Sudan’s warring sides have agreed to extend a shaky ceasefire in their battle for control of the country, after two key international mediators signaled impatience with persistent truce violations.
The five-day extension of the ceasefire between Sudan’s military and its rival, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), was announced in a joint statement late on Monday by Saudi Arabia and the United States.
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“The extension will provide time for further humanitarian assistance, restoration of essential services, and discussion of a potential longer-term extension,” the statement said.
The development came as both sides were under pressure to extend the shaky ceasefire which was due to end on Monday.
Earlier, residents told AFP news agency they could hear street battles in northern Khartoum as well as artillery fire in the south of the capital of over five million people that has been turned into a deadly war zone, as calls to arms stoked fears the conflict will intensify.
In a joint statement on Sunday, the United States and Saudi Arabia – key international mediators – signalled impatience with persistent truce violations and called out Sudan’s military and the RSF for specific breaches of a week-long truce.
Sudan descended into chaos after fighting erupted in mid-April between the military, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and RSF leader General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
The fighting has killed at least 866 civilians and wounded thousands more, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties. The toll could be much higher, the medical group said.
The conflict has turned the capital and other urban areas into battlefields, forcing nearly 1.4 million people to flee their homes to safer areas inside Sudan or cross into neighbouring countries.
The battle has inflicted widespread destruction in residential areas in Khartoum and its adjacent cities of Omdurman and North Khartoum. Residents reported storming and looting of their homes. Many took to social media to condemn the seizure and ransacking of homes.
Aid groups’ offices, healthcare facilities and other civilian infrastructure were also attacked and looted. Many hospitals have become inaccessible since fighting began on April 15.
A week ago, both sides pledged to pause the incessant air strikes, artillery fire and street battles in order to allow in much-needed aid and permit civilians to flee.
But by the seventh day of the truce, no humanitarian corridors had been secured, and aid had only trickled in to replenish the few hospitals that are still functioning in the capital.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Omdurman, said both sides are blaming each other for the violations.
“There were numerous air strikes taking place over the past week during the ceasefire,” Morgan said.
“In terms of the agreement itself – opening humanitarian corridors, vacating hospitals for people to be able to access medical facilities, fixing power plants and water plants – all of that has not been achieved in the past seven days. So it’s not clear if there will be another extension between the two sides.”
For weeks, the US and Saudi Arabia have been mediating talks between the military and the RSF in the Saudi port city of Jeddah. So far, there have been seven declared ceasefires, all of which have been violated to some extent.
In West Darfur province, villages and camps for displaced people were destroyed and burned to the ground in the past weeks, with tens of thousands of people, mostly women and children, fleeing their homes to neighbouring Chad, said Dr Salah Tour, who heads the Doctors’ Syndicate in the province.
Nyala in South Darfur, al-Fasher in North Darfur and Zalingei in Central Darfur have experienced heavy fighting in the past few days. Houses and civilian infrastructure were destroyed and looted, forcing thousands to leave their homes, according to United Nations agencies.