, while hundreds of Kurds from surrounding towns and villages continued to join the march
Pro-Kurdish media quoted HDP Mardin deputy Mehmet Ali Aslan who is currently trapped in Cizre as saying at least eight civilians were killed in attacks by Turkish forces overnight.
"It is not possible to go out and buy bread, water is coming to an end and there is no electricity," the HDP quoted Demirtas as saying Thursday on the road to the city.
"In Cizre, 120,000 people have been held hostage by the state for a week," he added.
He said that the corpses of young girls and boys caught in the crossfire could not even be buried.
"They put ice on the corpses to stop them putrefying. Because burials are banned."
The Turkish state says it is the PKK that has prevented civilian casualties from reaching hospitals and aid.
"We are trying to provide food and medical aid," said the senior Turkish official. "Whenever we send ambulances to pick up the wounded the PKK targets them," he added saying that the military is trying to clear boobie traps and barricades put up by the PKK.
"The situation will end when the terrorist threat is neutralised or when the PKK militants lay down their arms and end the siege of more than 100 thousand people," he added.