Bombs fall amid ongoing battle for North Darfur capital

Thermal ground scarring observed using satellite imagery between 21 March and 14 May in eastern El Fasher, North Darfur (Source: Yale HRL)

Sudanese Air Force warplanes continued their airstrikes on the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) stationed on the eastern and northeastern edge of El Fasher on Monday morning, in ongoing battles over the capital city of North Darfur and the Golo water reservoir. 

The RSF bombed El Fasher with artillery shells on Sunday night and Monday morning. Several residents were killed and injured according to activist Intisar Adam. 

The Sudanese Air Force warplanes carried out air strikes on the RSF between 5:30 and 6:30, she told Radio Dabanga yesterday afternoon.

“The artillery shelling stopped this morning and a cautious calm prevails,” she said. “The people, though, are still living in terror as the fighting may resume any time. Several people have now dug holes in the courtyards behind their homes to shelter in when the bombing and shelling comes too close.” 

Golo reservoir 

Battles around the Golo water reservoir, west of El Fasher, intensified, amid contradictory reports about control of the area.  

The RSF posted video clips on social media announcing their control of the Golo reservoir yesterday. Meanwhile, a military source told Radio Dabanga that the paramilitaries had not taken control of the reservoir and confirmed that battles over it were ongoing. 

Later that day, video clips showed RSF soldiers blocking the water supply from the Golo reservoir to El Fasher, suggesting they had control over the reservoir.

Last Darfur capital

The Darfur regional government held an emergency meeting in Port Sudan on Thursday to discuss the situation in the region, especially in El Fasher.

El Fasher is the last of the five Darfur state capitals not under RSF control. Residents fear that full RSF control of the city could ignite strife between the Arab tribes supporting the RSF and the Zaghawa tribe, from which most fighters of the North Darfur rebel forces hail. Zaghawa leaders have allegedly contacted Chadian President Mahamet Deby, also a Zaghawa, asking him to intervene to prevent a “catastrophic bloodbath” in the area. 

The UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide briefed the Security Council on Wednesday about the ongoing armed conflict between the RSF and SAF, warning that the situation “bears all the marks of risk of genocide, with strong allegations that this crime has already been committed.”

Analysis of satellite imagery collected between 21 March and 14 May by Yale Humanitarian Research Lab (HRL) shows thermal ground scarring at multiple locations situated along the eastern edges of El Fasher. HRL found that “a total of 25 communities in North Darfur have been damaged in a manner consistent with the intentional targeting and systematic razing of civilian structures since 31 March.”

Humanitarian situation 

Large numbers of people reportedly fled El Fasher towards El Salam and Zamzam localities following the fighting yesterday. Adam reported that gangs of bandits robbed people fleeing from El Fasher towards safer areas in North Darfur. 

 Some of them chose to stay “for fear of going into the unknown,” said Adam. “They are waiting for the situation to clear up.” 

When the RSF began to shell the southern parts of the city, people who had already fled from the northern neighbourhoods to the southern neighbourhoods returned to the north of El Fasher. 

She said that the El Fasher Southern Hospital is overcrowded with those injured and there is a shortage of medicines and medical supplies. 

“The humanitarian conditions are difficult due to the closure of the Mellit-El Fasher road by the RSF,” she said. Many trucks are stuck in Mellit, which has caused a scarcity of goods in El Fasher and a significant increase in food prices. 

More than 120 people have been killed, and almost 1,000 wounded, by fighting in the North Darfur capital over the past two weeks, according to Médecins Sans Frontières team (MSF/Doctors Without Borders). 

On Sunday, the Dar El Salam Emergency Room in North Darfur said that almost 20,000 displaced people have fled to the locality to escape fighting in El Fasher and other areas in the past weeks, most of whom are staying with host families. 

In a briefing about the humanitarian situation in El Fasher, posted on Friday, the UN said that about 800,000 civilians in El Fasher and surrounding areas were facing severely deteriorating humanitarian conditions amid ongoing clashes between the SAF and the RSF.