Explosion Shakes Armenian Refugee Exodus, Leaving 20 Dead and Nearly 300 Injured

Twenty Armenian people died, and nearly 300 were injured in an explosion that rocked a makeshift gas station on Monday night. 

The tragic incident occurred as ethnic Armenian refugees desperately sought to escape the embattled enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Meanwhile, senior US officials visited Armenia to signal their deep concern for the worsening humanitarian crisis affecting the region’s civilian population.

Dozens of individuals are in critical condition, suffering from severe burns and requiring urgent evacuation from the enclave.

The health ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh’s unrecognized ethnic Armenian government, the Republic of Artsakh, reported this grim reality, highlighting that medical resources in the area were already scarce. 

Furthermore, the statement from the ministry noted that many people were still unaccounted for in the aftermath of the explosion.

According to local authorities, the catastrophic explosion and subsequent fire tore through the gas station as hundreds of refugees queued up to fuel their vehicles for their escape from Nagorno-Karabakh.

Following a successful military offensive by Azerbaijan the previous week that overcame local Armenian authorities and restored Azerbaijan’s control over Nagorno-Karabakh, ethnic Armenians are now fleeing the area. 

Over 13,500 individuals have crossed from Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia since Sunday, according to a statement from Armenia’s government. 

There are growing concerns that the entire population of the enclave, estimated at 120,000, may seek to flee in the coming days.

Armenia’s prime minister has characterized the ongoing situation as “ethnic cleansing” of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population.

The only road leading out of Nagorno-Karabakh to a checkpoint in the “Lachin Corridor” that connects the enclave to Armenia is now clogged with long traffic jams as countless individuals seek refuge from the escalating crisis.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been at the heart of a protracted conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. While internationally recognized as Azerbaijan’s territory, the two countries engaged in a brutal war over the region following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

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Thousands Flee Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia Amidst Escalating Crisis

Armenia supported local ethnic Armenian separatists who ultimately gained control over most of the territory. 

Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani civilians were displaced from the region during the conflict.

In 2020, Azerbaijan reignited the conflict, launching a full-scale war that decisively defeated Armenia and compelled it to relinquish its claims to Nagorno-Karabakh.

 Russia stepped in to broker a truce and deploy peacekeeping forces to the region, which remain in place. Last week, Azerbaijan initiated a new offensive, compelling the leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians to surrender. Consequently, thousands of ethnic Armenians now face the grim choice of living under Azerbaijani rule or fearing persecution.

Western nations, including the United States, France, and Germany, have voiced their concerns for Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population, holding Azerbaijan responsible for their rights and safety.

In response to the unfolding crisis, the Biden administration has dispatched Samantha Power, current Administrator of USAID, and another senior State Department official to Armenia to convey US support for the country. During her visit to the checkpoint at Armenia’s border with Nagorno-Karabakh, Power called for international monitors and aid organizations to be granted access to the enclave. 

She also urged Azerbaijan to facilitate the evacuation of injured civilians from the area, as the international community watches with growing apprehension over the deteriorating situation.

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Source: ABC News

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