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Sudan's warring rivals agree to extend truce for five days following heavy clashes in capital

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo of Sudanese forces, loyal to army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan

Sudan's army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have agreed to the extension of a truce, which they clinched earlier this month, but have violated on numerous occasions.

The two sides initially agreed to the truce through mediation of Saudi Arabia and the United States on May 20, which entered into force 48 hours later. It expired at 09.45 p.m. local time (1945 GMT) on Monday.

The ceasefire, however, was repeatedly violated by both sides, impeding the delivery of humanitarian access and restoration of essential services.

Before its expiry, the mediator countries said in a statement that the two warring military factions had agreed to extend the truce for five more days.

The statement said although the ceasefire was imperfectly observed, it allowed the delivery of aid to an about two million people.

"The extension [of truce] will provide time for further humanitarian assistance, restoration of essential services and discussion of a potential longer-term extension," the statement added.

The mediators warned, however, that both the army and the RSF were "posturing for further escalation."

Reuters also quoted sources with knowledge of the new deal as saying that discussions on amendments to make the truce more effective still continued.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said starting on Saturday it had been able to make its first food distributions in the capital Khartoum since the beginning of the conflict.

The conflict in the North African country represents a power struggle between army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, who heads the RSF.

The standoff has killed more than 700 people and driven nearly 1.4 million others from their homes. The true number of the fatalities and displaced people is feared to be much higher, given the existing absence of access to conflict zones.

The truce extension came after earlier on Monday, heavy clashes were reported in Khartoum and other cities.

Residents reported sustained clashes from Sunday into Monday in the south and west of Omdurman, one of three adjoining cities that make up Sudan's greater capital. They said airstrikes, which the army has been using to target RSF forces, could be heard in Omdurman on Monday afternoon.

Moreover, residents across the River Nile in southern Khartoum also reported clashes late on Sunday.

During the past weeks, factories, offices, homes and banks have been looted or destroyed in Khartoum. Power, water and telecommunications are often cut, and there are acute shortages of medicines and medical equipment.

The fighting has stoked fears of a prolonged conflict that could plunge the country into deeper chaos, dashing long-held hopes for a transition to civilian-led democracy.

The UN, the Arab League and many countries in the world have already urged the opposing sides to show restraint and engage in dialogue to end the hostilities.

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