Sudanese people and soldiers loyal to the national army attend a demonstration to support army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan against his rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, the leader of Rapid Support Forces, in Al Qadarif city, Sudan, on Thursday, as U.N. head Antonio Guterres called for a cease-fire. Photo by Sudan News Agency/UPI | License Photo
April 20 (UPI) -- U.N. chief Antonio Guterres is imploring the warring sides in Sudan's recently exploded conflict to agree to at least a three-day cease-fire to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday and allow those trapped in conflict zones to escape and provide medical, food and other essential supplies.
Eid, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, is one of two high feasts in Islam celebrated with family gatherings, communal prayer services and gift-giving.
Guterres made the appeal Thursday following a meeting convened by the African Union involving the League of Arab States, the European Union and several countries attempting to find a halt to the five days of fighting between the Sudanese military and its paramilitary group over the country's helm.
"This must be the first step in providing respite from the fighting and paving the way for a permanent ceasefire," Guterres told reporters during a press conference following the meeting.
"The cessation of hostilities must be followed by serious dialogue allowing for the successful transition, starting with the appointment of a civilian government."
Guterres added that "the fighting must stop immediately."
In a communique of the meeting, those present, including representatives from China, Russia, Britain and others, condemned the violence and also demanded "the belligerents" to establish humanitarian corridors along with the cease-fire.
The calls for a cease-fire come after Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan of the Sudan Armed Forces and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo of the Rapid Support Forces had reached an agreement for a 24-hour halt to the fighting that did not seem to materialize as violence has continued.
However, a U.S. State Department principal deputy spokesman told reporters Thursday that it has "mostly held."
The conflict erupts as the African nation has for years teetered on the precipice of war or stability since the military ousted the country's former three-decade dictator of Omar al-Bashir in a civilian-backed coup in 2019.
The chances of a cease-fire early Friday seemed minimal as the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors reported several areas of the capital Khartoum were hit with bombing and as the army and rapid support forces clashed in rubble that was buildings until only recently.
"We appeal to all citizens to take precaution, stay at home, close doors, windows and lie on the ground, and we also appeal to these forces to take responsibility and immediately stop fighting to protect innocent lives," the labor union said in a statement.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was a participant in the African Union meeting, said late Thursday that he had spoken separately with both al-Burhan and Dagalo to urge them to implement and uphold a nationwide ceasefire through at least the end of Eid al-Fitr on Sunday.
He also "condemned the indiscriminate fighting that has caused significant civilian deaths and injuries and damage to essential infrastructure," a statement from the State Department said.
According to the World Health Organization head Tedors Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the five days of conflict have killed more than 330 people and nearly 3,200 others have been injured.
"The situation in Sudan is increasingly concerning and heartbreaking," he said in a statement, adding as are reports of forces occupying health facilities, which have also come under attack.
"The lack of safe access, of electricity, food, water, personnel and the diminishing medical supplies are making it nearly impossible for many health facilities to function at the exact time when there are thousands injured in need of urgent care."