Both Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis view the fertile valleys and mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh as their ancestral lands.

Family members and Aybeniz Khasanova (C), the mother of 29-years-old soldier killed during clashes with Armenia, next to his grave near Agdam city during the military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh on October 15, 2020.
Family members and Aybeniz Khasanova (C), the mother of 29-years-old soldier killed during clashes with Armenia, next to his grave near Agdam city during the military conflict over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh on October 15, 2020. (AFP)

Azerbaijan is holding funerals for the victims of the latest Armenian attacks on civilians as both sides continue fighting over occupied-Karabakh.

The Armenian army attacked a funeral service in the Tartar district the day before, on Thursday, using heavy artillery.

Officials reported three civilians were killed and five others were injured in the attack. 

As the conflict reached Iran, its Foreign Ministry warned that an attack on Iranian civilians would be a red line for their armed forces.

Missiles fired by opposing sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh clashes hit a district in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, south of the Azerbaijan-Armenia border, Iranian state media said on Thursday.

Ten missiles landed in two villages in Khudaferin district, injuring a civilian, IRNA news agency said.

READ MORE: Armenia will pay for attacking civilians: Turkey

"Let his blood not be spilt in vain."

"Oh my son!" the kneeling mother sang in mournful prayer over the grave of an Azerbaijani soldier on Friday as shells exploded just beyond the horizon along the frontline of occupied-Karabakh.

"He left his mother alone. He left his sisters alone, too," she cried after picking herself up and rubbing clean the framed photograph of her 29-year-old son with her cuff.

"Let his blood not be spilt in vain."

Aybeniz Khasanova's son died in the first days of fighting over the ethnic Armenian separatist region of Azerbaijan.

Ties between Baku and Yerevan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, an internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan. 

Multiple UN resolutions, as well as international organisations, continue to demand the withdrawal of the invading Armenian forces.
A 1994 truce ended the first Karabakh war in which 30,000 died, exploded in disputed circumstances on September 27.

Hostilities, which had festered since a 1994 truce ended the first Karabakh war in which 30,000 died, exploded in disputed circumstances on September 27.

More than 600 people are known to have been killed since then, including over 70 civilians, in a conflict that threatens to draw in regional powers Russia and Turkey.

But little verified information exists about the true casualty figure and both sides claim to be inflicting much heavier losses on their foe.

The Armenian separatists have confirmed more than 600 deaths among their forces. Azerbaijan has not provided any figures for its military casualties.

AFP was granted access to the soldier's funeral in Quzanly by the Azerbaijani government on the condition that no details were disclosed about the cemetery or the circumstances of his death.

READ MORE: Azerbaijan: Armenia targets civilians in new Karabakh fighting

Many are displaced

Both Armenians and Azerbaijanis view the fertile valleys and mountains of Nagorno-Karabakh as their ancestral lands.

Azerbaijanis have not controlled the region, backed but not recognised as independent by the Armenian government,  since the end of the post-Soviet war.

The mood among many on the Azerbaijani side of the front now is hopeful and fervently patriotic.

READ MORE: Azerbaijan: Ganja city targeted from Armenia, not Karabakh

Armenia concedes that separatist forces have had to withdraw from some of the northern and southern sections of the front that they had held on to since 1994.

But the cost of Azerbaijan's gains has been high.

The volleys of mortar and rocket fire falling around Quzanly have destroyed simple wooden homes inhabited by desperately poor people displaced by decades of strife.

The slain soldier's cousin Elshan said the entire family had tried, and failed, to talk him into leaving military service before another major conflict broke out.

"He wanted to become a soldier from when he was a boy," said Elshan.

"We were telling him to leave the armed forces, but he would say no, I want to stay, I want to be a soldier until our occupied lands are liberated."

READ MORE: Azerbaijan, Armenia agree on ceasefire in Karabakh

Proud families

The family has been visiting the soldier's grave daily since his death just under two weeks ago.

They come in silence bearing flowers while exploding shells fall in the surrounding barren fields.

The roads leading to Quzanly are devoid of traffic because of the unpredictable nature of the fighting. The few shops along the way are mostly boarded up.

But the family still speeds to the grave site in a beat-up Lada after passing military checkpoints dotting frontline regions.

"I am destroyed inside," Elshan whispered while crouching close to the grave and running his hand across its fresh gravel.

"He was such a brave guy. It is very hard for us."

The family lost telephone contact with the soldier for three days before being officially informed that he was killed.

"Every day we are thinking about him," said Elshan. "We are trying to cope."

The soldier's aunt Garanfil said she was proud.

"He was such a brave young man," she said as the family prepared to leave the grave site.

"He died for his country."

READ MORE: Armenian attack on Azerbaijani city leaves several dead

Source: TRTWorld and agencies