Artsakh’s populated capital of Stepanakert was bombarded by intense shelling well into the evening hours on Friday in the first offensive launched against the city since the end of the Artsakh Liberation War.
Air raid sirens began at around 1 p.m. local time after which Anush Ghavalyan of Artsakh’s Security Council Office tweeted that Stepanakert was “under fire.” Several hours later, Armenian officials say Azeri long range missiles struck the capital three times. “There will be a proportionate response, and the full responsibility will fall on the Aliyev family,” said presidential spokesman Vahram Poghosyan.
According to preliminary reports, one civilian has been killed and four wounded as a result of the shelling. Residential buildings, as well as the Ministry of Emergency Situations, have been completely destroyed. A military hospital was also targeted. Ten employees of the Artsakh Rescue Services Headquarters have been wounded. “Having failed to achieve any success in the battlefield, the armed forces of Azerbaijan, reinforced by foreign terrorist fighters, resorted to the perpetration of mass crimes against the civilian population of Artsakh,” said Armenia’s Foreign Ministry in a statement that also reinforced widely-reported claims of Turkey’s involvement. The Foreign Ministry says it is committed to a peaceful resolution in response to the joint call issued by the leaders of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries condemning the use of force in Artsakh. “While this aggression against Nagorno Karabakh will continue to receive our strong and resolute response, we stand ready to engage with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries to re-establish a ceasefire regime based on the 1994-1995 agreements,” the statement reads.
— Igor Zhdanov (@IgorZhdanovRT) October 2, 2020
One day after the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s announcement to recall its ambassador to Israel over arms sales to Azerbaijan, deputy commander of the Artsakh Defense Army Artur Sargsyan reported that an Israeli-made Tadiran radio transmitter was found on the body of an Azeri officer. Military directions transmitted in the Arabic language have also been picked up.
The city of Hadrut in Artsakh was also hit twice on Friday by a Smerch multiple rocket launcher with a high number of civilian casualties and destruction wrought upon residential buildings and infrastructure, according to Armenia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD).
State Minister of Artsakh Grigory Martirosyan announced during an evening press briefing that the government of Artsakh has already begun appraising the damages to residential properties in Stepanakert and Hadrut and will commence renovation and reconstruction efforts tomorrow so that people can safely return to their homes.
Despite the escalation of attacks on civilian settlements in Artsakh, MoD representative Artstrun Hovhannisyan stated that the situation at the Armenia-Azerbaijan border remains calm. The Armenian military continues to set back attacks by the Azerbaijani army at the front line and has so far destroyed 600 armored vehicles, six aircrafts, three helicopters and six drones. Armenian military officials say there are 540 casualties among Azeri forces with more than 500 wounded. On Friday, it was reported that 55 more members of the Artsakh Defense Army have died with an unidentified number of wounded casualties, bringing the total number of casualties to 158.
Journalists were again targeted for the second day in a row when a group of international correspondents traveling in a minibus on their way out of Martakert were hit by artillery fire. There were no casualties.