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Sudan war traps civilians after ceasefire ends

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Sudan war traps civilians after ceasefire ends © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Air strikes, artillery and gunfire rocked several areas of Sudan’s capital on Monday as fighting between warring factions intensified for a second day, trapping civilians in a worsening humanitarian crisis.

The war between the country’s army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has raged for almost two months, forcing almost 2 million to flee and wrecking the economy, causing frequent electricity and water outages.

Talks in Jeddah have failed to permanently end fighting and clashes intensified as soon as a ceasefire ended on Sunday.

While the RSF has spread out across most of the capital, controlling main streets and setting up camp inside some homes, the army has the advantage of air and artillery weaponry.

Residents of eastern Khartoum reported being hit by air strikes, while in southern Khartoum as well as northern Omdurman reported being hit by artillery fighting. Eyewitnesses reported clashes in central Khartoum as well.

“Since yesterday, the war has come back and there’s strikes from all direction,” said Awatif Sidahmed, 43, living in Sharq el-Nil across the Nile from Khartoum.

“Our neighbourhood is a war zone so leaving is difficult and staying home is difficult. We don’t know what to do.”

Those who stay also struggle with dwindling funds as the government has stopped paying salaries and pensions.

More than 200,000 of the 1.9 million Sudanese who have managed to flee their homes have gone to Egypt, which this week imposed a visa requirement for children, women and the elderly who had previously been exempt.

Hundreds of Sudanese were turned back at Cairo airport and sent back on return flights, according to Cairo airport sources, after a similar exemption for those with residencies in western and Gulf states was removed.

DARFUR FIGHTING

No side has made clear progress, and the fighting has spread to several cities to the west in the Kordofan and Darfur regions.

In the westernmost city of El Geneina, militias backed by the RSF have launched attacks on the city, which has now lost access to power and running water. Tens of thousands have fled to Chad.

Activist Kamal Alzein told Reuters that he had heard from three activists in the city that has been largely cut off from telecom networks that 1,100 people had been killed and 3,000 injured since attacks began in April.

Reuters could not immediately verify the numbers. The highest official death toll from the Sudanese health ministry was 510, reported in late May.

In a statement on Sunday’s intense fighting in Bahri, the army says that while they were able to make gains against the RSF and claim to have killed hundreds, it had also lost several soldiers. It blamed the RSF for deadly air strikes on civilians in southern Khartoum.

The RSF in turn said that the army had used the 24-hour ceasefire on Saturday to reposition troops and attack immediately after.

Kenyan President William Ruto said on Monday that East African countries would conduct face-to-face meetings with the heads of the army and RSF within 10 days to discuss stopping the war and humanitarian corridors.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Monday agencies had been able to deliver supplies for 2 million people including 57 cross-line movements.

That included medical supplies to 42,000 people living on the island of Tuti on the Nile, where residents have said their single bridge to the mainland was blocked by the RSF, cutting off food and medicine supplies.

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