| 9 December 2023, Saturday |

Sudan fighting continues despite ceasefire, army agrees to help evacuate foreigners

Sudan’s army claimed on Saturday that it has agreed to assist in the evacuation of foreign nationals, as intermittent gunfire and air strikes rang throughout Khartoum, despite assurances by warring parties to halt fire for three days following a week of fighting that killed hundreds.

The remark, according to army head Abdel Fatteh al-Burhan, came after rival Rapid Support Forces (RSF) leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, alias Hemedti, promised to open airports for evacuations.

Sounds of fighting continued overnight but appeared less intense on Saturday morning than on the previous day, a Reuters journalist in Khartoum said. Live broadcasts by regional news channels showed rising smoke and the thud of blasts.

The army and the paramilitary RSF, which are waging a deadly power struggle across the country, had both issued statements saying they would uphold a three-day ceasefire from Friday for Islam’s Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Sudan’s sudden collapse into warfare has dashed plans to restore civilian rule, brought an already impoverished country to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe and threatened a wider conflict that could draw in outside powers.

There has been no sign yet that either side can secure a quick victory or is ready to back down and talk. The army has air power but the RSF is widely embedded in urban areas including around key facilities in central Khartoum.

Burhan and Hemedti had held the top two positions on a ruling council overseeing a political transition after a 2021 coup that was meant to include a move to civilian rule and the RSF’s merger into the army.

The World Health Organization reported on Friday that 413 people had been killed and 3,551 injured since fighting broke out. The death toll includes at least five aid workers in a country reliant on food aid.

International efforts to quell the violence have focused on the ceasefire, with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken calling on them to honor the truce.

The U.S. and some other countries have readied efforts to evacuate their citizens. The army said the United States, Britain, France and China would evacuate diplomats and other nationals from Khartoum “in the coming hours”.

Saudi Arabia’s embassy had already been evacuated out by land to Port Sudan and flown out from there and Jordan’s would follow in a similar manner, the army added.

RSF chief Hemedti said on Facebook early on Saturday that he had received a phone call from U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres in which they “emphasised the necessity of adhering to a complete ceasefire and providing protection for humanitarian and medical workers”.

The RSF said it was ready to partially open all airports to allow evacuations. However, Khartoum’s international airport has been caught in fighting and the status of other airports or RSF’s control over them is unclear.

  • Reuters