Friday, May 24, 2024

Air strikes hit Khartoum despite truce

(BBC News) Air strikes have pounded Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, despite a truce aimed at allowing civilians to flee.

The army said it was attacking the city to flush out its paramilitary rivals, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

The fighting intensified even as the warring sides said they would extend the truce by another three days.

More than 500 deaths have been reported with the true number of casualties believed to be much higher.

Army commander General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF chief General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, are vying for power, and disagree about plans to include the RSF in the army.

The generals agreed to a humanitarian truce after diplomatic efforts by neighbouring countries, the U.S., U.K. and UN. It was extended, but did not hold.

Before the announcement of the truce extension on Sunday, the army said it had conducted operations against RSF troops north of the city centre.

Hamid Khalafallah, from the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, is one of those unable to flee.

“When there is very loud bombing and it gets closer, we take shelter in the house, try to all come to a central room, far from windows, far from walls, and so on, and just lie on the floor until it passes,” Khalafallah said.

“When it’s a bit farther, we try to use the quiet hours that we get – a couple of hours a day – to just quickly go out and get what we need – which is also very risky, but we have to do it.”

The first major aid flight, laden with medical supplies, has arrived in the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says a plane landed at Port Sudan with eight tonnes of relief supplies, including health kits for hospitals.

“With hostilities still ongoing, ICRC teams will need guarantees of safe passage from the parties to the conflict to deliver this material to medical facilities in locations with active fighting, such as Khartoum,” a statement said.

More than 70% of health facilities in the capital have been forced to close as a result of the fighting that erupted on April 15.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Paul Adams, who is monitoring events from Nairobi in Kenya, says the army will find it difficult to expel the RSF from Khartoum.

For all the army’s superior firepower, the RSF is highly mobile and more suited to urban warfare, Adams said.

Foreign countries have been evacuating their nationals amid the chaos.

The U.K. government announced on Sunday that it would organize a final evacuation flight on Monday – two days after it said it had ended its operation to bring British nationals out. The Foreign Office (FCDO) advised those wishing to leave to travel to the evacuation point in Port Sudan before 12:00 (10:00 GMT). So far, 2,122 people have been evacuated, the FCDO statement said.

A U.S.-organized convoy has reached Port Sudan to evacuate more U.S. citizens by ship to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. It said hundreds of Americans had already left, in addition to the diplomats evacuated by air a week ago.

On Saturday, Sudanese former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok warned that the conflict could become worse than those in Syria and Libya. Those wars have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and caused instability in the wider regions.

Speaking in Nairobi, he said: “I think it will be a nightmare for the world. This is not a war between an army and small rebellion. It is almost like two armies.”

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