Air raids, clashes at start of one-week truce in Sudan

Witnesses say clashes and air raids broke out minutes after the latest attempt at a pause in hostilities came into force.

Armed men walk in Khartoum
Armed men walk in Khartoum on May 22, 2023, as fighting between two rival generals persists [AFP]

Overnight air raids and clashes have dampened hopes for a seven-day truce in Sudan, which was negotiated to allow the passage of life-saving humanitarian aid.

Witnesses in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, told AFP that clashes and air raids broke out minutes after the latest attempt at a pause in hostilities began at 21:45 (19:45 GMT) on Monday.

Meanwhile, civilians told Reuters that they had heard firing in Khartoum North and Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin cities, without reporting major violations of the truce.

Multiple previous attempts at a ceasefire have been shaky or collapsed, heightening concerns over diminishing food provisions and a breakdown of essential medical services.

“Beyond official announcements, Sudan is still pounded and bombarded, with millions of civilian lives at risk,” Karl Schembri of the Norwegian Refugee Council wrote on Twitter.

Fighting between the army, led by Sudan’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded by Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, broke out on April 15. At least 1,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee the country.

Earlier on Monday, residents of Khartoum said they doubted the fighters were preparing to pause.

“Fighter jets are bombing our neighbourhood,” Khartoum resident Mahmoud Salah el-Din told AFP, in the hours before the truce was to take effect.

Despite previous truces falling through, the United States and Saudi Arabia who brokered the deal, said the latest attempt was different because it was “signed by the parties” and would be supported by a “ceasefire monitoring mechanism”.

A seven-page agreement released by the US said warring sides were to use the two days before the truce took effect to “inform their respective forces” about it and “instruct them to comply”.

But the UN’s envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, told the United Nations Security Council that “fighting and troop movements have continued even today, despite a commitment by both sides not to pursue military advantage before the ceasefire takes effect”.

Ahead of the truce, Dagalo released a voice message on social media saying his troops would not retreat “until we end this coup” and told his forces: “It is either victory or martyrdom, and victory will be ours.”

He also addressed reported violations by his forces, who have been accused of looting civilian homes and attacking churches, with many Sudanese people reporting the incidents on social media. Dagalo blamed the incidents on “coup plotters” in the army.

People walk past parked three-wheeled vehicles on al-Sittin (sixty) road in Khartoum
People walk past parked three-wheeled vehicles on al-Sittin Road in Khartoum, on May 22, 2023 [File: AFP]

Desperately needed aid

Civilians have been awaiting the ceasefire with hopes that desperately needed aid would be allowed into the country to bolster dwindling supplies of food, medicine and other essentials.

“We are all hungry, the children, the elderly, everyone is suffering from this war. We have no more water,” Khartoum resident Souad al-Fateh told AFP, pleading for both sides to “find an agreement”.

More than half the Sudanese population needs humanitarian aid, according to the UN.

On Monday, the Sudanese doctors’ union announced the closure of “the only hospital that had remained servicing” two districts east of the capital.

The union blamed RSF troops for the closure, saying the forces had for days been “assaulting and intimidating patients, families and medical staff” inside the hospital, in addition to the army “personally threatening” hospital staff.

Healthcare workers have repeatedly warned that the system is on the verge of collapse in Khartoum and the western region of Darfur.

The conflict has dashed hopes for progress towards democracy in Sudan, risks drawing in its neighbours and could play into a regional competition between Russia and the US. Sudan sits strategically between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Africa’s volatile Sahel region.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies