Nagorno-Karabakh: Key cities targeted in Armenian, Azeri shelling

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As Armenia and Azerbaijan continue their clash over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region for a second week, both countries have blamed one another for targeting important cities and endangering the lives of civilians.

Armenia’s government-run information centre has released footage purportedly showing artillery attacks by Azeri forces on Sunday within the city of Stepanakert.

Armenian authorities claimed civilian casualties as a results of Sunday’s attack.

The video shows severely damaged buildings, including an apartment block, and a street covered in debris.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith was forced to go away Stepanakert on Sunday night thanks to “intense bombardment”, which he said killed five civilians.

“We are told by people still in Stepanakert that the bombardment has [re]started this morning,” he said, reporting from the Armenian town of Goris.

Armenia’s ministry of defence tweeted that Azeri forces had fired rockets at Stepanakert and Shushi “with great intensity”.

“Fierce fighting engagements are ongoing,” the ministry tweeted on Monday.

Anna Naghdalyan, spokeswoman for Armenia’s ministry of foreign affairs, said on Monday that Stepanakert is being “continuously attacked by Azerbaijani soldiers with cluster munitions”.

Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said Armenian forces were shelling three of its towns – Beylagan, Barda, and Terter – after hitting Ganja and Mingecevir, the country’s second and fourth-largest cities respectively, on Sunday.

Hikmet Hajiyev, head of Azerbaijan’s policy Affairs Department, tweeted that four Tochka ballistic missiles had been launched at Mingecevir, which features a population of quite 100,000 and is found 100km (62 miles) from Armenia’s border.

However, Shushan Stepanyan, press secretary for Armenia’s defence ministry, dismissed Azerbaijan’s accusations that Armenia was targeting Mingecevir as false.

“No fire was opened from Armenia,” Stepanyan tweeted. “This is that the desperate convulsions of the Azerbaijani side.”

Reporting from Mingecevir, Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu said she witnessed three missiles falling.

“Two of them hit on the brink of the hydroelectric power station ,” she said. “One other hit the town centre and therefore the fourth hit accessible a maternity [unit] where a building was damaged and two civilians were injured.”

Mingecevir’s hydroelectric plant supplies electricity to the whole country, and therefore the city also features a large water reservoir which Koseoglu said Armenia had threatened to focus on .

“If the water reservoir is hit, 14 cities of Azerbaijan would be flooded,” she said.

“The Azeris are saying the concept of the conflict is transforming into another one where long-range missiles are involved and crowded cities and strategic destinations are targeted, which might have more catastrophic outcomes if the missiles hit their targets,” she continued.

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Sunday condemned reports of “indiscriminate shelling and other alleged unlawful attacks using explosive weaponry in cities, towns and other populated areas”.

Escalating conflict
The latest clashes erupted on September 27 and have killed dozens, marking the most important escalation during a decades-old conflict over the region, which lies within Azerbaijan but is controlled by local ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia.

In a fiery address to the state on Sunday, Azerbaijani President Aliyev set several stiff conditions for a ceasefire.

He said Armenian forces “must leave our territories, not in words but in deeds”, provide a timetable for a full withdrawal, apologise to the Azerbaijani people and recognise the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

Yerevan rejected Aliyev’s demands.

Karabakh’s presidency threatened to “expand subsequent (military) actions to the whole territory of Azerbaijan”.

Armenian sources have put the price from fighting within the region – home to about 145,000 people – at quite 200, while Azerbaijan last said that 19 civilians are killed and 60 injured.

Russia, which features a base in Armenia and also supplies weapons to Azerbaijan, has expressed concerns about the rising number of civilian victims.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov involved a ceasefire as soon as possible during a call together with his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan on Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also demanded an instantaneous end to all or any fighting during a call with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

Azerbaijan and Armenia previously fought a war over Nagorno-Karabakh within the late 1980s and early 1990s as they transitioned into independent countries amid the collapse of the Soviet Union .

The war, which ended with a fragile peace in 1994, is estimated to possess killed tens of thousands of individuals , including quite thousand civilians.

Source: aljazeera

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