Title: Fuel Depot Explosion and Azerbaijani Offensive Lead to Deaths and Exodus in Nagorno-Karabakh
Subtitle: Armenia reports over 28,000 ethnic Armenians seeking refuge in the country following Azerbaijan’s military offensive
Date: [Insert Date]
In a devastating development, a fuel depot explosion and fire in Nagorno-Karabakh have resulted in numerous casualties and mass exodus of ethnic Armenians from the region. The explosion, which occurred in the vicinity of Stepanakert, has claimed the lives of at least 68 people, according to the office of Karabakh’s ombudsman. Additionally, 105 people are missing, and 290 have been wounded.
The fuel depot was being used to distribute fuel to those seeking to leave the region by car, causing hundreds of people to gather at the site before the explosion took place.
This tragic incident comes in the wake of Azerbaijan’s lightning military offensive, which forced ethnic Armenians to flee their homes. The offensive followed a months-long blockade imposed by Azerbaijan, resulting in critical shortages of essential supplies in the region.
“While Azerbaijan had prepared local hospitals for the victims, negotiations for the evacuation of the wounded were not accepted by representatives of the Armenian residents of Karabakh,” said Al Jazeera correspondent Osama bin Javaid, reporting from the Azerbaijani city of Horadiz.
As the death toll continues to rise, thousands of people are fleeing the region, seeking refuge in Armenia. The Armenian government reveals that 28,120 ethnic Armenians have already entered the country. To accommodate the influx of refugees, the government has vowed to provide necessary accommodations for all those in need.
The United States has expressed concern over the situation, calling for humanitarian access to the region. Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council, expressed deep sympathy for the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh and those affected by the explosion. Samantha Power, the head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), announced that the US would be providing $11.5 million in humanitarian aid.
The offensive launched by Azerbaijan on September 19 resulted in the country claiming control over Nagorno-Karabakh. Under a ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia, ethnic Armenian authorities in the region agreed to lay down their weapons and engage in “reintegration” talks.
However, the news of reintegration into Azerbaijan has caused panic among ethnic Armenians, who fear the long history of hostility and violence between the two groups would make cohabitation difficult, if not impossible.
With the situation deteriorating, more and more residents are attempting to leave the region and escape the escalating violence. Lines of vehicles stretching for miles have been observed heading towards Armenia.
Reportedly, many fleeing residents have experienced personal losses due to Azerbaijani fire. Valentina Asryan, a 54-year-old from the village of Vank, shared with the AFP news agency that her brother-in-law was killed, and several others were injured.
The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has spanned over three decades, with Azerbaijan and Armenia engaged in a bitter dispute over control of the region. Although the territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, it is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Armenians.
In 1991, separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence with the goal of reuniting with Armenia, leading to a violent war with Azerbaijan. Armenians eventually gained control of the enclave and surrounding districts, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
A new war erupted in 2020, resulting in Azerbaijan reclaiming territory in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. After 44 days of fighting, Russia brokered a ceasefire and deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers in the region.
The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh remains critical as the death toll continues to climb, refugees seek safety, and humanitarian aid efforts are urgently needed to address the mounting crisis.