U.S. sanctions 2 RSF commanders over escalating fighting in North Darfur

The Treasury under Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday sanctioned two commanders of the breakaway Rapid Support Forces. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
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May 16 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has leveled sanctions against two commanders of the breakaway Rapid Support Forces amid mounting concerns over escalating violence in North Darfur.

Ali Yagoub Gibril and Osman Mohamed Hamid Mohamed were hit with sanctions Wednesday for leading RSF operations in the Sudaneses state.

The operations began last month, and the RSF has since surrounded the state's capital of El Fasher, putting the lives of some 1 million people at risk amid its fighting with the Sudanese Armed Forces.

"While the Sudanese people continue to demand an end to this conflict, these commanders have been focused on expanding to new fronts and battling for control of more territory," Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement.

According to an update early this week from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 570,000 people have been displaced in North Darfur since mid-April 2023 when the war began. More than one-third of them are being hosted in El Fasher, the last SAF-controlled region in the state.

For those there, the situation is dire. The fighting includes airstrikes and the use of heavy weaponry. El Fasher South Hospital, the only working hospital in the state, lacks medical supplies and medicine. And humanitarian access has been severely constrained with only 39 trucks of aid having reached the city this year, according to the OCHA.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statment Tuesday that he was "alarmed" by the use of heavy weaponry in densely populated areas in El Fasher, while calling for the warring parties to remember their obligations under humanitarian law to protect civilians.

Doctors Without Borders on Wednesday said that since Friday when the fighting began to intensify, more than 454 causalities have arrived at South Hospital, 56 of whom died.

"Until now, North Darfur had been a relatively safe haven compared to other parts of Darfur," it said in a statement. "Now, there are snipers in the streets, heavy shelling is taking place and nowhere in the city is safe at all.

The war between the RSF and SAF is now more than a year old, resulting in the deaths of more than 15,500 people, according to the conflict monitor Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. Nearly 9 million of its some 50 million have beed displaced, with nearly 25 million in need of assistance, the OCHA said.

The Biden administration has imposed sanctions against those on both sides of war, and in December, the State Department declared war crimes had been committed in the conflict, emphasizing that the RSF and its allied militias had committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

The Treasury on Wednesday accused Gibril, a 60-year-old RSF Central Darfur commander, of being a key player in the ongoing violence in Darfur, including the North Darfur offensive.

Mohamed, a 58-year-old RSF major general, was hit for being the military's head of operations.

The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets in their name and bar U.S. persons from doing business with them.