Sudanese army and RSF extend ceasefire, but violence continues

A man walks near a damaged car and buildings at the central market in Khartoum North, Sudan. (Photo: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters)

Despite ongoing violence in Khartoum and the western Darfur region, the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have agreed to extend their ceasefire.

In the final hours of the repeatedly violated three-day ceasefire, set to expire at midnight (22:00 GMT) on Thursday, the army announced that it would extend the ceasefire "for an additional 72 hours" as a result of Saudi Arabian and American mediation efforts.

The RSF also stated that it supported the extension of the ceasefire, adding that the proposal originated from two diplomatic coalitions: the United States, Saudi Arabia, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates.

Witnesses told the AFP news agency that on Thursday, warplanes patrolled over the capital's northern suburbs while combatants on the ground exchanged artillery and heavy machine-gun fire.

The previous ceasefire did not stop the fighting, but it allowed tens of thousands of Sudanese to escape to safer areas and hundreds of foreign citizens to be evacuated by land and sea.

Together, the army and the RSF overthrew a civilian government in a coup in October 2021 but are now engaged in a power struggle that has derailed a transition to democracy supported by the international community and threatens to destabilize a fragile region.

The army asserts that it controls most of Sudan's regions and is defeating a sizable RSF deployment in Khartoum, where residential areas have been transformed into war zones.

Despite a partial lull in combat since the first 72-hour ceasefire began, witnesses and Reuters journalists reported hearing air attacks and anti-aircraft fire on Thursday in the capital and the nearby cities of Omdurman and Bahri.

The White House expressed concern over the ceasefire violations and warned that the situation could deteriorate anytime, imploring American citizens to evacuate within 24 to 48 hours.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that despite the defective nature of the ceasefire, violence had been reduced.

Earlier this week, White House spokesperson for national security John Kirby told Al Jazeera that reducing violence was Washington's top priority.

Kirby stated, "What we want is for the violence to cease completely so that no more Sudanese lives are endangered and humanitarian aid can reach those in need."

Hundreds Killed

Late Thursday evening, Al Jazeera's Hiba Morgan reported from Khartoum that "the international community and regional bodies appear to be focusing on getting those two sides to stop fighting before turning to the possibility of talks" for a long-term solution.

Since the escalation of violence began on April 15, there have been at least 512 deaths and nearly 4,200 injuries. The conflict has been simmering in the extensive Darfur region since the outbreak of civil war twenty years ago.

At least 52 people have been killed, according to the Darfur Bar Association, a human rights organization, in attacks by well-armed "militias" on residential neighborhoods in the city of El Geneina, as well as its main hospital, main market, government buildings, and several sanctuaries for the internally displaced.

Militiamen from nomadic Arab tribes have penetrated El Geneina in recent days, according to a resident who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.

They encountered armed members of the Masalit tribe, resulting in confrontations that spread throughout the city and caused a new wave of displacement.

A third of the country's 46 million citizens depend on humanitarian assistance due to the conflict's impact on food distribution. According to the World Food Programme, the violence could cause millions to suffer starvation.

Thursday from Port Sudan, Abdou Dieng, the United Nations aid commander in Sudan, stated that he was "extremely worried about the situation" and that food supplies were a major concern.

In addition, the Sudan Doctors Union reported that sixty of eighty-six hospitals in conflict zones had ceased operations.

At least 20,000 people have fled to Chad, 4,000 to South Sudan, 3,500 to Ethiopia, and 3,000 to the Central African Republic, according to the United Nations, which has warned that as many as 270,000 may flee if the fighting persists.

Publish : 2023-04-28 11:50:00

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