Clashes in Sudan on Eid holiday despite truce announcements

Residents in Khartoum say fighting continued after the army announced a three-day truce for the Eid festival.

Smoke fills the sky in Khartoum, Sudan, near Doha International Hospital on Friday
Smoke fills the sky in Khartoum, Sudan, near Doha International Hospital on Friday [File: Maheen S via AP]

Heavy fighting continues in the Sudanese capital even after Sudan’s army declared a truce, residents told Al Jazeera, dealing a blow to international efforts to end almost a week of fighting between the military and a rival paramilitary group.

The army said on Friday evening it agreed to a three-day truce to enable people to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Its adversary, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), said earlier in the day it had agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire, also to mark Eid.

“The armed forces hope that the rebels will abide by all the requirements of the truce and stop any military moves that would obstruct it,” an army statement said.

The army’s announcement followed another day of hostilities in Khartoum and the army’s first deployment on foot in the capital since the fighting began last Saturday.

Soldiers and armed men from the RSF shot at each other in neighbourhoods across the city, including during the call for special early morning Eid prayers.

‘Residents have little hope for truce’

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said residents around the capital reported continuous artillery attacks.

“Residents say there is intense fighting and direct confrontations between the army and the RSF in the southern part of the capital,” she said.

Morgan said despite a fifth attempt at a ceasefire, residents in various parts of the country say the clashes continue and they believe the truce will not hold.

Gunfire crackled without pause all day, punctuated by the thud of artillery and air raids. Drone footage showed plumes of smoke across Khartoum and its Nile sister cities of Omdurman and Bahri – together one of Africa’s biggest urban areas.

The fighting has killed hundreds, mainly in Khartoum and the west of Sudan, tipping the continent’s third-largest country – where about a quarter of people already relied on food aid – into a humanitarian disaster.

With the airport caught in the fighting and the skies unsafe, nations including the United States, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Spain have been unable to evacuate embassy staff.

In Washington, DC, the US State Department said without elaborating that one US citizen in Sudan had been killed. The White House said no decision had been made yet to evacuate US diplomatic personnel but it was preparing for such an eventuality if it became necessary.

At least five aid workers have been killed, including three from the World Food Programme, which has since suspended its Sudan operation – one of the world’s largest food aid missions.

A worker at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was killed in the city of El-Obeid on Friday after his vehicle was hit by crossfire as he tried to move his family to safety.

Paul Dillon of the IOM said the staff was killed at a time the fighting between the warring sides in Sudan intensified in El-Obeid.

“Our staff member, his wife and their newborn child got into a private vehicle and headed south to relocate to a safer place,” Dillon told Al Jazeera from Geneva.

“About 50km outside of El-Obeid, they found themselves in crossfire between two factions,” he said.

“Our staff member was critically injured but he managed to drive the car some distance away to a health clinic. Unfortunately, he died of his injuries,” Dillon added.

Humanitarian issues

The fighting is making it more difficult for people to leave their homes and join the droves departing Khartoum.

Khartoum resident Mohamed Saber Turaby, 27, wanted to visit his parents 80km (50 miles) from the city for Eid.

“Every time I try to leave the house, there are clashes,” he told the Reuters news agency. “There was shelling last night and now there is presence of army forces on the ground.”

Army troops brandishing semiautomatic weapons were greeted by cheers on one street, a video released by the military on Friday showed.

Reuters verified the location of the video, in the north of the city, but could not verify when it was filmed.

The World Health Organization said at least 413 people have been killed and thousands injured, with hospitals under attack and up to 20,000 people fleeing to neighbouring Chad.

“An increasing number of people are running out of food, water, and power, including in Khartoum,” the UN humanitarian office said.

Sudan borders seven countries and sits between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Africa’s volatile Sahel region. The hostilities risk fanning regional tensions.

The violence was triggered by disagreement over an internationally backed plan to form a new civilian government four years after the fall of former leader Omar al-Bashir to mass protests, and two years after a military coup.

Both sides accuse the other of thwarting the transition.

The two sides are also fighting in the Darfur region in the west, where a partial peace deal was signed in 2020 in a long conflict that led to war crime charges against al-Bashir.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies