Sudanese army rejects calls to deescalate fighting in El Fasher

The U.N. has expressed "profound distress" at the situation in El Fasher.

May 31, 2024, 11:22 AM

LONDON -- Sudanese army leaders are rejecting peace talks with the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group following U.S Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's call with Sudanese Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan earlier this week.

“We will not go to Jeddah, and whoever wants us to, should kill us in our country and take our bodies there," said Malik Agar, a Sudanese paramilitary leader.

U.S. State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said Blinken pressed the general to end the war, enable "unhindered humanitarian access" and "alleviate the suffering of the Sudanese people."

Fighting continues to rage in the besieged city of El Fasher in North Darfur, where at least 145 people have died in the past two weeks, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

U.N. officials have warned of a "real and growing" risk of genocide in El Fasher. "Civilians are being attacked and killed because of the colon of their skin, because of their ethnicity, because of who they are," according to Alice Nderitu, U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide.

Clementine Nkweta-Salami, U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, said: "I am profoundly distressed by the humanitarian situation in El Fasher, where the noose of war is tightening its stranglehold on a civilian population that is under attack from all sides."

Nkweta-Salami noted that many parts of El Fasher remain without electricity, water, food and health care amid reports of warring parties targeting medical facilities, displacement camps and critical civilian infrastructure.

"All parties must avoid using explosive weapons in populated areas and should take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure," said Nkweta-Salami.

Speaking to ABC News from Sudan’s capital Khartoum, local journalist AlMigdad Hassan said the situation in the capital is "unimaginable."

"I never imagined I would be in the midst of war, of armed men, snipers, bombing, sometimes covering live bombings on-air," said Hassan. "Civilians trapped in war zones need peace. Their voices -- the millions -- not being heard by the world."

The now 13-month conflict in Sudan between the SAF and RSF erupted in April 2023 following weeks of tensions linked to civilian rule. At least 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict, according to the U.N.

Local groups, however, warn that the true death toll is likely much higher.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus on Thursday warned that children in Sudan are trapped in a "critical malnutrition crisis." A new study by Dutch think tank Clingendael found hunger, exacerbated by the war, could lead to an excess 2.5 million deaths by September 2024.

"We have no time to lose as famine looms for millions of people in Sudan, amid intense fighting and the denial of access of humanitarian aid," said Ghebreyesus said Friday. "Let us be clear: If we are prevented from providing aid rapidly and at scale, more people will die."