Strikes by air, tanks and artillery shook Sudan’s capital Khartoum and the adjacent city of Bahri on Friday, witnesses said, mocking a 72-hour truce extension announced by the army and the rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands have fled for their lives in a power struggle between the army and RSF that erupted on April 15 and disabled an internationally backed transition toward democratic elections.
The fighting has also reawakened a two-decade-old conflict in the western Darfur region where scores have died this week.
In the Khartoum area, heavy gunfire and detonations rattled residential neighborhoods. Plumes of smoke rose above Bahri.
“We hear the sounds of planes and explosions. We don’t know when this hell will end,” said Bahri resident Mahasin al-Awad, 65. “We’re in a constant state of fear for ourselves and our children.”
The army has been deploying jets or drones on RSF forces spread out in neighborhoods across the capital. Many terrified residents are pinned down by urban warfare with little access to food, fuel, water and electricity.
At least 512 people have been killed and close to 4,200 wounded, according to the United Nations, believes the real toll is much higher. The Sudan Doctors Union said at least 387 civilians had been killed.
The RSF accused the army of violating a US- and Saudi-brokered ceasefire with air strikes on its bases in Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile rivers, and Mount Awliya.
The army blamed the RSF for violations.
The ceasefire is supposed to last until Sunday at midnight.
A Turkish evacuation plane came under fire as it was landing at Wadi Seyidna airport in Omdurman on Friday but there were no injuries, Türkiye’s defense ministry said.
Sudan’s army accused the RSF of firing at the plane, damaging its fuel system which was being repaired after the aircraft managed to land safely. The RSF denied that, accusing the army of “spreading lies”.
Lulls in fighting earlier this week allowed some Khartoum residents to leave and foreign evacuations to pick up, but fighting has otherwise rumbled on through announced ceasefires as both sides appear to have shaky control of their troops.
The violence has sent tens of thousands of refugees across Sudan’s borders and threatens to compound instability across a volatile swathe of Africa between the Sahel and the Red Sea.
In Darfur, at least 96 people had died since Monday in inter-communal violence rekindled by the army-RSF conflict, UN human rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said.
Releases and escapes from at least eight jails – including five in Khartoum and two in Darfur – were adding to the chaos, she added. “We are very worried about the prospect of further violence amid a generalized climate of impunity.”
Relief agencies have been largely unable to distribute food to the needy in Africa’s third-largest country, where a third of its 46 million people were already reliant on donations.
Saudi Arabia said two more evacuation ships had arrived in Jeddah, across the Red Sea from Sudan, on Friday carrying 252 people in all from various countries.
Dodging the fighting wherever possible, Sudanese civilians have been fleeing Khartoum, one of Africa’s largest cities which had long been untouched by Sudan’s string of civil wars.
Among Sudan’s neighbors, Egypt said it had taken in 16,000 people, while 20,000 had entered Chad and the UN refugee agency said over 14,000 had crossed into South Sudan, which won independence from Khartoum in 2011 after decades of civil war.
Some had walked from Khartoum to South Sudan’s border, a distance of over 400 km (250 miles), a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency said.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s office said on Friday he had received calls of support for restoring calm from several regional leaders including South Sudan’s president, Ethiopia’s prime minister, the Saudi foreign minister and a diplomatic grouping that includes the United States and Britain.
Friction had been building for months between Sudan’s army and the RSF, whose joint 2021 coup toppled a civilian coalition government and came two years after a popular uprising ousted veteran President Omar al-Bashir.
Both the army and RSF were required to cede power to civilian parties under a transition plan meant to be finalized earlier this month but the process foundered over timing issues, including when the RSF would be absorbed into army ranks.