Baku says Yerevan attacked its civilians who were visiting a cemetery in western Tartar city, causing fatalities and injuries, as fighting over the occupied Karabakh enclave runs into its third week.

A view of the damage after civilians headed to a cemetery for a burial ceremony were targeted by the Armenian army, in Tartar, Azerbaijan on October 15, 2020.
A view of the damage after civilians headed to a cemetery for a burial ceremony were targeted by the Armenian army, in Tartar, Azerbaijan on October 15, 2020. (AA)

Armenia has once again hit civilians in western Azerbaijan causing fatalities and injuries as new fighting over the Armenia-occupied Karabakh enclave threatened to pitch the region into a humanitarian crisis.

The civilians were visiting a cemetery in the western city of Tartar when the Armenian attack struck, killing at least four civilians and injuring five others, Baku said on Thursday. 

The new casualties raised the civilian death toll to at least 43 with over 218 wounded in the Armenian attacks that began on September 27. 

Armenia's attacks on Azerbaijan have also rendered 1,592 houses, 79 apartments, and 290 public buildings unusable, officials said.

A ceasefire brokered less than a week ago between the South Caucasian rivals to enable them to swap detainees and the bodies has been derailed by continuous Armenian shelling on civilian areas, and Azerbaijan's retaliation.  

READ MORE: Fighting intensifies in occupied-Karabakh as civilian casualties mount

'New bloodshed'

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev said on Twitter Armenia should "halt attempts to capture liberated territories back," and warned of "new victims and new bloodshed."

Azerbaijani Defence Ministry said its army had retained an "operational advantage" along the line of contact with Nagorno-Karabakh, but that the situation in the Aghdere-Aghdam and Fizuli-Hadrut-Jabrayil region remained tense.

The Azerbaijani prosecutor's office said two civilians were wounded by shelling in Aghdam.

On Wednesday, the Azerbaijani army liberated eight more villages from Armenian occupation.

The regions of Jabrayil and Hadrut, as well as more than 30 villages, had previously been liberated in Azerbaijan's operations.

The Armenian prosecutor general's office said Azerbaijani drones killed two soldiers in the Armenian region of Vardenis.

The self-declared administration in occupied Karabakh has reported the death of 604 troops since September 27. 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan conceded on Wednesday that Armenian soldiers have been forced to withdraw from frontline positions in the north and south, describing the situation as "very serious."

Aliyev has threatened a "very heavy response," should Armenia "carry out its plans to destroy" oil and gas pipelines in Azerbaijan.

READ MORE: Turkey open to four-way talks to resolve conflict in occupied Karabakh

Decades-old occupation

Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied the Karabakh region, an internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan.

Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions demand the withdrawal of occupying forces.

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.

Azerbaijan has never hidden its desire to liberate the region and no state including Armenia, has recognised Karabakh's declaration of independence. 

READ MORE: Azerbaijan says Armenia is attacking civilian areas outside conflict zone

ICRC's work complicated 

International organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, have warned that the latest conflict, coming on top of the coronavirus pandemic, could leave tens of thousands of people in need of aid over the coming months.

"Just in terms of humanitarian consequences, we are seeing in the Azerbaijani communities around the line of contact is around 200,000 people affected," Laetitia Courtois, the International Committee of the Red Cross' permanent observer at the United Nations said. 

"The cities and towns beyond that area have also been affected by the shelling that has killed and injured civilians. And in Nagorno-Karabakh, we see at least 75,000 people affected."

She said the continued shelling complicated the ICRC team's movement but emphasised that it is ready to facilitate the handover of bodies of those killed in action and the release of detainees.

READ MORE: Turkey urges EU to take 'consistent stance' on Azerbaijan

Source: TRTWorld and agencies