President Ilham Aliyev said Azerbaijan’s army would retaliate against Armenia and “take revenge on the battlefield” after the shelling on a residential area in Ganja flattened rows of houses.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has accused Armenia of committing a war crime by shelling the city of Ganja leaving a dozen civilians dead.
“They will be held responsible for that … if the international community does not punish Armenia, we will do it,” he said during his televised remarks.
Aliyev said on Saturday the Azerbaijani army has completely taken over two regions previously held by separatists, Fizuli and Jabrail.
“We are dominating the battlefield,” he said, adding that Azerbaijani armed forces never targeted civilian settlements.
Aliyev also questioned Armenia’s ability to keep replacing military hardware destroyed in battles, a thinly veiled jab at Yerevan’s ally Moscow.
He reiterated his stance that Baku would only stop its offensive once Armenia withdraws from occupied Nagorno-Karabakh.
In Ganja, rescuers worked at the scene on Saturday morning, picking through rubble, a Reuters photographer said. Some houses had been almost levelled. An excavator was clearing the debris.
“We have been living in fear for days … We are suffering a lot. We would rather die. I wish we were dead but our children would survive,” one resident of the city, 58-year-old Emina Aliyeva, told reporters.
At least 13 people have been killed including three children and 52 more wounded in the attack, said Azerbaijan’s general prosecutor office.
The missile strikes late on Friday hit busy areas in and around the city centre of Ganja, which is about 60 kilometres away from the Nagorno-Karabakh frontline.
Many civilians have been reported buried under the rubble of buildings destroyed by the strikes.
At least 20 buildings have been destroyed in Armenia’s missile attacks, said Azerbaijan’s presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev in a tweet.
One of the Armenian missiles fell near a school in Ganja city. Another missile targeted a multi-storey residential apartment which was completely destroyed.
“Civilians are continued to be saved from the debris of destruction by emergency services,” Hajiyev said.
Attack in Mingacevir
A hydroelectric power plant in Mingacevir was targeted by the Armenian forces after midnight, Azerbaijan’s public prosecutor’s office said.
But, the missiles were intercepted and destroyed by the Azerbaijani air defence forces, the office added.
Turkey condemns attacks
Armenia continues to commit “war crimes” in Azerbaijan, killing civilians there, including children, Turkey’s top diplomat said on Saturday.
“Silence in face of savagery means complicity in murder. Those who do not claim their share of humanity will be held accountable for their crimes,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter.
He also reiterated that Turkey will always stand with Azerbaijan.
Turkey’s Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin condemned Armenia’s “indiscriminate” attacks on Azerbaijan residential areas.
“Armenia continues to commit war crimes even under a declared ceasefire. As in Khojali, it kills women, children, the elderly and civilians indiscriminately. Armenia will pay for these unlawful acts and murders. Turkey stands with Azerbaijan to the very end,” Kalin said in a tweet.
Recent clashes erupted between the two countries on September 27, and since then, Armenia has continued its attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces.
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan.
The OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by France, Russia and the US, was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A ceasefire, however, was agreed to in 1994. Multiple UN resolutions, as well as international organisations, demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.
World powers, including Russia, France, and the US, have urged a new ceasefire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku’s right to self-defence and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia’s occupying forces.
About 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory has remained under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.