Armenian officials say the civilian populations of Artsakh are in grave danger as Azeri forces deliberately target their peaceful settlements in the ongoing conflict.
Artsakh Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan raised several humanitarian challenges in a press briefing on Saturday morning. Notably, he said that at least 37 civilians have died so far and more than 100 have been wounded. Following the recent execution of a mother and her disabled son in Hadrut, which was spread widely on Azeri media sources, Beglaryan says there are growing concerns that those missing or lost from the area could succumb to the same unfortunate outcome. As for material damage, approximately 10,500 homes have been destroyed, as well as more than 1,500 other buildings and electrical networks and gas pipelines. Beglaryan also announced that more than 90-thousand residents of Artsakh, which is approximately 60-percent of the Republic’s entire population, have fled their homes. Once again, he called on the international community to pressure Azerbaijan to cease their attacks so that these residents can return home.
Beglaryan also noted the documented spread of war crimes on Azeri social media platforms. He said that Azerbaijanis are using psychological and physical torture methods on hostages—an unacceptable violation of international humanitarian law. Beglaryan went on to note Azerbaijan’s inhumane treatment of military casualties, defying the terms set forth in the twice broken ceasefire agreements since October 10. “Azerbaijan is intentionally ignoring all the urges to the ceasefire because they have a lot of casualties, and they do not want these deaths to be known to the families of those deceased militants, because it can cause a big wave of rage in Azerbaijani society,” said Mr. Beglaryan.
The ombudsman also raised the issue of Azerbaijan’s propaganda campaigns that are disseminating messages about peaceful coexistence. “We are the owners of our land, and we are the ones who decide the destiny of our homeland,” he said. “There’s no way we can speak about living within Azerbaijan,” he said, referring to the deepening level of hatred against Armenians both on the battlefield and on social media. “We see how joyful they are about it. This propaganda of hatred should be stopped immediately if they are even thinking about being our neighbors,” warned Beglaryan in another round of calls for the international community to pay attention as this ensuing hatred could “erupt.”
Meantime on the battlefield, hostilities were said to be less tense than usual on Saturday, but the death toll is still inching higher. Artsakh’s Ministry of Defense released another list of fallen servicemen, bringing the number of Armenian military casualties to 960. During his daily press briefing, Armenia’s Ministry of Defense representative Artsrun Hovhanissyan said that fighting began at around noon, when Azeri forces began to bombard the central part of the region, as well as the southern area of Martuni and north of Hadrut. After much anticipation, Hovhannisyan released an interactive map that illustrated neutralized settlements, active battle sites, as well as two swaths of land that are currently under Azeri control—Talish and the southern border with Iran. “The map is not static. It’s dynamic,” stressed Hovhanissyan.
Armenian Unified Infocenter presents an interactive map illustrating the directions of the military actions: fights, adversary control, retreats pic.twitter.com/SAsqgicQOQ
— Armenian Unified Infocenter (@ArmenianUnified) October 24, 2020
In Azerbaijan, a security alert has been issued for US citizens following a similar announcement for Americans in Turkey. The US Embassy in Baku says that it has received “credible reports of potential terrorist attacks and kidnappings” against Americans. The JW Marriott Absheron was singled out as a possible target in the advisory.
Also today, a comment made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan drew the ire of his French counterpart, who chose to pull his ambassador from Turkey. Erdogan said that President Emmanuel Macron needs mental help amid his concerns for the spread of “Islamist separatism” in France.