Heavy fighting continued on Sunday, as the conflict over the disputed Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh entered its second week with both Armenia and Azerbaijan making opposing claims of escalations by the other side.
Baku reported that Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, Ganja, was hit by Armenian missile strikes, while Yerevan insisted that Azeri forces shelled, Stepanakert, the major population centre in the mainly ethnic Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh.
The two rivals carried out artillery and missile strikes throughout the day, with the intensity of the conflict showing no signs of winding down. Civilian areas were damaged as a result, both sides alleged.
In Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh’s main city, home to roughly 55,000 people, sirens were heard, followed by several explosions in the area. There were power outages and residents rushed to nearby shelters.
“New strikes are targeting Stepanakert, there are damages and injuries among civilians,” the self-proclaimed republic’s Foreign Ministry said. It later claimed that there had been deaths. Meanwhile, the Armenian Defense Ministry released footage showing cars and buildings on fire, and streets scattered with projectile fragments.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s forces vowed a crushing response, advising Azerbaijani civilians to leave large cities housing military facilities as they would be targeted in retaliatory strikes. As the day progressed, the unrecognized region claimed that a military airfield has been destroyed in Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second city.
Azerbaijani officials denied their miltary sustained any material losses, but confirmed Ganja came under intense rocket fire, and accused Armenian forces of targeting missiles “against dense residential areas.”
Hikmet Hajiyev, an adviser to Azerbaijan’s president, said at least four missiles hit the city, uploading a video that shows the devastating aftermath of the strikes.
Results of Armenia’s massive missile attacks against dense residential areas in Ganja city. Azerbaijan retains its right to take adequate measures against legitimate military targets to defend civilians and enforce Armenia to peace. 4 new missile just hit Ganja. pic.twitter.com/GInYCJyJc6
— Hikmet Hajiyev (@HikmetHajiyev) October 4, 2020
Officials reported that one civilian was killed and 32 were wounded in the city. Baku accused Armenia of launching the attack from inside its territory – thereby expanding the war zone, Azerbaijan’s defense minister stated.
“Azerbaijan will destroy military targets both inside Armenia and on occupied territories, from which shelling of our populated areas is taking place,” Hajiyev told journalists. Yerevan has denied allegations that it opened fire from its territory.
Intense hostilities have been raging between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops for a week, marking one of the worst escalations in the history of the decades-long dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a large mainly Armenian-populated enclave within the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan. Fighting broke out on September 27, when Baku and Yerevan accused each other of cross-border aggression. Both sides introduced martial law and conscription calls, deploying heavy weaponry to the frontline.
This week, the leaders of France, Russia, and the US – members of the mediating OSCE Minsk Group – called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities between the relevant military forces.”