By: Jake Smith, Daily Caller News Foundation
Azerbaijan launched military action and “anti-terrorist” operations in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Asia housing roughly 120,000 Armenians, according to a statement from the country’s defense ministry on Tuesday.
Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said it was only targeting “legitimate military” positions in the Nagorno-Karabakh area, but Armenian officials from inside the region said that the capital and surrounding villages were “under intense shelling,” according to The Associated Press. Azerbaijan has been accused of committing an ongoing “genocide” by imposing a blockade around the Nagorno-Karabakh territory and preventing vital resources from being imported, starving Armenians inside the territory.
“A really serious situation has unfolded here,” Ruben Vardanyan, a former top official in Karabakh, said on X. “Azerbaijan has started a full-scale military operation against 120,000 inhabitants, of which 30,000 are children, pregnant women and old people.”
The disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but its often referred to as part of Armenia as the population is largely made up by ethnic Armenians. Azerbaijan installed a blockade against Nagorno-Karabakh in December of 2022, and since that time, Armenians living in the region have had restricted access to food, medicine and oil.
Footage from inside Nagorno-Karabakh depicts shelling against Armenian military targets as well as aftermath of bombings from inside Stepanakert, the region’s capital. The sudden conflict sparked concern of a potential revival of a full-scale war between Azerbaijan and Armenia that had ceased in 2020, according to the AP.
“Multiple [civilian] casualties” have been reported from inside Nagorno-Karabakh, though that information could not be independently verified, according to Reuters.
Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said the operation was launched to “disarm and secure the withdrawal of formations of Armenia’s armed forces from our territories” in a larger effort to “restore the constitutional order of the Republic of Azerbaijan.” But Armenia maintains that it has not deployed military forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, and said Azerbaijan was using the claim as an excuse to commit “ethnic cleansing” against Armenians, according to a statement from the country’s foreign ministry.
Religious differences have historically fueled the conflict between the two countries, as the overwhelming majority of Armenia is Christian and the majority of Azerbaijan is Muslim, according to Christianity Today. Christian Armenians suffered a mass genocide in the early 20th century at the hands of the Ottoman empire, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1.2 million people, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia.