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Sudan: Dozens of women and children killed in Darfur shelling

At least 39 civilians died in attacks on their homes in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, according to witnesses and medics
Chadian cart owners transport belongings of Sudanese people who fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, while crossing the border between Sudan and Chad, in Adre, Chad 4 August 2023 (AFP)

At least 39 civilians were killed in the western Darfur region of Sudan early on Tuesday, after shelling hit homes in a region that has seen intense fighting between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), AFP reported.

According to medics and witnesses who spoke to AFP, the attacks occurred in the Nyala region, an area that has seen deadly clashes, civilian casualties and sexual assaults in the past few months. At least 50,000 people have fled the region in the past three weeks.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the shelling, but violence has continued for weeks between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the RSF in Nyala, with civilians being caught in the crossfire. 

Save the Children issued a statement on Tuesday calling on leaders to better protect civilians.

“Explosives such as those used in Nyala are one of the many ways children are being killed and injured in Sudan. Rockets, mortars, grenades, mines and improvised explosive devices are all causing children to suffer uniquely, and they are far more likely to die from blast wounds than adult casualties," Dr Arif Noor, the organisation's country director in Sudan, said in an email statement sent to Middle East Eye.

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“More needs to be done by the international community to pressure the warring parties to uphold the commitments they made in Jeddah in May 2023 where they declared to the world they would comply with international law not to harm children and their families," he added.

Since the war between the RSF and the Sudanese army started on 15 April, there have been reports of widespread looting, robbery and violent assaults. 

Activists have been using social media platforms such as X (formerly Twitter) to document the atrocities, with photos surfacing from Nyala in recent weeks of dead bodies piled up in the streets. 

Over 2.6 million people have been displaced from their homes since the conflict began, looking for safety in different parts of Sudan as well as outside of the country, according to the UN. 

Many of those fleeing the conflict are making their way on foot to neighbouring Chad, with more than 730,000 having fled to neighbouring countries.  

Ethnic cleansing

El Geneina, the capital of the West Darfur region, has seen some of the worst fighting outside of the capital Khartoum, where thousands of citizens have lost access to healthcare, water and basic necessities, according to several UN agencies.

The RSF and allied militias have also been accused of ethnic cleansing in West Darfur.

Sudan: I fled the horrors of Darfur. This is what I saw
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Communication networks have also largely been cut off in the region due to the ongoing conflict. 

Throughout Darfur there are camps housing internally displaced people who have suffered under two decades of sporadic conflict between Darfur’s warring factions. More than two million internally displaced Sudanese are in Darfur, and this latest war is only making their situation worse.

Darfur, a region almost the size of France, has been riven by civil strife since a bitter conflict erupted in 2003 between Black minority rebels and the Arab-dominated government then led by President Omar al-Bashir. 

The latest fighting in Sudan has now entered its 20th week with no side claiming victory. The UN humanitarian chief has warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions".

The army and the RSF led the country together since toppling Bashir in 2019 and pushing civilian politicians out of the government in a coup in 2021.

The two sides blame each other for starting the war, after weeks of tension over the integration of RSF troops into a single force as part of a transition to democracy.

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