Smoke billows in southern Khartoum, Sudan, on May 29, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
KHARTOUM – Sudan's army suspended talks with a rival paramilitary force on Wednesday over a ceasefire and aid access.
The armed forces said in a statement it halted talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah, accusing the other side of a lack of commitment in implementing any terms of the agreement and a continuous violation of the ceasefire.
The negotiations with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which began in early May, had produced a declaration of commitments to protect civilians and two short-term truce agreements, although those deals were repeatedly violated.
The armed forces said in a statement it halted talks in the Saudi city of Jeddah, accusing the other side of a lack of commitment in implementing any terms of the agreement and a continuous violation of the ceasefire
Eyewitnesses reported on Wednesday that the RSF had expanded its footprint within central Khartoum's Mogran district. They also reported heavy clashes across the Nile in northern Omdurman and northern Bahri through Wednesday evening.
At least 17 people were killed and 106 injured after projectiles fell on a market in a dense southern Khartoum on Wednesday, the doctors union said in a statement. It said the local Bashair hospital, one of the few still operating in the capital, was overwhelmed.
The war has killed hundreds of people, displaced more than 1.2 million inside Sudan and driven 400,000 others across borders to neighboring states, the United Nations says.
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The army, which relies on air power and artillery, and the RSF, a more lightly armed force that has dominated on the ground in Khartoum, had agreed to extend a week-long ceasefire deal by five days just before its Monday expiry.
Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a career military officer, and RSF General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a former militia commander known as Hemedti, have been locked in a battle for power since April 15. Neither side seems to have an edge.
This picture released on the Sudanese Army's Facebook page on May 30, 2023, shows army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan cheering with soldiers as he visits some of their positions in Khartoum. (PHOTO / AFP)
"We do not want to use lethal force. We still haven't used our maximum strength … We don't want to destroy the country," Burhan said in a military video released on Tuesday, speaking to cheering forces at a military base with a gun slung on his back.
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"But if the enemy does not obey and does not respond we will be forced to use the strongest force we have."
Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Rapid Support Forces General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo have been locked in a battle for power since April 15
The RSF said in a statement late on Tuesday it was committed to the ceasefire.
In a video released by the RSF on Wednesday, Hemedti's brother and RSF number two Abdelrahim Dagalo called on army soldiers to desert and work together with the RSF.
"Anyone who wants Sudan's best interests should leave Burhan," he said, adding that his brother was well and on the front lines.
Also on Wednesday, Sudan's Civil Aviation Authority extended the closure of the country's airspace to June 15 amid the continued conflict.
In a notice to airmen, or NOTAM, the authority decided to extend the closure of airspace for all civil flights, with the exception of those carrying humanitarian aid.
The authority said that the closure could be extended again in the future.
This photo dated May 31, 2023 shows a truck carrying humanitarian assistance from the UN children’s agency in front of the Foster Home for Orphans in Khartoum, Sudan. (PHOTO / AP)
Since the outbreak of the deadly armed clashes in the Sudanese capital Khartoum and other areas, the country's airspace has been closed as air navigation systems at Khartoum International Airport have been affected.
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The United Nations, some aid agencies, embassies and parts of Sudan's central government have moved operations out of the capital to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, which has remained calm.