Sudanese fighter jets pounded paramilitary positions in Khartoum on Thursday while deadly fighting and looting flared in Darfur, despite the army and a rival force agreeing to extend a ceasefire deal.
In the final hours of a repeatedly broken three-day ceasefire, due to end at midnight, the army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) announced a 72-hour extension following pressure from Saudi Arabia and the United States.
There have been multiple truce efforts since fighting broke out on 15 April between Sudan’s army led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the paramilitary RSF commanded by his deputy-turned-rival, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo. All have failed.
Foreign representatives involved in seeking to quell the fighting welcomed the extended ceasefire deal and urged full implementation.
In a joint statement, the African Union, the United Nations, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States applauded the two sides’ “readiness to engage in dialogue toward establishing a more durable cessation of hostilities and ensuring unimpeded humanitarian access”.
Doing so, they said, could be followed by a de-escalation plan sketched in a blueprint for peace negotiated earlier this month.
“We welcome the . . . announcement extending the ceasefire in Sudan by an additional 72 hours,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken posted on Twitter.
Artillery, heavy weapons, warplanes
On Thursday, warplanes flew over the northern suburbs of Khartoum as fighters on the ground exchanged artillery and heavy machine gun fire, according to witnesses.
At least 512 people have been killed and 4,193 wounded in the fighting, according to health ministry figures, although the real death toll is likely to be much higher.
Hospitals have been shelled and more than two-thirds are out of service.
The World Food Programme has said the violence could plunge millions more into hunger in a country where 15 million people . . . one-third of the population . . . need aid.
Abdou Dieng, UN aid chief in Sudan, speaking from Port Sudan on Thursday, said he was “extremely worried about the situation”, with food supplies a major concern.
Thousands of children without food
Fighting has also flared in the provinces, particularly in the troubled western region of Darfur.
The UN humanitarian agency said the fighting in West Darfur had disrupted food to “an estimated 50,000 acutely malnourished children”.
The violence has trapped many civilians in their homes, where they have endured severe food, water and electricity shortages.
Those who can afford to leave have taken the long and risky journey to flee the country.
Egypt said Thursday that at least 14,000 Sudanese refugees had crossed the border since fighting began, along with 2,000 people from 50 other countries.
The UN has warned that, if fighting continues, as many as 270,000 people could be forced to flee.