As people in Sudan marked the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr on Friday, forces led by the two warring generals vying for control of the country ignored calls for a cease-fire and clashed across the country for a seventh day.
Sudanese civilian coalitions and international officials had called for a three-day pause in fighting to allow people to gather for the Eid holiday marking the end of Ramadan, to evacuate loved ones and to seek food and medical care.
But residents in several neighborhoods in the capital, Khartoum, reported intense shelling and gunfights in the streets, and many across Sudan continued to face a desperate situation as they struggled to flee battle areas or get access to food and water. As many as 20,000 people have fled from the western region of Darfur across the border into Chad, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
At least 413 people have been killed and 3,551 others wounded in the clashes, according to the World Health Organization. Numerous children and several aid workers have lost their lives as a result of the fighting. And the State Department said on Thursday night that one American has been killed.
Repeating a pattern that has played out several times over the past week, the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group, led by Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, said that it had agreed to comply with a cease-fire. But the head of Sudan’s army, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who is also the country’s de facto leader, did not commit to the pause as he delivered his first public speech since the clashes began on Saturday. And both sides persisted with their assaults.
It remained unclear which of the two warring generals was in control of Sudan, Africa’s third-largest nation. Countries including the United States prepared to evacuate their citizens.
General al-Burhan maintained in his remarks that the military under his leadership was committed to a peaceful transition to civilian rule. But the army leader, who rose to power in 2019 when the former dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir was ousted from power, has derailed the country’s transition to democratic rule in the past.
In late 2021, he and General Hamdan joined forces to carry out a coup that toppled the civilian prime minister and shattered a fragile power-sharing agreement between the military and civilians. But the two generals could not agree on a timeline for bringing the paramilitary forces under the umbrella of the army. This month, just as they were expected to sign a deal and hand over power to civilians, the forces of the two generals began clashing violently in Khartoum, the capital, and other cities.
Despite the latest calls for a cease-fire, General al-Burhan said on Friday, “Your armed forces are advancing to defeat the rebels.”
At least 20 hospitals have shut their doors because of shelling or because of shortages of water, fuel and supplies like oxygen and blood for transfusion, the U.N. body said.
Eight more facilities were also facing closure because of exhaustion among medical workers, the W.H.O. added. The situation was particularly dire in Khartoum, where the warring parties have attacked hospitals and clinics and hijacked ambulances.
General al-Burhan acknowledged that the clashes had caused heavy casualties, destroyed property and forced families across the country to flee their homes.
Referring to the Eid holiday, he said that the fighting had “left no room for the joy that our people deserve.” But he added: “We are confident that we will overcome this ordeal with training, wisdom and strength, in a way that preserves the security and unity of the country and enables us to transition to civilian rule.”
With the crisis now in its seventh day, humanitarian concerns nationwide were escalating. The United Nations’ World Food Program said the conflict was hindering access to meals for school-age children and those suffering from malnutrition. The agency also said that its offices and warehouses in Nyala, a city in South Darfur State, had been looted, leading to the loss of 4,400 tons of food.
On Thursday, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, had called on the rival parties to observe a three-day cease-fire after he held a virtual meeting with regional and global bodies, including the African Union, the Arab League and the European Union. But the clashes on Friday echoed the events of recent days, in which calls for and agreements to cease-fires quickly collapsed.
Elian Peltier contributed reporting.