Azerbaijan’s strikes on civilian targets increase as war rages into third week

“Stepanakert and other communities in Artsakh are being shelled again” (Photo: Armenian Unified Infocenter/Twitter)

On the twentieth day of the war, Azerbaijan has once again violated Armenian airspace, while the number of civilian and military casualties continues to climb as hostilities intensify. 

Late Friday into early Saturday morning, Armenian officials say its air force identified and neutralized two Azerbaijani unmanned aerial vehicles flying in the direction of the Khnatsakh, Artsvanik and Davit Bek settlements of Armenia’s southernmost province Syunik, violating Armenian airspace. Civilian and military infrastructure were damaged, yet no casualties were reported. This is the second time that Artsvanik has been the target of Azerbaijani fire since the start of the war. 

At the same time, the Azerbaijani government announced that civilian settlements in Ganja and Mingechaur were fired on by missiles launched from Armenian territory, resulting in at least five civilian casualties, according to President Aliyev’s aide Hikmet Hajiyev. Armenian Ministry of Defense Press Secretary Shushan Stepanyan refuted the claim that missiles were fired on Azerbaijan from Armenian territory and asserted that Armenian BM-21 “Grad” multiple rocket launchers have a 20 kilometer range, while Ganja and Mingechaur are both located at least 40 kilometers from the Armenian border. 

Late Friday evening, Azerbaijan also fired missiles at civilian settlements in Artsakh, including Stepanakert, Martakert and Shosh. According to Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan’s office, three civilians were injured

The late night shelling follows a day of intense fighting along the Line of Contact as Azerbaijani military deployed more unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles and aircraft. The Artsakh Defense Army successfully pushed back the incursion in the northern direction, while fighting in the southern direction persisted throughout the day. According to Ministry of Defense representative Artsrun Hovhannisyan, the Azerbaijani military did not succeed in capturing any heights or positions.

Further analysis of disturbing videos obtained by the office of Armenia’s Human Rights Defender documenting the inhumane treatment and execution of prisoners of war (POWs) by Azeri armed forces proved that these allegations are true. The investigative newspaper Bellingcat has verified that two Armenian combatants captured by Azerbaijani soldiers between October 9 and October 15 near the northern edge of Hadrut were taken to the southern edge near Azerbaijani lines and shot dead. The video also proves that Hadrut has not been taken over by the Azerbaijani military, contrary to Aliyev’s claims throughout the past week. 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Azerbaijan to uphold the inviolability of life and right to health of its prisoners of war. Former Minister of Justice Artak Zeynalyan reported that an application was submitted to the ECHR on behalf of two recently detained Armenian prisoners of war Areg Sargsyan and Narek Amirjanyan following revelations of Azerbaijan’s violations of humanitarian law. The ECHR requested that Azerbaijan provide detailed information on the conditions of their detention, medical examinations, health conditions and possibilities for their exchange by October 22. 

Meanwhile, Beglaryan told Armenpress that Azerbaijani prisoners of war detained in Artsakh receive appropriate medical treatment. One Azeri POW, explained Beglaryan, has been recovering at a hospital in Artsakh for the past 10 days after undergoing surgery.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visited the Ministry of Defense on Friday and addressed a group of reservists headed for the front line. In a motivational and impassioned speech, the PM declared that Armenians will live on this planet forever due to the heroic efforts of their nation’s armed forces. “I demand that you leave with the victory in your heart, the victory in your mind, the victory in your soul.”

The Prime Minister also attended the funeral of Private Marat Manukyan on Friday, as Artsakh’s Defense Ministry released the names of 29 newly fallen soldiers. “We need to stand up for our right, our homeland, and our state and the spilled blood of our martyrs,” he wrote on Facebook. 

PM Pashinyan honors Private Marat Manukyan

In light of Turkey’s continued support of Azerbaijan in its military actions against Artsakh through the supply of weapons and transportation of mercenary fighters, the government of Armenia announced that it is imposing a temporary ban on the import of goods from Turkey. The decision is meant not only to apply economic sanctions against Turkey, but also to suspend the flow of financial resources from Armenia that enables Turkish authorities to back Azerbaijan. While the border between Armenia and Turkey has been closed since 1993, Turkey currently ranks fourth among the countries that export goods to Armenia, as vehicles carrying Turkish goods enter Armenia through Georgia. Armenian exports to Turkey are virtually nonexistent. 

In Yerevan, PM Pashinyan, Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and President Armen Sarkissian welcomed Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, who condemned Turkey’s destabilizing role in the region. While underscoring the importance of observing the ceasefire and resuming the peace process under the OSCE Minsk framework, he expressed his concern regarding Turkey’s intervention. “It is crucial and important that the international community states a clear distinction between those who add fuel to the fire and those who take a constructive approach and adhere to peaceful solutions to a dispute,” he said during a joint press conference with Mnatsakanyan. 

Meanwhile, during a phone conversation with his Canadian counterpart, Pashinyan thanked Justin Trudeau for suspending the export of military goods to Turkey and denouncing Turkey’s imperial aspirations in the South Caucasus. The Canadian Prime Minister stressed the need for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. 

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She reports on international women's rights, South Caucasus politics, and diasporic identity. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Democracy in Exile, and Girls on Key Press. She holds master's degrees in journalism and Near Eastern studies from New York University.

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