RSF seize bridge and storm into Wad Madani
1st Infantry Division lose battle for the Hantoob Bridge
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) today attacked an army base guarding the Hantoob Bridge, at the entrance to the Jezira State state capital, Wad Madani, capturing it and storming across the bridge into Wad Madani itself.
Airstrikes yesterday and today in Wad Madani’s eastern suburbs, Abu Haraz and Hantoob, failed to stem the RSF advance. Videos analyzed by Sudan War Monitor show RSF troops inside the 1st Brigade headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division, which guarded the eastern approach to Hantoob Bridge, on the bridge itself, on the west bank, as well as deeper inside Wad Madani as far as the main market.
Wad Madani is one of Sudan’s largest cities, with a population of about 700,000 people, including many displaced people who had fled from the capital Khartoum.
RSF’s advance into Wad Madani comes just one day after the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) orchestrated celebrations in the city, claiming to have repulsed the RSF. That coincided with fighting in Hantoob, where SAF hoped to check the RSF advance.
After four days of fighting, which lasted from December 15 until this morning, the RSF now appear to fully control Hantoob, and some western parts of Wad Madani. However, large parts of Wad Madani remain under SAF control, and the conflict could devolve into a grinding urban battle, similar to the kind seen in Khartoum.
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RSF’s attack on Wad Madani has drawn international condemnation. IGAD Executive Secretary Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, who has helped facilitate peace talks, said he was “extremely concerned” by the violence in the state, which endangered civilian lives. Similarly, the U.S. State Department said in a statement Saturday,
We urge the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan to cease their advance in Gezira State immediately and to refrain from attacking Wad Medani. Troubling reports indicate that elite RSF units have travelled to reinforce attacks in the direction of Wad Medani, actions that threaten vulnerable civilians in a manner inconsistent with RSF’s stated claims that it is fighting to protect Sudan’s people. We also urge against Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) clashes with the RSF and other actions that are endangering civilians.
Wad Medani has become a safe haven for displaced civilians and is an important hub for international humanitarian relief efforts. A continued RSF advance risks mass civilian casualties and significant disruption of humanitarian assistance efforts. The RSF advance has already caused large-scale displacements of vulnerable civilians from Gezira State – many of whom have nowhere else to go – and closure of markets in Wad Medani on which many people rely.
Fighting in Rufaa and alleged war crimes
RSF today also consolidated their control over other parts of eastern Jezira State, rampaging through the town of Rufaa and nearby villages. They carried out widespread looting and allegedly killed people at the Rufaa hospital.
The town of Rufaa, 50 km north of Wad Madani and 120 km south of Khartoum, was near the frontline between SAF and the RSF before last Friday’s lightning strike toward Wad Madani’s eastern outskirts of Abu Haraz and Hantoob. This flanking maneuver cut off Rufaa from the rest of the Sudanese army to the south.
On social media, there are conflicting reports about how much fighting took place in Rufaa when the RSF attacked the town. By some accounts, there was heavy fighting, while other said the army had already withdrawn. A bridge connects Rufaa and nearby Hassahissa, on the west bank. The army have used a shipping container to close that bridge, attempting to prevent the RSF from crossing.
“The entire Butana (the region east of the Blue Nile) and all of eastern Jezira State is under control of the RSF and there are no army forces except in Wad Madani,” said the Tamboul Resistance Committee in an update on its Facebook page this evening. The group represents former civilian protesters in a town now occupied by the RSF.
Video from the Wad Madani market, December 18
Videos from Hantoob, December 17
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