Strikes from the air, tanks and artillery shook Sudan’s capital of Khartoum on Friday and the adjacent city of Bahri came under heavy bombardment, witnesses said, even though the army and a rival paramilitary force agreed to extend a truce by 72 hours.
In persisting ceasefire violations that the United States called worrying, heavy gunfire and detonations rattled residential neighbourhoods of the capital region where fighting has been concentrated over the past week.
“We’re in a constant state of fear for ourselves and our children.”
Lulls in the fighting in parts of Khartoum earlier this week allowed some residents to leave and foreign evacuations to pick up, but fighting has otherwise rumbled on through announced ceasefires. Analysts have questioned the ability of both sides to enforce respect for truces among their troops.
Violence has also resurged in the Darfur region, where conflict has simmered since a brutal civil war erupted two decades ago, and threatens to compound instability across a volatile swathe of Africa between the Sahel and the Red Sea.
U.N. humanitarian office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said at least 96 people had been killed in Darfur since Monday by inter-communal violence rekindled by the army-RSF conflict.
“It is deeply alarming that inmates have been released from or escaped from a number of prisons, and we are very worried about the prospect of further violence amid a generalised climate of impunity,” she told a briefing in Geneva.
The Sudan Doctors Union said on Friday that at least 387 civilians had been killed and 1,928 injured in the fighting since April 15, which has also caused a humanitarian crisis.
Relief agencies have been largely unable to distribute food to the needy in Africa’s third-largest country, where a third of its 46 million people were already reliant on donations.
MORE EVACUATIONS, REFUGEES
Saudi Arabia said two more evacuation ships had arrived in Jeddah, across the Red Sea from Sudan, on Friday carrying 252 people in all from various countries.
Dodging the fighting wherever possible, Sudanese civilians have been fleeing Khartoum, one of Africa’s largest cities which had long been untouched by Sudan’s string of civil wars.
Among Sudan’s neighbours, Egypt said it had taken in 16,000 people, 20,000 had entered Chad and the U.N. refugee agency said over 14,000 had crossed into South Sudan, which won independence from Khartoum in 2011 after decades of disastrous civil war.
A UNHCR spokeswoman said some had walked from Khartoum to South Sudan’s border, a distance of over 400 km (250 miles).
The army and RSF said earlier they had agreed to extend the ceasefire to midnight on Sunday to prolong one that expired on Thursday night. That earlier truce induced relative calm in some areas, allowing diplomatic evacuations to gather pace.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s office said on Friday he had received calls of support for restoring calm from several regional leaders including South Sudan’s president and Ethiopia’s prime minister, the Saudi foreign minister and a diplomatic grouping that includes the United States and Britain.
Friction had been building for months between Sudan’s army and the RSF, whose joint 2021 coup toppled a civilian coalition government and came two years after a popular uprising ousted veteran Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
Both the army and RSF were required to cede power to civilian parties under a transition plan meant to be finalised earlier this month but the process foundered over timing issues, including when the RSF would be absorbed into army ranks.
Reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz, Eltayeb Siddig in Khartoum, Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo, Tala Ramadan in Dubai, Jehad Abu Shalbak and Muath Freij from Amman, MacDonald Dzirutwe in Lagos, Denis Elamu in Juba, Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Mark Heinrich; Editing by Robert Birsel