Renewed clashes in Sudan's North Darfur raise concerns over large-scale attack

Tuesday April 30 2024

Smoke rises in Omdurman, near Halfaya Bridge, during clashes between the Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army as seen from Khartoum North on Sudan April 15, 2023. PHOTO | REUTERS


Clashes renewed on Monday between the Sudanese Armed Forces (Saf) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on the outskirts of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state in western Sudan, raising fears of a large-scale attack on the city.

"There was bombing west of El Fasher. Plumes of smoke are rising from the outskirts of the city, and we are afraid that this will be the beginning of a large-scale attack on the city," Saleh Adam, a local resident, told Xinhua.

Adam said that most of El Fasher's markets and shops are closed, and a growing number of citizens are fleeing the city.

The recent clashes in El Fasher between the two warring parties have displaced over 70,000 people, the independent Sudan Tribune on Sunday cited an unnamed North Darfur state government official as saying.

Read: Truce crumbles in Sudan army's last Darfur holdout

The RSF has recently escalated threats to storm the strategic city of El Fasher, which constitutes a major center for delivering humanitarian aid to the Darfur region.


Ali Rizkalla, an RSF commander in El Fasher, criticized the international calls for restraint by the RSF, accusing the United Nations and the international community of turning a blind eye to the SAF's aerial bombardments of El Fasher and other cities, according to the Sudan Tribune.

In a statement posted Monday on the social media platform, the RSF Commander, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, said he discussed during a phone call with the UN Secretary-General's Envoy to Sudan Ramtane Lamamra "the situation in North Darfur state, including the deliberate and systematic SAF barrel bombardments that have targeted not only innocent civilians, but also livestock."

"I assured Mr. Lamamra that we are exercising our legitimate right to self-defense in response to the aggression that we have been faced since this war began," Dagalo noted.

For weeks, the RSF has been mobilising thousands of fighters on the outskirts of El Fasher in preparation for an attack.

In return, the Saf and allied Darfuri armed groups strengthened their military presence at the entrances to El Fasher and around most of the city's neighborhoods.

The UN warned last week against an escalation, saying the rising tensions are "in an area already on the brink of famine" and "an attack on the city would have devastating consequences for civilians."

Read: UN warns of potential Sudan deaths as famine looms

According to the UN, some 800,000 people in El Fasher were in "extreme and immediate danger" as worsening violence advances and threatens to "unleash bloody intercommunal strife throughout Darfur."

Since the conflict between the Saf and the RSF broke out on April 15, 2023, 14,790 fatalities have been recorded, while the number of people displaced inside and outside of Sudan has reached 8.2 million, according to recent estimates by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha).