Sudan’s Warring Parties Trade Blame over Truce Breach

Smoke billows from a fire in a building in the center of Khartoum on May 25, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke billows from a fire in a building in the center of Khartoum on May 25, 2023. (AFP)
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Sudan’s Warring Parties Trade Blame over Truce Breach

Smoke billows from a fire in a building in the center of Khartoum on May 25, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke billows from a fire in a building in the center of Khartoum on May 25, 2023. (AFP)

Sudan's warring sides accused each other on Thursday of being behind breaches of the latest ceasefire that was negotiated by the US and Saudi Arabia, now in its third day.

The one-week truce was violated only minutes after it came into effect on Monday night, with residents of the capital Khartoum reporting air strikes and artillery fire shaking the city.

There have since been further breaches of the ceasefire agreement, which is meant to allow for much-needed humanitarian aid to reach war-ravaged parts of the north African country.

It is the latest in a series of truces that have all been systematically violated.

Since April 15, Sudan's capital and other parts of the country have been gripped by brutal urban warfare between the regular army, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

But though the current ceasefire has been violated, it has allowed for a lull in fighting that has seen frightened residents cautiously venture out of their homes, some for the first time in weeks.

Many have gone out for supplies of food and water or to seek much-needed medical attention after nearly six weeks of fighting that has sharply depleted vital supplies and pushed the healthcare system to the brink of collapse.

In a statement issued late Wednesday, the RSF, which is led by Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, sought to place the blame for ceasefire breaches on the army led by Sudan's de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

The army "launched a series of unwarranted attacks today", the RSF said, adding that "our forces decisively repelled these assaults".

"Our forces successfully shot down a SAF MiG jet fighter," it said, reiterating however that it remained "committed to the humanitarian truce" and called on the "aggressors to respect the ceasefire".

The army responded Thursday morning, saying it had "countered an attack on armored vehicles by the militias of the Rapid Support Forces in a clear violation of the truce".

The United States and Saudi Arabia, which brokered the ceasefire, on Wednesday pointed to reports "indicating that both sides violated the agreement" but said "fighting in Khartoum appeared to be less intense".

The UN envoy for the Horn of Africa, Hanna Tetteh, expressed concern that fighting was still continuing despite the truce. "It's unacceptable and it must stop," she said.

Over a million displaced

Desperately needed aid has yet to reach the capital despite the brief lull.

The conflict has so far killed more than 1,800 people, according to the latest figures from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

More than a million Sudanese people have been displaced, in addition to 300,000 who have fled to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.

Conditions have been particularly alarming in the western region of Darfur, already ravaged by a conflict that erupted in 2003.

The UN's refugee coordinator in Sudan, Toby Harward, said the town of Zalengei in Central Darfur state "has been under siege by armed militias for the last days".

Numerous facilities "have been attacked and looted, civilians are unable to seek medical care as healthcare facilities are targeted, and gangs on motorcycles intimidate government workers and restrict civilian movements", he added.

Representatives of the warring Sudanese generals have since early May been involved in negotiations in the Saudi city of Jeddah on the Red Sea.

But analysts have repeatedly warned that the two generals are likely prepared for a prolonged conflict.

Burhan and Daglo had in 2021 staged a coup that unseated a civilian transitional government but later fell out in a bitter power struggle.



Food Piles Up at Gaza Crossing as Aid Agencies Say Unable to Work

Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
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Food Piles Up at Gaza Crossing as Aid Agencies Say Unable to Work

Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP

Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat, AFP reported.

More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.

Desperation among Gaza's 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.

Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.

"The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza," the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing late Friday.

"Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations."

But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the United Nations over why the aid is stacking up.

It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.

With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.

A deputy UN spokesman this week said the crossing "is operating with limited functionality, including because of fighting in the area".

William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, said arranging lorries from the Egyptian side in particular was complicated.

"It's not just a question of civil order, but also the fact that you often have to cross battlefields," he said in an online briefing, adding that the area near Kerem Shalom had been hostile.

"There were even rockets fired nearby. So this whole area is particularly complicated to navigate for reasons linked to the hostilities and for reasons linked to general security."

Israel's coordinator for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, said Thursday "the content of 1,200 aid trucks awaits collection by UN aid agencies", saying a lack of distribution was responsible.

Earlier in the week, COGAT spokesman Shimon Freedman told reporters at the crossing the daily pause on a southern road into Gaza was designed to allow the UN "to collect and distribute more aid" alongside an Israeli military presence.

He said most of the aid had not moved because "organizations have not taken sufficient steps to improve their distribution capacity".

Aid agencies have instead pointed to Israel's offensive on the southern city of Rafah, which pushed out more than a million people and closed a border crossing with Egypt, as a deepening humanitarian crisis hampered relief efforts.

Schomburg described Rafah City as a "ghost town".

"It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and really just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months," he said.

The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by "desperate people".

As both sides stall, it is the civilians in Gaza who are paying the price.

"We don't see any aid. Everything we get to eat comes from our own money and it's all very expensive," said Umm Mohammad Zamlat, 66, from northern Gaza but now living in Khan Yunis in the south.

"Even agencies specialized in aid deliveries are not able to provide anything to us," she added.