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On February 1, Sudan Armed Forces, or SAF, bombed a school in the village of Heiban in South Kordofan on the first day of classes. Eyewitnesses report that eight bombs were dropped and two landed inside the school compound destroying two buildings. No injuries were reported, even though the school was full of students, an outcome the church group that built and supports the school called “a miracle.”
A Christian Evangelical group Samaritan’s Purse has supported the school since it opened in 2007.
With the opening of classes, the school grounds were full of students, teachers, and families. Zachariah Boulus is a teacher at the school and was on campus when the bombing took place. Zachariah said when the planes first began circling, he was not expecting the school would be bombed, but when the first bomb dropped, people ran or lay down.
“I don't even know where my wife and children are because they ran for safety near the mountain,” he said.
Remnants of the Bible school in Heiban, South Kordofan after the SAF bombings on February 1. (Photos: Saied Mohammed)
In a letter to Ambassador Rice yesterday, a coalition of human rights groups, including the Enough Project, American Jewish World Service, United to End Genocide, Jewish World Watch, Investors Against Genocide, Stop Genocide Now, and Act For Sudan, called on the U.S. to continue diplomatic efforts to open access to humanitarian agencies while considering options for delivering aid to the region without Khartoum’s permission.
“The humanitarian situation on the ground has deteriorated to such an extent that the imperative to save lives now outweighs these logistical and political concerns,” the group said, adding that special consideration must be made to address the possibility that circumventing Khartoum’s approval for the humanitarian operations could further impact access in Darfur.
The ongoing military campaign by SAF in South Kordofan, which began in June, and the total shutdown of humanitarian corridors are threatening to deepen the humanitarian crisis. A full-scale famine may force up to 500,000 people to flee to South Sudan, according to the World Food Programme.
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice and the White House issued statements condemning the latest attacks by the SAF in South Kordofan and Blue Nile on civilian targets, as well as Sudan’s denial of humanitarian access to the two areas.
“I am outraged,” Rice said. She added that even though no casualties were reported, this attack “underscores the viciousness of Sudan’s ongoing military campaign in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.”
The White House statement conveyed deep concern about the ongoing fighting and lack of humanitarian access in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states and urged the Sudanese government “to grant immediate and unconditional humanitarian access to civilian populations in need in these areas.”
While the statement is a welcome note of acknowledgement of the severity of the situation and the likelihood that humanitarian conditions will worsen, the increasingly brazen attacks by the Sudanese government on obviously non-combatant targets offers little consolation that Khartoum will welcome aid any time soon.
“The events of February 2 demonstrate how the Enough Project works effectively with our partners, fusing field reporting on humanitarian crises, together with policy analysis in influential news media, such as USA Today, and leadership in human rights advocacy,” said Enough Project Executive Director John Bradshaw. “The strong statement from the White House on the emergent situation in Sudan and South Sudan is very much in line with Enough’s analysis. Now the U.S. should take a leadership role, acting in concert with the larger international community, and without or without the permission of the Khartoum regime, to deliver food and medical aid to civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.”