Armenia’s foreign affairs ministry said that Azerbaijani forces bombed a maternity hospital in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, on Wednesday.
The maternity hospital was empty at the time of the shelling, and no casualties were reported, the Armenian Weekly revealed, adding that the attack “decimated” the medical facility.
“[O]n October 28, the Azerbaijani armed forces bombed the capital of the Artsakh Republic, Stepanakert … several times during the day. Attacks were inflicted on residential areas of the city, civilian infrastructure, including the Stepanakert maternity hospital,” Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The ministry added that the bombings took place several times throughout the day and also targeted Nagorno-Karabakh’s second-largest city of Shushi.
“There are casualties among the civilian population,” the statement revealed.
“This war crime, which is a gross violation of international humanitarian law, customary law, clearly shows that Azerbaijan’s target in Artsakh is the people – infants, mothers, the elderly. The attempts of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan to kill life in Artsakh will fail, and their organizers will be held accountable,” the Armenian foreign ministry added.
Artsakh Human Rights Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan called the bombing of the maternity hospital “intentional” in a video statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday:
My video message & introduction on the #Azerbaijan|i today's deliberate strike on the Republican medical center of #Stepanakert, including Maternity & child hospital.
Intl community bears responsibility for these #WarCrimes as doesn't stop them.#DontBeBlind pic.twitter.com/tla9VvBXSg
— Artak Beglaryan (@Artak_Beglaryan) October 28, 2020
Shushi officials said “one person was killed and at least five others were wounded when a Smerch multiple rocket launcher struck the city, targeting residential areas, a school and other critical civilian infrastructure. Among the injured are three members of the Artsakh State Emergency Service,” according to the Armenian Weekly.
Armenia and Azerbaijan reignited their decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27. The breakaway territory legally belongs to Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenian separatists since 1991, when they seized the region in a post-Soviet uprising. A three-year war followed the land grab, causing nearly 30,000 casualties. Armenian separatists governing Nagorno-Karabakh refer to it as the Republic of Artsakh, though Artsakh’s sovereignty is unrecognized by the international community, including Yerevan.
The unrest in the South Caucasus threatens to draw in regional powers Turkey and Russia. Ankara is an ally to majority Muslim Azerbaijan and its ethnically Turkic population, while Moscow has a strategic military alliance with majority Christian Armenia.
“Artsakh presidential spokesperson Vahram Poghosyan suspects the use of a Turkish F-16 bomber in that attack [on Stepanakert’s maternity ward on Wednesday],” according to the Armenian Weekly.
Yerevan last month accused Ankara of deploying a Turkish F-16 bomber to shoot down an Armenian SU-25 warplane on September 29, posting photos to an official online government platform on September 30 allegedly depicting the wreckage of the Armenian jet. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan denied Yerevan’s claims that a Turkish F-16 shot down an Armenian warplane.
In addition to the alleged air support, Yerevan accused Ankara on September 30 of sending Syrian mercenary fighters to Azerbaijan to bolster its ground forces in fighting against Armenia.