Sudan’s warring factions have accused each other of being behind violations of the latest ceasefire negotiated by the US and Saudi Arabia, now in its third day.
Clashes between rival factions flared up again on Thursday in Khartoum and neighboring Omdurman, witnesses said, as well as the strategic city of El Obeid in the southwest.
“Residents in the cities of Omdurman and Khartoum reported hearing overnight gunfire exchanged between the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese army,” said Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Omdurman.
“In the early hours of Thursday we heard reconnaissance planes flying over Omdurman and when we spoke to people in Khartoum, they said they also heard the planes,” he added.
Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North comprise the greater capital area of Sudan. They are separated by the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile.
The week-long ceasefire was reached after five weeks of fighting in Khartoum and flare-ups in other parts of Sudan, including the long-volatile western region of Darfur.
The fighting – centered on a power struggle between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis, forced more than a million people to flee and threatened to destabilize a weak region.
Fighting broke out in Khartoum on April 15 after disputes over plans for the RSF to be integrated into the army under an internationally-backed deal to transition Sudan to democracy after decades of conflict-ridden rule by former President Omar al-Bashir, who appointed himself as the country’s leader after staging a coup in 1989.
The ceasefire was violated just minutes after it took effect on Monday night, with residents of the capital Khartoum reporting airstrikes and artillery fire that rocked the city.
Since then there have been further violations of the ceasefire agreement, which was intended to allow much-needed humanitarian aid to reach parts of the war-torn North African country.
This is the latest in a series of cease-fires that have been systematically violated by all.
It is unclear whether either side has gained an edge in recent weeks of fighting.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the RSF, led by Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, sought to blame the ceasefire violations on the army led by Sudan’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
The army “launched a series of unprovoked attacks today”, the RSF said, adding that “our forces resolutely rejected these attacks.”
“Our forces have successfully shot down a SAF MiG jet fighter,” it said, reiterating, however, that it remains “committed to humanitarian truce”.
According to Morgan, “The RSF claims it shot down a fighter jet belonging to the army but the army says the plane crashed due to a technical error and that it was due to an air-to- surface missile fired by the RSF. .”
The army also said on Thursday morning that it “countered an attack on armored vehicles by the militias of the Rapid Support Forces in a clear violation of the truce”.
Continued ceasefire violations
The US State Department said that Sudan’s ceasefire monitoring mechanism had detected possible violations of the agreement, including the observed use of artillery, military aircraft and drones.
“We continue to look at ceasefire violations,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
“We retain our sanctions authority and when appropriate we will not hesitate to exercise that authority.”
The UN envoy for the Horn of Africa, Hanna Tetteh, said the ongoing fighting was “unacceptable and it must stop”.
Washington also warned that Russia’s Wagner mercenary group was supplying the RSF with surface-to-air missiles to fight the Sudanese army, saying it “contributes to a long-term armed fighting that only results in more chaos in the region”.
The army relies on air power as the RSF spreads and hides in the streets of Khartoum.
The health ministry said about 730 people had died and 5,454 were injured, although the true number could be much higher.