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Sudan warring sides make humanitarian pledge without truce

Warplanes roared overhead as explosions rocked Khartoum on Friday, just hours after Sudan's warring parties agreed to respect humanitarian principles in their spiralling conflict, without a truce in sight.

Smoke rises above buildings in Khartoum on May 12, 2023, as fighting between the forces of two rival generals continues. – Warplanes roared overhead as explosions rocked Khartoum on Friday, hours after Sudan’s warring parties signed a commitment to respect humanitarian principles in their spiralling conflict, without a truce in sight. (Photo by – / AFP)

Warplanes roared overhead as explosions rocked Khartoum on Friday, just hours after Sudan’s warring parties agreed to respect humanitarian principles in their spiralling conflict, without a truce in sight.

Nearly one month after the outbreak of the fighting that has killed more than 750 people and displaced hundreds of thousands, the two sides signed the agreement late Thursday at talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

But already by the next morning the situation on the ground appeared unchanged, with the forces of two rival generals again exchanging fire in the capital, which is home to five million people.

A witness in Khartoum’s south reported “fighter jets overhead and the sound of clashes and explosions”, while another in the north reported “air strikes and the sound of anti-aircraft missiles”.

In west Darfur, which has seen some of the bloodiest fighting, people took cover from heavy gunfire and artillery blasts, witnesses said.

Envoys for the two generals — army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo — had agreed in Jeddah to “affirm our commitment to ensure that civilians are protected”.

The agreement commits both sides to let in badly needed humanitarian assistance and also calls for the restoration of electricity, water and other basic services.

– Caution over talks –

The United States and Saudi Arabia, which led the diplomatic drive, said talks were ongoing with a proposal on the table for a 10-day truce, which could lead to negotiations on a longer-term end to fighting.

But US diplomats were frank about the obstacles in the nearly week-long Jeddah talks.

“This is not a ceasefire. This is an affirmation of their obligations under international humanitarian law,” said a US official involved in the negotiations, adding the two sides were “quite far apart”.

Almost 200,000 people have fled Sudan in addition to hundreds of thousands who have been displaced inside the northeast African country, the UN said Friday.

At least 18 humanitarian workers have been killed since the conflict flared on April 15, with many NGOs and UN agencies suspending their work.

The World Food Programme said millions of dollars worth of food was looted in Khartoum alone.

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