Civilians in Delami County are trapped under a hail of artillery, as fighting along the northern front in South Kordofan creeps closer.
Tens of thousands have fled in the last two months alone, but many others were unable to escape before the armies closed in.
On May 12, a 9-year-old girl from Sabat was treated at the Mother of Mercy hospital for shrapnel in her leg. Since shelling began over one month ago, her family has been living in a cave. The girl left to fetch water and was caught by an artillery barrage. Though she survived the attack, doctors say she may lose her lower leg.
In the town of Tongoli, in Delami County, three young girls were killed when Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) artillery shells crashed down on their houses. The shelling began on April 28, around 3:00 AM, when most of the residents were sleeping.
14-year-old Amal Abdelrahman, 16-year-old Hanaa Omer Rashid and 12-year-old Awadiya Hassan Abdelrahman were killed. The shelling also fractured the leg of one woman as well as the hip of her husband.
According to eyewitnesses, an Antonov warplane circled the area as the shells fell, but did not drop any bombs.
Tongoli is one of many villages to come under fire in recent weeks. As the fighting has progressed through the norther part of the state, SAF artillery has razed town after town along the way. Following the barrages, some civilians reported seeing soldiers set houses ablaze and destroy wells as they passed.
Throughout Rashad, Abbasiya and Delami counties civilians have fled en masse ahead of Sudan’s “Decisive Summer Operation.” The offensive was announced by the Sudanese Defense Minister in mid-April, as a push to end the conflict in the state.
The shelling in Tongoli was a prelude to a large-scale attack on Abri the following day. Abri was a major forward garrison of the rebel SPLA-N – controlled by the force since the beginning of the conflict in 2011. But on April 29, Sudanese forces comprised of regular army, paramilitary forces and militia groups launched a three-pronged attack on the town, forcing the rebel troops to retreat south.
Though the “Decisive Summer Operation” has been successful in rooting out Sudan Revolutionary Front positions in Rashad and Abbasiya, the offensive has stalled at Abri, where the SRF fighters have regrouped after their initial retreat. While Abri remains in government hands, fighting there has continued for the past two weeks.
Meanwhile heavy artillery continues to rain down on civilians caught in the middle. The shelling in Tongoli took place at least 10 kilometers from the front lines, in what is usually a civilian area. Nuba Reports is investigating reports of mass displacement. Current estimates from officials and sources on the ground indicate anywhere between 45,000 and 70,000 have fled since the shelling began.