The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia intensified on Monday as the former’s second-largest city, Ganja, came under attack from missiles. Armenia was quick to deny involvement in the attack.
Azerbaijan accused Armenia of launching missiles into Ganja’s residential areas. One civilian was killed while 32 others were injured, said Azerbaijan officials.
“Opening fire on the territory of Azerbaijan from the territory of Armenia is clearly provocative and expands the zone of hostilities,” Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov said
Hikmet Hajiyev, an aide to Azerbaijan’s president, wrote on Twitter that the “insane political-military leadership of Armenia” is a threat to regional peace and security. “Azerbaijan retains its right to take adequate measures against legitimate military targets to defend civilians,” he added.
However, Armenia’s defence ministry was quick to deny the charges. “No fire of any kind is being opened from the territory of Armenia in Azerbaijan’s direction.”
Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict rooted in disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory
The two countries increased hostilities which ultimately erupted into an armed conflict a week ago over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory which is also known as Artsakh.
The conflict threatens to draw in other countries as well, with Turkey openly declaring support for Azerbaijan. The responsibility for the missile attack was claimed by Nagorno-Karabakh’s leader.
“As act of self-protection, in response to days long deliberate shelling” with “prohibited cluster munitions … I ordered to bombard Ganja military facilities,” Arayik Harutyunyan said on Twitter.
Harutyunyan said he had ordered his forces to stand down for the moment in light of civilian casualties but threatened Azerbaijan with a “commensurate response” against military targets if it mounted hostilities.
According to reports, more than 100 civilians and military personnel combined, have died on the Armenian side ever since the conflict broke out. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, says 24 civilians have been killed and more than 100 wounded.
Armenian officials have claimed that Turkish military personnel were advising Azerbaijan’s forces on-ground in the conflict.
On Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that civilians were being killed on both sides of the conflict.
“People have been in touch with the ICRC who are terrified for themselves and their families and at a loss as to where to go or what to do to stay safe,” said ICRC’s Eurasia regional director Martin Schüepp. “They are caught in the crossfire and deeply fearful for their safety and future.”