Escalating Crisis in Sudan: Satellite Imagery Showing Increased SAF Air Capacity, and Refugee Camp Attacks

On Friday, November 11, Satellite Sentinel Project released a report, “Radius of Operations: Sudan Increases Air Attack Capacity” providing evidence of a build-up of Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, on the border of Sudan and South Sudan and portending the possible resumption of war between the two countries.

This evidence, accompanied by on-the-ground reports of two recent bombings in South Sudan refugee camps—Yida camp, housing an estimated 22,000 people, and New Guffa village, an area housing approximately 400 refugees—provide a disturbing account of cross-border operations.

The Government of Sudan, or GoS, claims that South Sudan is supplying weapons to South Sudan-aligned rebels operating in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, both contested states in Sudan. Using these allegations to justify acts of war, SAF began an aerial bombardment campaign against refugee camps in South Sudan on November 8.

Although the GoS denies the existence of refugee camps in South Sudan housing northern Sudanese refugees, international media including the The Washington Post, UN News Centre, The New York Times, and CNN, reported on the two bombardment campaigns.

According to the Associated Press, “Four bombs fell in and around a camp called Yida in Unity State. No casualties were reported, though one bomb landed on the grounds of a school while 300 students were in class. That bomb did not detonate.”

SSP's latest report has heightened concerns of future cross-border attacks. The report shows evidence that SAF is rapidly working to enhance air strike and air assault capacity in two airbases recently captured from rebels in Sudan’s Blue Nile border area. It documents the build-up of helipads in recently captured Kurmuk, which will allow SAF to base helicopter gunships and transport helicopters needed for the transport of air assault infantry near the border of South Sudan.

The UN Security Council met on Friday to discuss “the severity and urgency of the situation and how we might collectively and individually as member states, prevail on the parties to de-escalate and return to the negotiating table and resolve critical issues that divide them.”

As a result of rising tensions and attacks, Oxfam, a major humanitarian aid group, withdrew from South Sudan over the weekend. According to The New York Times, Oxfam “said it had noticed a distinct buildup of South Sudan troops near the border with Sudan,” adding to the growing accounts of a military buildup, and corroborating SSP’s recent report.