By Stefan J. Bos
Over the weekend, rescue workers searched for survivors beneath the rubble of destroyed homes in Azerbaijan’s second-largest city of Ganja.
Azerbaijan accused Armenia of a new missile strike that killed at least 13 civilians and injured 45, including children in this city far from the front lines. “We were sleeping. The kids were watching television. At first, what I heard was not a big sound,” a woman recalled.
“I thought, okay, I rushed outside. And suddenly, there was a colossal explosion that leveled all our houses,” she said.
The attack came despite both sides agreeing on a new truce to start at midnight local time on Saturday. But Armenia’s defense ministry claimed Azerbaijan broke the ceasefire after just four minutes by firing artillery shells and rockets. Azerbaijan countered that Armenia had broken the truce after two minutes.
It has added to the misery of frightened men, women, and children. Many have been hiding in basements to escape indiscriminate shelling.
Some residents in Nagorno Karabakh used the new but shaky truce to return to what was their home. Among them, homeowner Lida Sarksyan.
The crying woman stood near the rubble of her house in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. It was allegedly destroyed by shelling from Azerbaijan”s artillery. “We evacuated the children. What kind of life is this? Who needed to do such a thing? This was their home. Who needed to do such a thing?” she said.
“I am speechless. All of our life we have been building this house, creating this. Thank God the children were not here. We evacuated them in time,” Sarksyan added.
The latest clashes between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces erupted on September 27 and have killed hundreds of people. They mark the most significant escalation of the decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The region lies technically in Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a separatist war in 1994.
The international community wants to prevent a repeat of that war that killed 30,000 people. But despite a Russia-brokered ceasefire, there are few signs that peace will return to this troubled region any time soon.