Aliyev launches long-anticipated assault on 120,000 citizens after nine-month long Azeri blockade of Lachin Corridor
Azerbaijan began shelling Stepanakert this morning, targeting 120,000 Armenians who live in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that has been internationally recognized as Azeri territory. The attack comes after a nine-month long blockade by the Azeri military on the region, in breach of international law, controlling the entry of food, medicine, baby formula and other essentials and outright prohibiting it since June 15.
“Azerbaijan is carrying out military strikes on Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno Karabakh,” Armenian reporter Robert Ananyan wrote on Twitter. “The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan reports that ‘local anti-terrorist measures have been launched in the region in order to ensure the safety of Azerbaijani servicemen and to restore the constitutional order of Azerbaijan.'”
It is unclear what terrorist targets exist in the Christian enclave.
“This is an act of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the 120,000 peaceful Armenians living in Nagorno Karabakh,” Ananyan wrote adding that drones are being used on the population in addition to missiles and artillery.
According to an Israeli source, the Azeri army is using Israeli surface-to-surface missiles on Armenian military outposts.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense said it informed Russian peacekeepers and the Turkish-Russian Monitoring Center leadership of its plans beforehand.
Living in this swath of land are 120,000 ethnic Armenians, geographically cut off from Armenia, and now, according to modern-day maps, living in Azerbaijan. Since the latest war between the two ended in November 2020 with an Azeri victory, questions have remained over what will happen to the people there who have long maintained their independence in the contested area.
Last month, former International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, called the blockade genocide.
“Starvation is the invisible genocide weapon,” he said in his report calling the blocking of humanitarian supplies and natural resources to the region a second Armenian Genocide. (See the full report here)
He noted that Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev is quoted as saying, “Who will protect Armenia?” reminiscent of Adolf Hitler who said in 1939, “who remembers now the extermination of the Armenians?” Aliyev further intoned that Armenians “should understand that the situation where they are today would not change in their favor if they continue to ignore us if they continue to behave that we do not exist.”
Ocampo concluded that Aliyev “should be investigated” as the “mastermind behind the operations of the Genocide.”
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) twice ordered Azerbaijan top open the Lachin Corridor in February and again on July 6. However, since June 15, even the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not been allowed through to deliver humanitarian relief.