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Sudan's Paramilitary Forces Unleash Chaos at Darfur's Last Operating Hospital

Monday 10 June 2024 - 12:10
Sudan's Paramilitary Forces Unleash Chaos at Darfur's Last Operating Hospital

In a horrifying turn of events, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group in Sudan has launched a brazen attack on the last operating hospital in the war-torn Darfur region. According to reports from the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, this attack has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the region.

Late on Sunday, MSF reported that the RSF had targeted the South Hospital in El Fasher, the capital city of North Darfur province, the previous day. The armed group opened fire on medical staff and patients while looting the site, forcing the facility to shut down operations.

"It is outrageous that the RSF opened fire inside the hospital. This is not an isolated incident, as staff and patients have endured attacks on the facility for weeks from all sides, but opening fire inside a hospital crosses a line," said Michel Lacharite, head of emergency operations at MSF, in a scathing statement.

The attack on the hospital came as the RSF intensified its operations around El Fasher in recent weeks. This surge in fighting has claimed the lives of more than 120 people.

Sudan has been embroiled in a brutal war since mid-April 2023, when clashes erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary RSF. The conflict has created the world's largest displacement crisis and left at least 15,500 people dead, according to United Nations estimates.

El Fasher, the last stronghold of the SAF in Darfur and a crucial humanitarian hub for a region teetering on the brink of famine, has become a battleground. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people have sought refuge in the city, forced to survive without basic supplies amid fears that the ongoing fighting will escalate into an all-out battle for control.

At the time of the attack on the city's hospital, there were 10 patients and a reduced medical crew on duty, as the Sudanese Ministry of Health had already begun evacuation procedures, MSF said. While most of the remaining patients and medical team managed to flee the shooting, the NGO added that "due to the chaos, our team was unable to verify if there were any killed or wounded."

The people of El Fasher have described their situation as "hell on Earth, where they could lose their lives any day," according to Toby Harward, the UN deputy humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, who spoke to Al Jazeera last month.

Between May 25 and June 3, the hospital was hit by mortar shells and bullets three times, killing two people and wounding 14, MSF reported. This underscores the escalating violence and disregard for medical facilities and personnel.

According to the UN, the war in Sudan has claimed tens of thousands of lives, including up to 15,000 in a single West Darfur town, since hostilities flared again 14 months ago. Nearly nine million people have been forced from their homes, creating a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented scale.

Both sides have been accused of war crimes, including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, and blocking humanitarian aid. Widespread sexual violence has also been reported, amounting to crimes against humanity, according to the UN.

As the chaos and violence in Sudan escalate, the attack on Darfur's last operating hospital serves as a chilling reminder of the utter disregard for human life. There is a desperate need for an immediate cessation of hostilities to prevent further loss of innocent lives and allow for the delivery of essential aid and medical services to those in dire need.

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