An RFE/RL correspondent at the scene, Sargis Harutyunyan, reported that the city was rocked by several explosions that partly destroyed the headquarters of the Karabakh Rescue Service.
“Four persons were injured,” a spokesperson for the service told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “Thank God, nobody was killed.”
Karabakh officials said that Stepanakert was hit by rockets fired by the Azerbaijani army. The city is located a few dozen kilometers from the nearest section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh.
“There will be a proportionate retaliation,” a spokesman for Ara Harutiunian, the Karabakh president, said shortly after the shelling. “The family of [Azerbaijani President Ilham] Aliyev will bear the full responsibility for that.”
The RFE/RL reporter and a cameraman had to take cover in a basement when Stepanakert again came under heavy artillery fire in the evening. One of the shells or rockets exploded near their shelter.
Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army said Azerbaijani forces also fired rockets at the Karabakh town of Hadrut. Five Hadrut residents were wounded, it said.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry did not immediately comment on what was the worst shelling of Stepanakert since the September 27 outbreak of heavy fighting on the Karabakh frontlines. It accused Armenian forces of shelling Azerbaijani villages close to the “line of contact.”
The Karabakh authorities say that the hostilities have left 152 ethnic Armenian soldiers and 13 civilians dead.
The Azerbaijani side reported 16 civilian casualties as of Thursday evening. It has still not disclosed the number of Azerbaijani soldiers killed in action.
The hostilities involving scores of tanks, artillery systems and attack drones continued on Friday despite growing international efforts to stop the bloodshed.