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New truce between Sudan’s warring generals takes effect

A fresh ceasefire took effect in Sudan on Sunday after intense fighting that saw deadly air strikes in Khartoum and an exodus of wounded over the border into Chad.

The army, commanded by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has since April 15 been battling the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), headed by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, after the two fell out in a power struggle.

Multiple truces have been agreed and broken during the conflict, including after the United States slapped sanctions on both generals following the collapse of a previous ceasefire attempt at the end of May.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United States of America announce the agreement of representatives of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on a ceasefire throughout Sudan for a period of 72 hours,” a Saudi foreign ministry statement said late Saturday.

The ceasefire was to take effect at 6:00 am (0400 GMT) on Sunday, the mediators said, adding the two sides had agreed to refrain from attacks and allow freedom of movement and the delivery of humanitarian aid.

One hour into the truce, witnesses in Khartoum said the situation was “calm”.

“We want a full ceasefire,” Sami Omar, who lives in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, told AFP.

“A truce is not sufficient for us to return to our lives. They may stop fighting, but the RSF will not leave the homes (they occupy) and passing through checkpoints is just as difficult.”

Both sides had pledged to respect the truce in separate statements on Saturday night.

The army said “despite our commitment to the ceasefire, we will respond decisively to any violations the rebels commit” during the ceasefire.

RSF vowed to “honour our commitment to a comprehensive cessation of hostilities… with the primary aim of facilitating the delivery of vital humanitarian assistance to civilians”.

– Intensifying air strikes –

Before the latest truce, witnesses said air strikes had intensified in the capital in the past few days.

On Saturday, warplanes struck residential districts of Khartoum, killing “17 civilians, including five children”, according to a citizens’ support committee. AFP was unable to independently confirm the figures.

Residents had earlier reported air strikes around the city’s southern Yarmouk district — home to a weapons manufacturing and arms depot complex where the RSF claimed “full control” in early June.

Since battles began, the death toll across the country has topped 2,000, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project said.

A record 25 million people — more than half Sudan’s population — need aid, the United Nations says.

– ‘Ominous reminder’ –

Hundreds of kilometres (miles) west of Khartoum, as many as 1,100 people have been killed in the West Darfur state capital of El Geneina, according to the US State Department.

Medics in Chad said Saturday they were overwhelmed by the hundreds of wounded fleeing Sudan’s Darfur region, which has become an increasing focus of global concern.

The dead have included West Darfur governor Khamis Abdullah Abakar, killed after he criticised the paramilitaries in a Wednesday television interview. The RSF denied responsibility.

“We are overwhelmed in the operating theatre. We urgently need more beds and more staff,” said Seybou Diarra, a physician and project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Adre, Chad.

More than 600 patients, most with gunshot wounds, arrived at the facility over a three-day period — more than half of them on Friday, it said.

Claire Nicolet, MSF’s head of emergency programmes, cited “reports of intensifying and large-scale attacks this week”.

According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 149,000 people have fled from Darfur into Chad.

They are among the roughly 2.2 million people uprooted nationwide by the fighting, which has forced more than 528,000 to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, the IOM said.

On Thursday, the US State Department attributed the atrocities in Darfur “primarily” to the RSF and said the violence and alleged rights violations were an “ominous reminder” of the region’s previous genocide.

A years-long war in Darfur began in 2003 with a rebel uprising that prompted then-strongman Omar al-Bashir to unleash the Janjaweed militia, whose actions led to international charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The RSF have their origins in the Janjaweed.

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