Intense shelling sores hopes for a Russian-backed ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan

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Hopes for a Russian-brokered ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan were dashed further on Sunday, with both sides accusing the other of heavy shelling in civilian areas and a two-week escalation of violent clashes.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said the night-time bombardment by Armenian forces of the country’s second largest city, Ganja, left seven dead and 33 injured, including children, less than 24 hours after the supposed fighting ended. take effect.

Rescuers wearing red helmets dug through piles of debris with their bare hands looking for traces of survivors, an AFP reporter from the city reported.

Residential buildings destroyed by military strike in Gyandzha, Azerbaijan on October 11

Members of the search and rescue team carry a dead body as operations continue among the debris of houses after the Armenian army's alleged attacks with long-range missiles on October 11, 2020 in the town of Ganja , in Azerbaijan

Members of the search and rescue team carry a dead body as operations continue among the debris of houses after the Armenian army’s alleged attacks with long-range missiles on October 11, 2020 in the town of Ganja , in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani women mourn as search and rescue continues among debris of houses after alleged Armenian army attacks with long-range missiles on October 11

Azerbaijani women mourn as search and rescue continues among debris of houses after alleged Armenian army attacks with long-range missiles on October 11

They recovered an almost naked body and carefully put it in a white bag to be taken in an ambulance while several horrified residents watched and cried.

A witness said they were awakened by a huge explosion that razed an entire square block of one and two story houses in the early hours of the morning, leaving nine apartments destroyed.

“Everything that I have worked for my whole life has been destroyed,” said Zagit Aliyev, 68.

The agreement to suspend hostilities in order to exchange prisoners and the bodies of those killed after two weeks of fighting in the controversial Nagorno-Karabakh region was approved by the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in marathon negotiations organized by Russia in Moscow.

Rescuers search for victims or survivors at the site of the explosion hit by a rocket during the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the town of Ganja on Sunday

Rescuers search for victims or survivors at the site of the explosion hit by a rocket during the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the town of Ganja on Sunday

A serviceman stands among residential buildings destroyed by a military strike in Gyandha, Azerbaijan

A serviceman stands among residential buildings destroyed by a military strike in Gyandha, Azerbaijan

The truce officially went into effect at noon on Saturday, but the two sides almost immediately accused each other of violations.

On Sunday, the defense ministry of the breakaway region insisted that the Armenian forces respected the humanitarian ceasefire and in turn accused Azerbaijan of bombing areas with civilian populations.

Claims that Armenian forces were responsible for the bombing of Ganja were “an absolute lie,” he added.

The leader of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, Arayik Harutyunyan, called the situation “calmer” on Sunday, but warned the truce was precarious.

An AFP journalist in the administrative capital of Stepanakert, which has suffered heavy shelling since the fighting began and is riddled with deep craters and unexploded ordnance, reported hearing loud explosions throughout the night.

Vahram Poghosyan, spokesman for the leader of Karabakh, said the night bombing on Stepanakert was “a lack of respect for the agreements reached in Moscow” and called on the international community to recognize the independence of the province as a way to put end of the fighting.

Ashot Aghajanian, 54, walks through the courtyard of his house, which was reportedly destroyed by Azeri shelling last night, in the town of Stepanakert on October 11

Ashot Aghajanian, 54, walks through the courtyard of his house, which was reportedly destroyed by Azeri shelling last night, in the town of Stepanakert on October 11

New fighting erupted at the end of last month, following a long disagreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh.

The disputed territory is an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, home to around 150,000 people, which broke control of Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.

Its separatist government is strongly supported by Armenia, which, like Azerbaijan, gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The most recent fighting was the heaviest since the war of the 1990s, with more than 450 dead, thousands forced to flee their homes and fearing the fighting could escalate into devastating conflict.

Women react as rescuers search for victims or survivors at the site of the rocket blast during the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh

Women react as rescuers search for victims or survivors at the site of the rocket blast during the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh

The return to fighting has fueled fears of a full-fledged war involving Turkey, which strongly supports Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a military treaty with Armenia.

Armenia and world leaders including Russian leader Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron have denounced the deployment of pro-Turkish fighters from Syria and Libya to bolster the Azerbaijani army.

France, Russia and the United States – known as the “Minsk Group” – have for decades sought a lasting solution to the Karabakh conflict, but have failed to stop the sporadic outbreaks of fighting, and Baku , with the support of Turkey, seems determined to continue its military intervention. .

A senior Azerbaijani official said on Saturday that the truce should be only “temporary”, and said Baku had “no intention of going back” in its efforts to regain control of Karabakh.

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