Major cities under military strikes hit as heavy fighting continues in Nagorno-Karabakh

Azerbaijan’s second-largest city, Ganja, has been shelled by Armenian forces, as heavy clashes continue over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The enclave is officially part of Azerbaijan but run by ethnic Armenians.

Azerbaijan says no Ganja military sites were hit. More than 220 people have died since clashes began a week ago.

The self-proclaimed authorities there say they hit Ganja’s military airport after Azerbaijani forces shelled the region’s capital, Stepanakert.

Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988-94, eventually declaring a ceasefire. However, they have never reached a settlement over the dispute.

The current fighting is the worst seen since the ceasefire and the two former Soviet republics have been blaming each other.

There are fears that the actual death toll among the militaries from all sides as well as civilians could be much higher, as casualty claims from both sides have not been independently verified.

Azerbaijan’s military says its forces have retaken control of seven villages since Sunday, while Nagorno-Karabakh says its troops have “improved” their frontline positions.

Earlier this week, Armenia said it stood “ready to engage” with mediators from France, Russia and the US to try to agree a ceasefire.

Azerbaijan, which is openly backed by Turkey, has demanded the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent areas seized by ethnic Armenian troops.

What’s the latest from the battlefield?

In a brief statement on Sunday, Azerbaijan’s defence ministry said Armenian forces were shelling Ganja, the western Azerbaijani city lying to the north of Nagorno-Karabakh.

A building is on fire after shelling in Stepanakert, disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Photo: 3 September 2020
image captionStepanakert is reported to be without electricity

Defence Minister Minister Zakary Hasanov later said this was a “clearly provocative” move which was expanding the conflict.

In a later statement, the defence ministry said: “The information spread by the Armenian side about the alleged shelling of military facilities in Ganja city is provocative and false.”

“As a result of enemy fire, civilians, civilian infrastructure, and ancient historical buildings were harmed, ” it said.

Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh
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Meanwhile, Nagorno-Karabakh’s authorities said on Sunday that Ganja’s military airport used by Azerbaijani forces to attack Armenian civilians had been destroyed.

They said they had acted after Stepanakert was hit by missiles. Heavy casualties were reported in the city, which was left without electricity, according to Armenpress news agency.

It quoted the region’s leader, Arayik Harutyunyan, as warning that “from now on the military facilities permanently deployed in Azerbaijan’s major cities are legitimate targets of the defence army”.

media captionRos Atkins explains why fighting over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh continues to intensify

Separately, Armenian Defence Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said that “that no fire of any kind is being opened from the territory of Armenia in Azerbaijan’s direction”.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s authorities have confirmed that 201 of its service personnel and a number of civilians have died since the fighting erupted on 27 September.

Azerbaijan says 22 civilians have been killed, without providing information about its military casualties.

Arab Observer

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