Fighting in Sudan has intensified as warring factions seek to secure strategic locations, as pressure grows from international powers to end hostilities and allow humanitarian assistance to reach millions of desperate civilians.
Fierce battles on Thursday between the Sudanese army and its paramilitary opponents, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), reminded residents in Khartoum, the capital, of the fierce combat that marked the first days of the war almost three weeks ago.
The clashes were particularly intense around the presidential palace at the centre of Khartoum, whose possession grants its occupants an appearance of legitimacy as rulers of Sudan. The sprawling complex is now badly damaged and reported to be largely held by the RSF.
The continuing failure of combatants in Khartoum and elsewhere across Sudan to respect successive ceasefires prompted the US president, Joe Biden, on Thursday to threaten new sanctions against those responsible for “threatening the peace, security, and stability of Sudan; undermining Sudan’s democratic transition; using violence against civilians; or committing serious human rights abuses”.
“The violence taking place in Sudan is a tragedy – and it is a betrayal of the Sudanese people’s clear demand for civilian government and a transition to democracy. It must end,” Biden said.
Analysts and campaigners said the move was long overdue.
More than 550 people have been killed in 20 days of violence, according to ministry of health statistics, but the true total is likely to be much higher as many deaths go uncounted. Thousands have been wounded. At least 334,000 people have been displaced inside Sudan and tens of thousands more to Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Ethiopia, according to UN agencies.
The fighting has pitted forces loyal to Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the de facto military leader of Sudan, against those of the RSF’s commander, Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is also known as Hemedti. Both men now appear convinced they can win the current conflict and so gain unchallenged control over Sudan’s crumbling state and valuable resources.