Sudan ceasefire extended as battles rage

AFP , Ahram Online , Monday 1 May 2023

The two warring Sudanese forces on Sunday announced the extension of an existing ceasefire for a further 72 hours, the latest of multiple truces that have largely been violated.

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Sudanese refugees from the Tandelti area fill containers and drink from a water tank in Koufroun, Chad, near Echbara, on April 30, 2023. (AFP)

 

The Sudanese Armed Forces and the rival Rapid Support Forces both confirmed prolongation of a ceasefire that was due to end at midnight (2200 GMT), with the army saying the extension came due to "US and Saudi mediation".

A statement issued by the General Command of the Sudanese Armed Forces stated: "Based on the endeavours of the US-Saudi mediation request, the armed forces agreed to extend the ceasefire for a period of 72 hours, to start as of the end of the current truce period, although we monitored the rebels' intentions to try to attack some sites, we hope that the rebels abide by the requirements of implementing the ceasefire, with our full readiness to deal with any breaches."

Earlier, the Rapid Support Forces said in a statement that this approval came "in response to international, regional and local calls" to "open humanitarian corridors, facilitate the movement of citizens and residents, and enable them to fulfil their needs and reach safe areas."

Deadly hostilities between the army and paramilitaries in Khartoum and other parts of the country have entered a third week.

More than 500 people have been killed and tens of thousands of people forced to leave their homes for safer locations within the country or abroad since battles erupted on April 15.

Witnesses on Sunday evening reported continued armed clashes as well as fighter jets soaring above various parts of the capital and its twin city Omdurman, across the Nile River.

The civil aviation authority on Sunday announced Sudan's airspace would remain closed until May 13, with the exception of aid and evacuation flights.

"There has been very heavy fighting and loud gunfire," a southern Khartoum resident told AFP earlier in the day.

Further complicating the battlefield, Central Reserve Police, a paramilitary unit, were being deployed across Khartoum to "protect citizens' properties" from looting, the Sudanese police said, confirming an army statement.

Police said Central Reserve had arrested 316 "rebels", a reference to the RSF, which did not confirm the information and had previously warned police against joining the fight.

The US Treasury Department last year sanctioned the Central Reserve for "serious human rights abuses" related to its use of "excessive force" against pro-democracy protests in October 2021.

With projectiles crashing into residential buildings, supplies running short and daily life increasingly untenable for civilians, foreign nations have scrambled to evacuate their nationals by air, road and sea since the war began on April 15.

But millions of Sudanese are still trapped in the country, where aid workers are among the dead, the UN said humanitarian facilities have been looted, and it has been forced to essentially halt all aid operations.

A first Red Cross plane brought eight tonnes of humanitarian aid from Jordan to Port Sudan, which is so far untouched by the fighting. The aid included surgical material and medical kits to stabilise 1,500 patients.

On Saturday the health ministry said the violence has wounded around 4,600 people and killed at least 528.

Those figures are likely to be incomplete.

Sudan's former prime minister Abdalla Hamdok warned Saturday against the conflict's deteriorating into one of the world's worst civil wars.

"God forbid if Sudan is to reach a point of civil war proper... Syria, Yemen, Libya will be a small play," Hamdok told an event in Nairobi. "I think it would be a nightmare for the world."

Khartoum authorities on Sunday put civil servants on open-ended leave "due to the security situation".

The UN World Food Programme has warned the unrest could plunge millions more into hunger in a country where 15 million people already needed aid to stave off famine.

Only 16 percent of health facilities are functioning in Khartoum, according to the World Health Organization, with many facilities shelled.

"The situation cannot be sustained" as medical supplies run short, warned Majzoub Saad Ibrahim, a doctor in Ad Damar, north of Khartoum.

The warring sides have agreed to multiple truces but none has taken hold.

An envoy of Burhan's met on Sunday in Riyadh with the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, who called for the restoration of calm in Sudan, his ministry said.

Dangerous conditions

More than 75,000 people have been internally displaced in Sudan, the UN said, and almost 40,000 have crossed borders, mostly into Chad but also South Sudan, Ethiopia and Central African Republic, aid workers said.

More than 5,000 people have escaped to safety on Saudi Arabian ships across the Red Sea from Port Sudan, the kingdom said.

Britain said it would operate an additional evacuation flight, from Port Sudan on Monday, after already airlifting more than 2,000 people out of the country from an airport near Khartoum.

Canada ended its air evacuations "due to the dangerous conditions", having flown out more than 540 people, including Canadians, after large airlifts by France, Germany and other nations.

Along with battles in the capital, fighting, looting and lawlessness in the long-troubled Darfur region has raised particular international concern.

At least 96 people were reported killed in El Geneina, West Darfur, the UN said.

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