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Military lends aid to evacuate civilians as Sudan’s conflict enters second week

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Fighting in the Sudanese capital entered its second week on Saturday as sporadic gunfire and air strikes reverberated across Khartoum despite promises by the warring sides of a ceasefire to mark Eid al-Fitr, while Sudan’s army said it had agreed to help with the evacuation. Foreign nationals from the conflict zone have already left hundreds dead and thousands injured.

The statement, which was quoted by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, came after promises from rival Rapid Support Forces leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti, to open airports for evacuees.

A Reuters journalist in Khartoum said the sounds of fighting continued through the night but sounded less intense on Saturday morning than they had been the day before. The live broadcast of the regional news channels showed rising smoke and explosions.

The army and the Rapid Support Forces, which are locked in a deadly power struggle across the country, issued statements saying they would abide by a three-day ceasefire starting from Friday on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.

Sudan’s sudden collapse into war has undermined plans to restore civilian rule, put an already impoverished country on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, and threatened a broader conflict that could draw in outside powers.

There was no sign yet that either side could win a quick victory or that it was willing to stand back and talk. The army has an air force, but the RSF are widely deployed in urban areas, including around key facilities in central Khartoum.

Al-Burhan and Hemedti occupied the two highest positions in the ruling council that oversees the political transition after the 2021 coup, which was supposed to include the transition to civilian rule and the integration of the RSF into the army.

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

International efforts to quell the violence focused on a cease-fire, as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on them to respect the truce.

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

The army added that the embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had already been evacuated by land to Port Sudan and flown from there and Jordan would follow in a similar manner.

Reporters Without Borders head Hemedti said on Facebook early on Saturday that he had received a phone call from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in which they stressed the need to adhere to a complete ceasefire and provide protection for humanitarian and medical workers.

The RSF said it was ready to partially open all airports to allow evacuations. However, the fighting took place at Khartoum International Airport, and it is not clear the status of other airports or the RSF’s control over them.

hit hospitals

And in Omdurman, one of Khartoum’s neighboring sister cities, there were concerns about the fate of detainees in Al-Huda prison, the largest prison in Sudan.

On Friday, the army accused the RSF of raiding the prison, which the paramilitary denied. Lawyers for a prisoner there said in a statement that an armed group vacated the prison by force, knowing that the whereabouts of the detainees were unknown.

The Sudanese Doctors Syndicate said early on Saturday that more than two-thirds of hospitals in conflict zones are out of service, with 32 hospitals forcibly evacuated by soldiers or caught in the crossfire.

Some of the remaining hospitals, lacking adequate water, staff and electricity, were only providing first aid. People posted urgent requests on social media for medical assistance, transportation to hospital and prescribed medication.

And any slowdown in fighting on Saturday could precipitate a desperate rush by many Khartoum residents to flee the fighting after spending days trapped in their homes or local neighborhoods under bombardment with fighters roaming the streets.

Sudan borders seven countries and is sandwiched between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and the restive Sahel region of Africa. Hostilities threaten to inflame regional tensions.

The violence erupted over a dispute over an internationally backed plan to form a new civilian government, four years after the fall of autocrat Omar al-Bashir and two years after a military coup.

Both sides accuse the other of thwarting the transition.

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