Civilians suffer heavy losses on both sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
The latest shelling by Armenian forces on Azerbaijan's second largest city of Ganja has caused more resilience among the population despite sorrow and grief for the loss of their closed ones.
At least 23 civilians, including two children, were killed and more than 80 wounded in an attack on Saturday.
The attack took place while the victims were sleeping, and intensified the escalation around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that has been a hot spot between the two South Caucasian neighbors since the early 1990s.
“It was nearly 1 a.m. I was sleeping and I heard a terribly loud voice. When I opened my eyes the roof of my house was damaged,” Parvin Maharrami, a victim of the Ganja attack, told Meydan TV. “My eyes are still quivering with fear and stress since that attack.”
Ganja is a large industrial city and home to a population of over 300,000 people. Although the city is far from the conflict zone, it has been shelled frequently together with other populated areas of Azerbaijan.
Despite the danger, residents say they plan to stay put.
“I will not leave. This is my home and I will not abandon it,” an elderly Ganja resident told Meydan TV.
Another resident, Gunel Aliyeva, says her family members are concerned since nothing was left from their houses after the recent attack.
“When we came my parents were outside in fear. They are still shocked, as they have lost their neighbors and some are seriously wounded,” Aliyeva added.
“I wish that no one dies,” Madina Aliyeva, another Ganja resident, told Meydan TV among the ruins of her house.
Hikmat Hajiyev, an aide to the Azerbaijani president, said more than 20 houses were destroyed in the attack.
Shortly after the shelling Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said the country’s armed forces would retaliate against Yerevan and “take revenge on the battlefield”.
Armenian defence ministry denied Yerevan was behind the shelling and accused Baku of continuing to shell populated areas inside Nagorno-Karabakh, including Khankendi (Stepanakert), the administrative city of the enclave.
Three civilians were wounded in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the figures of the Armenian foreign ministry.
“We woke up at 4 a.m. due to an awful blast, it was not just a strike, it was something more powerful … we are scared, but we got used to it,” Lika Zakaryan, a 26-year-old resident of Khankendi was quoted as saying by Reuters.
The few civilians left in Khankendi are consigned to underground life in the shelters, according to Aljazeera reports which state that some people are high in spirits, but others were distraught.
“I have four grandsons fighting on the front right now,” 69 years old Nurvard was quoted as saying by Aljazeera. “One of them died three days ago. The others are still there. What do the Turks want with us?” she said in tears.
The region of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, was declared independent by ethnic Armenians living there as the Soviet Union collapsed. An estimated 30,000 were killed when the conflict turned into a full-fledged war,. A ceasefire signed in 1994 under the auspices of Moscow put a fragile end to a large-scale conflict. Peace talks mediated by France, US and Russia were unsuccessful and since then, conflict is volatile, with flare-ups sporadically occurring.
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