Air strikes have pummelled Khartoum, with representatives of Sudan’s warring factions meeting in Saudi Arabia for talks to prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe” as the fighting entered a fifth week.
A witness in west Khartoum reported army air strikes on paramilitary forces on Saturday, as brutal urban warfare continued in Sudan’s densely-populated capital.
More than 750 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since fighting erupted on April 15 between army chief Abdel Fattah al Burhan and his deputy turned rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
Over half a million people have fled Khartoum alone, according to the UN, with hospitals there shelled and rampant looting reported as residents suffer chronic shortages of food, electricity and medicine.
Talks in Saudi Arabia
The representatives of the warring parties will resume talks on Sunday on how to implement plans to deliver humanitarian aid and remove troops from civilian areas, a senior Saudi diplomat said on Sunday.
The parties will remain in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah to start the next phase of the negotiations after agreeing on Thursday to the plan to protect civilians, Reuters reported quoting an unnamed diplomat.
The diplomat also said Burhan had been invited to attend the Arab League summit planned to take place in Jeddah on May 19 but it was unclear who would be representing Sudan.
“We didn’t receive the name of the delegations, but we’re really expecting Sudan will be present in,” the diplomat said.
Envoys in Jeddah agreed on Thursday to “affirm our commitment to ensure that civilians are protected”.
However, the deal, dubbed the Jeddah Declaration, did not amount to a truce and the situation on the ground appeared unchanged.
In the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, “houses are shaking from the force of explosions”, a witness tol d AFP Saturday, reporting armed clashes.
Thursday’s deal commits both sides to let in badly needed humanitarian assistance and also calls for the restoration of water, electricity and other basic services.
The shortages have been felt even in areas removed from the fighting.
According to Moussa Hassan, a resident of Kassala, “prices have skyrocketed” in the city 400 kilometres (250 miles) east of the capital, as tens of thousands fleeing Khartoum transit through.
“Local authorities have declared a state of emergency” in a bid to ration essentials and prevent price gouging, Hassan told AFP.
Sudan launched on Saturday a plea for humanitarian assistance from the international community, including the United Nations, the African Union, and other regional organisations.
The government committed to “dedicating the port and airports of Port Sudan” on the Red Sea, Dongola airport in the country’s north and Wadi Seidna air base near the capital “to receive aid”.
Civilians and aid groups have repeatedly pleaded for humanitarian corridors to secure vital assistance, as aid agencies have been systematically looted and at least 18 humanitarian workers killed.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed hopes the Jeddah deal would “ensure that the relief operation can scale up swiftly and safely to meet the needs of millions of people in Sudan”, where a third of the population relied on aid even before the current conflict.
Guterres also reiterated “his call for an immediate ceasefire and expanded discussions to achieve a permanent cessation of hostilities”, in a Friday statement.
‘Quite far apart’
An RSF statement Friday said the group had signed the Jeddah agreement despite their “full knowledge” that the army “will not heed the suffering of our people”.
Hopes for a ceasefire remain dim after multiple truces were violated in past weeks.
US officials have described the talks as difficult, with one saying the two sides were “quite far apart”.