Turkish jets launched air raids on suspected Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq on Wednesday, Turkish and Kurdish media reported, hours after eight soldiers and a village guard were killed in an ambush by the autonomy-seeking guerrillas.
Some 15 warplanes took off from a Turkish base to strike at bases which the rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, use as a springboard to attack targets inside Turkey, according to a report on the NTV news channel. CNN-Turk television said Turkish F-16s were involved in the raids.
The Firat news agency, which is close to the rebels, said the Turkish jets were also targeting Qandil, a mountain on the Iraqi-Iranian border, where the rebels' leaders are believed to be hiding.
The Turkish reports were based on unidentified sources and there was no immediate official confirmation of the strikes.
If confirmed, the raids would be Turkey's first cross border offensive since last summer, when Turkish warplanes carried out a series of retaliatory air raids on suspected rebel hideouts across the border.
Turkish officials warned of a major offensive against the rebels following the ambush on a military convoy near the border with Iraq, that killed eight soldiers and a village guard working with them. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said armored personnel carriers in the convoy came under rocket fire after being attacked with roadside bombs.
Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz vowed tough response immediately after the attack, as the military launched an air and ground offensive in the largely Kurdish Hakkari province where the attack happened, Turkey's state television reported.
"The retaliation they will find will be manifold stronger," Yilmaz said.
More than 30 Turkish soldiers have died in intensified rebel attacks since July, including one that killed 13 service members in July, leading to a major military offensive in southeastern Turkey.
Earlier this week, Erdogan said Turkey is at the end of its tether and hinted toward a strong offensive after the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
But Wednesday's attack appears to have forced Turkey to bring plans forward.
Asked earlier Wednesday about the possibility of a cross-border offensive, Erdogan replied: "These things are not talked about they are done."
Turkey has frequently launched air strikes or sent soldiers across the border to fight the rebels.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States stands with Turkey in its fight against the PKK.
"We support Turkey in its fight against terror, and we will continue to work with the government of Turkey to combat terrorism in all forms," Nuland said.
The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, is fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.