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Heavy Shelling Continues In Karabakh


NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- A view shows aftermath of recent shelling in Stepanakert, October 4, 2020

Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital Stepanakert was again shelled on Monday as fierce fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continued along the “line of contact” around Karabakh.

News reports said that Stepanakert came under intense rocket fire in the morning. The RIA Novosti news agency reported that about two dozen powerful explosions rocked residential areas and other parts of the city.

A spokesman for Arayik Harutiunian, Vahram Poghosian, condemned the shelling and vowed a swift retaliation. Vahram Poghosian said Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army will strike Azerbaijani military facilities located in “large cities.”

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said, meanwhile, that Armenian forces are shelling three Azerbaijani towns close to the “line of contact.” It again claimed that missiles are being fired from Armenia and that Yerevan is “provoking Azerbaijan to take retaliatory measures.”

Armenia rejected the claim as “disinformation.” It similarly denied on Sunday night Azerbaijani allegations that several Azerbaijani cities were hit by missiles launched from Armenian territory.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Baku is thus “preparing the ground” for expanding “the geography of the war. “Any provocation by the Azerbaijani side will receive an adequate response from the Republic of Armenia,” it warned.

Stepanakert and the nearby town of Shushi were already subjected to intense shelling on Sunday. Local officials said 4 people were killed and ten others were wounded as a result, bringing to 18 Karabakh’s civilian death toll from the hostilities that broke out on September 27.

Baku says that the fighting has left 24 Azerbaijani civilians dead.

An RFE/RL correspondent witnessed on Sunday extensive damage inflicted on residential and other buildings in Stepanakert. Some of it appeared to have been caused by cluster munitions.

Most Stepanakert residents now live in basements or other bomb shelters. Some have fled to Armenia.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemned the “surge in attacks using heavy explosive weaponry on populated areas” in the Karabakh conflict zone.

“Hundreds of homes and key infrastructures like hospitals and schools have been destroyed or damaged by heavy artillery fire and by airborne attacks including missiles … Families are on the move looking for safe shelter, while others have retreated underground to unheated basements sheltering day and night from violence,” the ICRC said in a statement.

“The use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area against military targets in populated areas may violate international humanitarian law, which prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” it said.

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