TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has begun a new military push against Kurdish rebels on the border with Iraq, state television IRIB reported Saturday, days after Turkey said its air strikes had killed up to 160 militants inside Iraqi territory.
Ground troops of Iran's Revolutionary Guards were carrying out the offensive after what IRIB said was a one-month grace period during Ramadan offered to the rebels to withdraw from the country's northwestern border areas.
It said heavy damage had been inflicted in the push to clear rebels from the Sardasht heights border area. Casualty numbers would be released later.
Iran said in mid-August it had killed dozens of members of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Tehran blames for sabotage attacks on gas pipelines and ambushing its troops.
Neither Turkey nor Iran have given figures on civilian casualties caused by their operations against rebels in Iraq's Kurdish region. Hundreds of refugees have fled since mid-July to small camps.
The PKK has fought for Kurdish self-rule for more than 27 years in a conflict that has killed 40,000 people.
Managing the PKK presence is a tricky task for Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish government with Iran to the east, Turkey to the north and to the south a fragile, power-sharing central Iraqi government with whom the Kurds still disagree about territorial and oil rights.
(Reporting by Mitra Amiri; Writing by Robin Pomeroy)