Thirteen civilians were killed in the night bombardment of a residential area in Gandja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city, authorities said on Saturday. Azerbaijan vowed on Saturday to “avenge” their deaths.
This is a further escalation of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijanis and Armenian separatists. A few hours earlier, Azerbaijani strikes had targeted the separatist capital, Stepanakert, according to AFP journalists in the city, the majority of whose residents had fled since hostilities began on September 27.
The deadly strike on Friday night on Ganja was followed by a second in another part of the city and then by a shot aimed at the neighboring town of Mingecevir.
Powerless international community
These bombings, as well as the fighting on the front line, bear witness to the powerlessness of the international community for three weeks. For a week, a humanitarian truce agreement negotiated under the aegis of Moscow has never been applied. Pentagon chief Mark Esper and French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly reiterated the need to end hostilities on Friday evening.
Nagorno Karabakh, mainly populated by Christian Armenians, seceded from Azerbaijan, a Turkish-speaking Shiite, shortly before the breakup of the USSR in 1991, leading to a war that claimed 30,000 lives in the 1990s. the fire, punctuated by clashes, had been in force since 1994.
In Gandja, AFP journalists saw houses destroyed by the missile which hit the sleeping residents around 3 a.m. local time (1 a.m. in Switzerland). According to the attorney general, 13 civilians were killed, including children, and more than 45 were injured. Crying residents fled the scene, some in pajamas and slippers.
“We are going to take revenge on the battlefield”, proclaimed Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev in a speech in which he describes his separatist enemy and his godfather, Armenia, by turns “dog”, fascists “and” beasts ” wild “.
Dozens of rescuers searched for survivors with their bare hands. After a few hours, a team gathered shredded human remains in black body bags.
City of more than 300,000 inhabitants, Gandja has already been struck several times since the start of the conflict, especially on Sunday when a missile killed ten people.
The Armenian separatists noted on Saturday that the city is home to “legitimate targets”: air base, headquarters of a motorized brigade, special forces, Azerbaijani defense operations center, army fuel depots, and military factories. ammunition.
They also accused Azerbaijan of having attacked civilian infrastructure in Karabakh during the night, requiring a response.
Stepanakert was rocked by explosions around 10 p.m., 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., according to AFP journalists. In particular, a strike destroyed part of the roof of a shopping center and, further on, the windows of shops and a residential building were shattered.
Elsewhere on the front, President Aliev announced on Saturday morning the capture of new territories, in particular Fizouli “a city occupied for thirty years by wild beasts”. This area forms one of the seven Azerbaijani districts that the separatists took control in the 1990s.
Azerbaijan has made territorial gains over the past three weeks without winning a decisive battle. Baku does not publish any military, material or human toll, while the separatists claim to have killed thousands of men.
The separatists claim to have killed thousands of men, admit having had to back down but claim to “control the situation”. Officially, they lost around 700 men, and half of the 140,000 inhabitants were displaced.
In addition to a potential humanitarian crisis, the fear is that this conflict will become international, Turkey supporting Azerbaijan. Armenia, which supports the separatists financially, politically and militarily, is in a military alliance with Russia.