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Sudan’s Rival Forces Agree to Protect Civilians But Fighting Continues

According to the UN refugee agency, some 200,000 people have fled from Sudan to nearby nations since the fighting started.

The capital of Sudan is being rocked by airstrikes and artillery after the rival army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fail to reach a truce.

Following nearly a week of negotiations, the two parties signed a “declaration of principles” late on Thursday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, however neither party has yet to publicly announce the agreement. “We were expecting that the agreement would calm down the war, but we woke up to artillery fire and air strikes,” Mohamed Abdallah, 39, who lives in southern Khartoum said on Friday.

Khartoum North also reported hearing combat on a similar scale. According to the UN children’s organization, a factory in Khartoum that made meals for malnourished children was destroyed by fire.

According to the UN refugee agency, some 200,000 people have fled from Sudan to nearby nations since the fighting started. It also reported that tens of thousands of refugees had just arrived in Chad.

A top UN official voiced hope that mediators would establish a truce in the next days despite the continuous fighting, saying he had received promises from one of the factions that they would continue talks in Saudi Arabia. 

“I think the most important element of this understanding that was signed yesterday night is that both sides commit to continue their talks,” Volker Perthes, special representative for Sudan, told journalists in Geneva on Friday.

Previous ceasefires have been repeatedly violated, leaving civilians to navigate a terrifying landscape of gunfire and bombardments with failing power and water services, little food and a collapsing health system.

Thursday’s deal includes commitments to allow safe passage for civilians, medics and humanitarian relief and to minimise harm to civilians and public facilities.

United States officials said on Thursday that the signing would be followed by negotiations on the details of securing humanitarian access and a ceasefire of up to 10 days to facilitate those activities.

Mediators pushed the sides to sign the declaration of principles on civilian protections to reduce tensions because of continuing disagreement on a wider ceasefire, one of those involved in the mediation said.

“The two sides are quite far apart,” a senior US Department of State official said, adding that the mediators did not expect full compliance.

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan described the deal as a first step. “The most important thing is to adhere to what was agreed upon,” he said on Twitter.

The agreement committed the two sides to evacuate both public and private properties, including private homes, which residents have accused the RSF, in particular, of occupying. The RSF has denied these claims, blaming elements of the military and other armed groups.

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