More air strikes in Sudan as ceasefire expiry looms

Fighting between the army and RSF paramilitary rages for a second straight day in West Darfur’s capital, Geneina.

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (C),
Mohamed 'Hemedti' Hamdan Dagalo, leader of the Rapid Support Forces, has turned against the man who was once his commander, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan [File: Ashraf Shazly/AFP]

The Sudanese army has pounded paramilitary fighters with air strikes in the capital, Khartoum, while deadly fighting has flared in Darfur as a ceasefire that has slowed street battles is set to expire.

Columns of smoke rose on Thursday near the presidential palace in Khartoum and areas north of the capital as aircraft flew sorties.

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said its rival, the Sudanese Armed Forces, bombed its camp in the Kafouri district with warplanes.

The death toll continued to rise. At least 512 people have been killed and 4,193 wounded as the conflict entered a 13th day, according to health ministry figures, although the real numbers are likely to be much higher.

Battles continued despite a three-day, US-brokered ceasefire that took effect early on Tuesday. Aircraft patrolled the skies over the capital’s northern suburbs, and fighters on the ground exchanged artillery and small-arms fire.

The army said it agreed to talks in Juba, capital of neighbouring South Sudan, on extending the truce, which expires late on Thursday. The talks have been proposed by a bloc of East African countries, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

There have been multiple truce efforts since fighting broke out on April 15 between Sudan’s regular army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the RSF, commanded by his deputy-turned-rival, Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Daglo. All have failed.

Al-Burhan agreed on Wednesday to the IGAD proposal for talks on extending the ceasefire by a further 72 hours, the army said. The RSF’s response to the proposal remains unclear.

Violence beyond Khartoum

Beyond the capital, fighting has flared in the provinces, particularly in the war-torn western region of Darfur.

Fighting between the army and RSF raged for a second straight day in West Darfur’s capital, Geneina, and sent civilians fleeing for the nearby border with Chad, witnesses said.

On Wednesday, the United Nations humanitarian agency reported killings, looting and arson in Geneina. “An estimated 50,000 acutely malnourished children have had nutrition support disrupted due to the fighting,” it said in a statement.

The heavy fighting has trapped many civilians in their homes and they are short of food, water and electricity. Communications have been sporadically disrupted.

The UN has warned that as many as 270,000 people could flee into Sudan’s poorer neighbours South Sudan and Chad.

Other Sudanese have sought refuge in Egypt to the north and Ethiopia to the east, but both entail long and potentially dangerous journeys overland.

The UN said it “received reports of tens of thousands of people arriving in the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan”.

Foreign governments have taken advantage of the fragile truce to organise road convoys, flights and ships to get thousands of their citizens out of Sudan. But some have warned their evacuation efforts are dependent on the lull in fighting holding.

China deployed warships on Thursday to evacuate its citizens.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies