KHARTOUM (REUTERS) - Sudan's army conducted airstrikes in the capital, Khartoum, on Monday, residents said, seeking to win ground against its paramilitary rivals hours before a weeklong cease-fire aimed at allowing delivery of aid was to take effect.
The army also carried out airstrikes into the evening on Sunday, witnesses said, targeting vehicles from mobile units of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces that have been operating across residential areas in the capital since the conflict between the two military factions erupted on April 15.
Both sides have said they will abide by a cease-fire starting at 9:45 p.m. local time (19:45 GMT). Though fighting has continued through previous cease-fires, this is the first truce to be formally agreed to following negotiations.
The cease-fire deal includes a monitoring mechanism involving the army and the RSF as well as representatives from Saudi Arabia and the United States, which brokered the agreement after talks in Jeddah.
The deal has raised hopes of a pause in a war that has driven nearly 1.1 million people from their homes, including more 250,000 who have fled into neighboring countries, threatening to destabilize a volatile region.
The airstrikes residents reported Monday were in Khartoum, Omdurman and Bahri, the three cities that make up the greater capital, separated by the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile. They also said clashes could be heard in central Khartoum.
The army has struggled to dislodge the RSF from strategic positions in central Khartoum and from neighborhoods where it has occupied civilian buildings. The RSF, which has its roots in the feared militias that fought with the government in Darfur, is adept at ground fighting, while the army has depended largely on airstrikes and heavy artillery.
More than five weeks of fighting in Khartoum have trapped millions in their homes or neighborhoods.
Residents have reported worsening lawlessness and looting, as well as crippling power and water outages. Supplies of food have been running low in some areas, and most hospitals have ceased to operate.
The agreement brokered in Jeddah is focused on allowing in aid and restoring essential services. Mediators say further talks would be needed to seek the removal of forces from urban areas to broker a permanent peace deal with civilian involvement.
The war erupted in Khartoum amid plans for army chief Abdel Fattah Burhan and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, to sign up to a new political transition toward elections under a civilian government.
Burhan and Hemedti took the top positions on Sudan's ruling council after the overthrow of former leader Omar al-Bashir during a popular uprising in 2019, sharing power with civilian groups.
In 2021, they staged a coup as a deadline approached to hand leadership of the transition to civilians.
Since last month, fighting has also flared in the western region of Darfur, already scarred by two decades of conflict and unrest that continued despite a peace deal with some groups in 2020.
At least 705 people have been killed across Sudan and at least 5,287 injured, according to the World Health Organization, though the true death toll is believed to be much higher.