YEREVAN – Armenia and Azerbaijan forces fought Tuesday with heavy artillery and drones, leaving at least 16 people killed on both sides, including an Azerbaijani general, in the worst outbreak of hostilities in years.
Skirmishes on the volatile border between the two South Caucasus nations began Sunday. Azerbaijan said it has lost 11 servicemen and one civilian in three days of fighting, and Armenia said four of its troops were killed Tuesday.
The two neighbors in the South Caucasus have been locked in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. International efforts to settle the conflict have stalled.
Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have frequently engaged in clashes. The current skirmishes appear to mark the most serious spike in hostilities since 2016 when scores were killed in four days of fighting.
The latest incident began Sunday when Armenian and Azerbaijani troops exchanged fire in the northern section of their border. Officials in both countries blamed each other for starting the fighting and said that sporadic shelling has continued.
Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said two senior officers, Maj. Gen. Polad Hashimov and Col. Ilgar Mirzayev, were killed in fighting Tuesday along with five other servicemen.
Armenian officials claimed that Azerbaijani drones launched an attack on the Tavush province town of Berd, targeting civilian infrastructure. Defense Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said that one of Azerbaijani drones was downed.
Stepanyan also charged that the Azerbaijani military used civilians as shields, placing artillery close to the village of Dondar Gushchu in the Tovuz district about 10 kilometers (six miles) from the border.