ENTERTAINMENT

Civilians killed and injured near major cities in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia


Azerbaijan's second largest city, Ganja, was hit by heavy shells today as the country's armed forces exchanged heavy rocket and artillery fire with Armenia over disputed territory.

The fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh has intensified over the past week between the armed forces of the two nations. The capital of the breakaway region and Azerbaijan's ganja are affected today.

Armenia said that Nagorno-Karabakh's capital, Stepanakert, which has been under fire since Friday, was hit again today by regular explosions and clouds of black smoke in parts of the city.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced that Armenian forces had fired at Ganja, a city of more than 330,000 people in western Azerbaijan. The footage shows buildings in ruins.

People help an injured man in an air raid shelter when Azerbaijan's artillery shells during a military conflict in Stepanakert

The two sides accused each other of targeting civilian territories as the conflict worsened a week after heavy fighting broke out in the decades-long dispute over the ethnic-Armenian region.

It is believed that more than 220 people were killed in the conflict in the past week.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have resisted international calls for a ceasefire, and clashes have increased in recent days. Both sides have won victories on the front lines and say they are causing heavy losses.

A fire burns in a residential area today after Azerbaijan's artillery fired during a military conflict in the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Stepanakert, Azerbaijan

Buildings are now in ruins and decay after the recent bombardment in Stepanakert

Buildings are now in ruins and decay after the recent bombardment in Stepanakert

Today in Stepanakert a man walks through the rubble past an overturned and burned-out car

In a fiery address to the nation, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev set conditions for the cessation of fighting that would be almost impossible for Armenia to accept.

He said the Armenian Armed Forces must "leave our territory in deeds, not words" and provide a timetable for a full withdrawal.

Yerevan also needs to recognize Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, apologize to the Azerbaijani people and admit that the region does not belong to Armenia, Aliyev said.

An injured woman was rushed to hospital after shelling the city in Ganja, Azerbaijan

An injured woman was rushed to hospital after shelling the city in Ganja, Azerbaijan

Human accommodation in the basement of the main church of the renegade capital Stepanakert in the Nagorno-Karabakh region

Human accommodation in the basement of the main church of the renegade capital Stepanakert in the Nagorno-Karabakh region

Families protect themselves from being shot in a church in Stepanakert

Families protect themselves from being shot in a church in Stepanakert

President Ilham Aliyev said: “Nagorno-Karabakh is our country. We have to go back and do it now.

& # 39; This is the end. We showed them who we are. We hunt them like dogs. & # 39;

Why Armenia and Azerbaijan are fighting

WHAT AND WHERE IS NAGORNO-KARABAKH?

Karabakh is a region in Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces since the end of an all-out separatist war in 1994, after around 30,000 people were killed and an estimated one million people were displaced.

Nagorno-Karabakh is approximately 1,700 square miles, but Armenian forces are occupying other areas nearby as well.

HOW DID THE CONFLICT BEGIN?

Long-simmering tensions between Christian Armenians and predominantly Muslim Azerbaijanis began to intensify as the Soviet Union frayed in recent years. When the USSR collapsed in 1991 and the republics became independent nations, war broke out.

After a ceasefire in 1994, Armenian and Azerbaijani forces faced each other in a demilitarized zone where clashes were widely reported.

What has happened since then?

International mediation efforts have made barely any visible progress. The conflict was an economic blow to the Caucasus region as it hampered trade and caused Turkey to close its border with Armenia.

Fighting regularly occurs on the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh, often deadly, especially in 2016 and in July. Dozens have been killed and wounded by both sides since new fighting broke out on Sunday. Each country blamed the other.

WHAT'S THE BROADER IMPACT?

The conflict in the small, hard-to-reach region is not only causing local victims and damage, but is also of concern to large regional actors.

Russia is Armenia's main economic partner and has a military base there, while Turkey has offered support to Azerbaijani, fellow Muslims and ethnic brothers of the Turks. Iran borders both Armenia and Azerbaijan and demands calm.

Under the auspices of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United States, France and Russia are to act as guarantors for the protracted peace process.

In Stepanakert, sirens sounded and explosions at regular intervals, during which residents, including several families, took refuge in the basement of the city's Cathedral of Our Lady.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said Stepanakert and other cities had been hit and accused the Azerbaijani armed forces of "targeting civilians".

There were reports of dead and wounded civilians in Stepanakert and the historic city of Shusha.

Azerbaijan said ganja came under fire, including from areas outside Karabakh on Armenian territory, with at least one civilian killed.

Karabakh's separatist forces said they targeted and destroyed an air force base in Ganja, but Baku denied this as a "provocation".

Azerbaijan's ally Turkey accused Armenia of "targeting civilians" and reiterated its support for its Turkish and Muslim country as "one nation, two states".

Karabakh leader Arayik Harutyunyan warned against viewing "military facilities in Azerbaijan's major cities" as legitimate targets.

"I urge the residents of these cities to leave immediately," said Harutyunyan in a post on Facebook.

Azerbaijani officials alleged on Sunday that Harutyunyan was seriously wounded in a bombing-hit bunker, but his office denied this.

Azerbaijan claims to have taken control of a number of settlements as well as a strategically important plateau in the past few days.

Today Aliyev said his armed forces had recaptured the city of Jabrayil, part of an area outside Karabakh that was captured by the separatists as a buffer zone in the 1990s, and labeled it a major victory. Armenia denied the claim.

Authorities in both countries have reported nearly 250 dead, including nearly 40 civilians, since the fighting began.

The Armenian separatists have reported more than 200 deaths – 51 of them on Saturday – while Azerbaijan has not released any figures on its military casualties.

Azerbaijan said that two civilians were killed in the shelling today in the southern city of Beylagan and residents ransacked the rubble of destroyed houses.

"I was just baking bread when I heard explosions. I opened the door and saw bombs falling directly into the courtyard," said a woman, showing journalists the blown windows and the partially collapsed roof of her house.

In Armenia's predominantly Christian capital, Yerevan, residents gathered in churches on Sunday to pray and light candles.

"I came to ask God for peace, for our country and our soldiers," Aytsemik Melikyan told AFP in front of the Saint Sarkis Church.

Russia, the United States and France, which jointly chair a mediation group that has not brought about a political solution to the conflict, have called for an immediate end to the fighting.

A man sweeps a street today after a shelling in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh

A man sweeps a street today after a shelling in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh

A man shows fragments of the projectile he found in destroyed houses today after a fire in Terter, Azerbaijan

A man shows fragments of the projectile he found in destroyed houses today after a fire in Terter, Azerbaijan

Thick black smoke rises after the recent bombardments in the controversial capital of Stepanakert

Thick black smoke rises after the recent fire in the controversial capital of Stepanakert

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking with his Armenian counterpart on Sunday, expressed concern about the increase in civilian casualties.

Armenia has said it is "ready" to deal with mediators, but Azerbaijan – considering Karabakh under Armenian occupation – says the Armenian forces must withdraw completely before a ceasefire can be brokered.

Karabakh's declaration of independence from Azerbaijan during the collapse of the Soviet Union sparked a war in the early 1990s that killed 30,000 people.

Talks to resolve the conflict have made little progress since a 1994 ceasefire agreement.

Local residents hide in an air raid shelter in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh as the fighting escalates

Local residents hide in an air raid shelter in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh as the fighting escalates