Nagorno-Karabakh: bombing continues

The Azeris have been targeting the capital of pro-Armenian separatists for four days. The drama of the local population. Karabakh forces respond with offensive against an Azerbaijani airport. The role of Turkey. Journalists on the ground also targeted.

Stepanakert (AsiaNews) - The capital of the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh for the Armenians) has been subjected to intense bombing by Azerbaijani forces for four days, war correspondent Jonah Fisher tells AsiaNews.

"It's terrible we've all been in the hotel basement since last night," Fisher says, noting that the attacks continued all morning: "I've seen women, the elderly and children abandon their homes in search of solid shelter. This is no longer a war of armies, but a systematic slaughter with sophisticated weapons”.

In recent days, Azerbaijan launched an attack to recover Karabakh, the Armenian majority enclave. It is located in Azerbaijani territory, but has been governed since 1994 - after a six-year conflict - by pro-Armenian authorities not recognized by the United Nations.

Araik Harutyuinian, president of the separatist entity, reiterates the charge that Turkey is behind the military operations in Baku: "The Turkish and Azerbaijani involvement - he denounces - is a threat to our millennial survival as a nation".

The splendid Stepanakert (55,000 inhabitants) is a devastated city. There are many dead and injured, and the imminent arrival of cold weather will aggravate the already difficult conditions of the displaced population.

Red Cross regional director Martin Schüepp has urged the parties to the conflict to "respect the principles of international humanitarian law and take all necessary measures to ensure respect for and protection of civilian people and infrastructure". Igor Zhadanov, correspondent for RT (Russia Today), says that a hospital was also hit yesterday.

According to local sources, the population centers of Karabakh are bombed with cluster bombs, banned by an international convention that entered into force in 2010. The separatist government claims that the cities of the region are also hit by Israeli-made drones and Turkish F -16s.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of wanting to "restore the Ottoman Empire and complete the 1915 genocide against the Armenians", has made no attempt to hide his aims. Yesterday, in a speech in Konya, Erdogan stated that operations in occupied Karabakh will continue until its liberation: "Without the Armenian withdrawal from all Azerbaijani territory, there will be no ceasefire".

Also yesterday, in retaliation against Stepanakert’s shelling, separatist troops bombed military positions inside Ganja airport in northern Azerbaijan. According to the Armenian forces, recent attacks against Karabakh were launched from the facility.

Baku says no military sites were hit in Ganja, only civilian targets. The Azerbaijani government has published a photo of the damage suffered by the local airport. According to Armenian sources, the presence of Turkish officers is clearly seen in it.

The Azerbaijani journalist Zabil Makerramov explains the Baku authorities have sent soldiers differentnot of Turkish-Azerbaijani ethnicity to fight on the front line: "50% of the soldiers killed in the conflict against the Karabakh forces - he explains - belong to the Talish, Lezghi and Tat, minorities," all sent to the front along with Islamist mercenaries brought in from Syria. So far there are 28 dead among them”.

Journalists are not safe in Karabakh either. For Journalists Without Borders, this is a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention. Yesterday a van with Russian envoys was targeted; Two days ago, two war correspondents of Lebanese TV LBCI, Edmond Sassine and Paul Bou Aoun, were hit by Azerbaijani drones: they had filmed the bombing of Baku against civilian targets in Marduni. Earlier, two French reporters were injured and transported to Paris for treatment.