Friday, October 27, 2023

Sudan Clashes Continue During Eid Holiday Despite Truce Declarations


Despite Sudan’s army declaring a truce, heavy fighting continues in the capital, Khartoum, according to residents. This is a setback for international efforts to end almost a week of fighting between the military and a rival paramilitary group. The army declared a three-day truce on Friday to enable people to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Its adversary, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), also agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire to mark Eid. However, both sides have continued to engage in hostilities, with gunfire and artillery attacks reported across the city. Drone footage showed plumes of smoke across Khartoum and its Nile sister cities of Omdurman and Bahri.

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan reported that residents around the capital reported continuous artillery attacks. She said that despite a fifth attempt at a ceasefire, residents in various parts of the country say the clashes continue and they believe the truce will not hold. The fighting has killed hundreds, mainly in Khartoum and the west of Sudan, tipping the continent’s third-largest country into a humanitarian disaster. With the airport caught in the fighting and the skies unsafe, nations including the United States, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Spain have been unable to evacuate embassy staff.

The fighting is making it more difficult for people to leave their homes and join the droves departing Khartoum. Hospitals are under attack and up to 20,000 people are fleeing to neighbouring Chad. The World Health Organization said at least 413 people have been killed and thousands injured. The UN humanitarian office said that an increasing number of people are running out of food, water, and power, including in Khartoum. The violence risks fanning regional tensions as Sudan borders seven countries and sits between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Africa’s volatile Sahel region.

The violence was triggered by disagreement over an internationally backed plan to form a new civilian government four years after the fall of former leader Omar al-Bashir to mass protests, and two years after a military coup. Both sides accuse the other of thwarting the transition. The two sides are also fighting in the Darfur region in the west, where a partial peace deal was signed in 2020 in a long conflict that led to war crime charges against al-Bashir.

The fighting has killed at least five aid workers, including three from the World Food Programme, which has since suspended its Sudan operation – one of the world’s largest food aid missions. A worker at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was killed in the city of El-Obeid on Friday after his vehicle was hit by crossfire as he tried to move his family to safety. Paul Dillon of the IOM said the staff was killed at a time the fighting between the warring sides in Sudan intensified in El-Obeid. “Our staff member, his wife and their newborn child got into a private vehicle and headed south to relocate to a safer place,” Dillon told Al Jazeera from Geneva. “About 50km outside of El-Obeid, they found themselves in crossfire between two factions,” he said. “Our staff member was critically injured but he managed to drive the car some distance away to a health clinic. Unfortunately, he died of his injuries,” Dillon added.

In Washington, DC, the US State Department said without elaborating that one US citizen in Sudan had been killed. The White House said no decision had been made yet to evacuate US diplomatic personnel but it was preparing for such an eventuality if it became necessary.

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