updated 9/1/2007 4:35:05 AM ET 2007-09-01T08:35:05

As explosions boomed in the distance, a Kurdish woman stood outside her house and pointed to where shells scorched parts of her father’s grapes and plum orchards.

“It was a bad day when some 20 shells hit our village in a single day last week. We were crying as we prayed to God to protect us from the bombs of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Serwa Ibrahim, one of the few remaining villagers in Mardow, about 25 miles from the Iranian border.

“Despite the shelling, I will stay in my village until the end,” Ibrahim, 33, said Thursday.

Separatist Kurds
Iranian troops have been accused of bombing border areas for weeks against suspected positions of the Free Life Party, or PEJAK, a breakaway faction of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Iran says PEJAK — which seeks autonomy for Kurds in Iran — launches attacks inside Iran from bases in Iraq.

The Iranian shelling has been criticized by Iraqi officials and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari warned it could have negative effects on the crucial relations between Iran and Iraq’s Shiite-led government.

Ari Yashir, a PEJAK member, took a reporter in a tour around several deserted villages and claimed the Iranian attacks only serve to harm civilians.

“The bombing is only targeting villages where we have no bases,” he said. “After three weeks of Iranian shelling none of our positions was hit and not a single member of our party was wounded.”

Most of the people who fled their homes have gathered in an area known as Shewe Hasow, a valley with water springs in the Qandil Mountain area that borders Iran and Turkey. Many of them stay in tents or under covers mostly supplied by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“We are here because the refugees are in need,” said ICRC member Patrick Youssef, standing by a truck with canned food and bottled water. “We are helping them with needed stuff because most of them left their homes leaving their things behind.”

450 families displaced
The Kurdish region’s interior minister, Othman Haji Mahmoud, told the Kurdish regional parliament Tuesday that the Iranian shelling led to the displacement of some 450 families in 20 villages, adding that several people were wounded in addition to material damages.

He said the latest wave of shelling began Aug. 14.

In Baghdad, Zebari said Tuesday that the main areas struck are in the northern provinces of Irbil and Sulaimaniyah. Iranian shelling “has been ongoing and unfortunately has become a daily or a routine practice. Recently, we summoned the Iranian ambassador and handed him a note of protest.”

“PEJAK sometimes moves in border area, but this does not permit all this continuous, daily and intensive shelling,” said Zebari, a Kurd, who noted that Iraq was prepared to hold negotiations with Iran on the disputes over Kurdish rebel groups.

“We hope that these attacks will stop immediately.”

To some Kurds in the region, they have been living the war for decades, including widespread atrocities blamed on Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 1980s.

“We are the victims of a continuous struggle. My house was destroyed five times and I rebuilt it. Let this be the sixth time,” said Abdullah Wasou Ibrahim, who fled to the refugee camp with 10 family members.

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