Explosions could be heard on Thursday in Sudan's capital Khartoum as a fragile truce ran out.
Heavy shelling in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on Thursday disrupted efforts to deliver badly needed aid to trapped civilians after yet another fragile and frequently violated truce ran out, residents said.
Sudan has plunged into chaos since fighting erupted in mid-April between the country’s two rival top generals. There is increasing concern for those trapped and displaced by the fighting, and aid workers and civilians have said there's a dire lack of basic services, medical care, food and water.
In central areas of Khartoum, sporadic explosions could be heard Thursday, a day after the United Nations warned that the Sudanese people are “facing a humanitarian catastrophe," and after the latest in a series of cease-fires expired earlier in the day.
“The situation is very dire,” said Atiya Abdalla Atiya, who leads a key doctors union. “All forms of shelling can still be heard in Khartoum, whether air or artillery shelling.”
The fighting also raised questions about the viability of internationally backed initiatives seeking to bring an end to the violence that upended the African country's transition to democracy.
The conflict started on 15 April, preceded by months of escalating tensions between the military, led by General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, and a rival paramilitary group called the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, commanded by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
Both sides have traded accusations of truce violations over the past weeks. On Thursday, each side claimed its forces were the subject of attacks. The military said it clashed with RSF forces late Wednesday around key government institutions in Khartoum, including the Republican Palace in the capital's centre.
Cease-fire initiatives by the United States, Saudi Arabia and the East African bloc known as IGAD have all floated a path towards longer negotiations. But the warring sides have shown little commitment to even short-term promises to stop the fighting.
The head of the UN children's agency, Catherine Russell, said from Kenya on Thursday that “Sudan is teetering toward catastrophe" and warned that children are increasingly caught in the crossfire.
“While we are unable to confirm estimates due to the intensity of the violence, UNICEF has received reports that 190 children have been killed and another 1,700 injured in Sudan since the conflict erupted almost three weeks ago,” she said.
“For the sake of Sudan’s children, the violence must stop,” Russell added.
The conflict has killed at least 550 people, including civilians, and wounded more than 4,900. The Sudanese Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks only civilian casualties, said Thursday that 457 civilians have been killed in the violence, and more than 2,300 have been wounded.
At least 334,000 people have been displaced inside Sudan, and tens of thousands more to neighbouring countries — Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia, according to UN agencies.
Thousands have funneled through crowded, desert crossing points between Egypt and Sudan in recent days, with many calling for aid groups to do more to provide the waiting crowds with basic assistance.
The UN refugee agency said that more than 50,000 people had crossed into Egypt alone, including 47,000 Sudanese and 3,500 third-country nationals, by Wednesday.