Civilians continued to flee renewed clashes in Sudan on Friday, as a three-day extension of an already-tenuous truce got off to a fitful start, and foreign countries ramped up evacuations after warning of an escalation of violence in the coming days.
Gunfire and loud explosions rocked at least two neighborhoods in the capital, Khartoum, residents said, as the battle between Sudan’s army, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, entered its 14th day.
Clashes also continued in the western region of Darfur, aid workers said, even as the African Union, the United Nations and countries including the United States welcomed the decision to extend a fragile cease-fire for an additional 72 hours.
“What I am seeing is thick smoke. What I am hearing is shelling and gunshots,” said Ahmad Mahmoud, a Sudanese resident of Khartoum who witnessed a massive bombardment of the Burri neighborhood in the capital.
Mr. Mahmoud, a filmmaker, said in a text message that he was packing to leave the capital on Friday, giving up on getting his passport back from the Swedish embassy where he had submitted it for a visa. “Khartoum is becoming extremely unsafe,” he said.
Taking advantage of the shaky truce, the United Kingdom late on Thursday evening also ordered its remaining citizens to immediately travel to the Wadi Saeedna airfield near the capital Khartoum for evacuation.
About 900 British nationals had been evacuated so far on eight different flights as of Thursday afternoon. But after the truce extension ends at midnight this coming Sunday, “violence could escalate,” the Foreign Office warned in a statement.
“We cannot guarantee how many further flights will depart,” the statement said, adding, “Flights may stop at very short notice.”
Turkey also continued removing its nationals who were stuck in Sudan. But in a sign of the rapidly deteriorating situation, one of its evacuation flights was shot at on Friday morning.
The plane landed safely and no one was injured, Turkey’s Ministry of Defense said in a post on Twitter. Sudan’s army was quick to blame the Rapid Support Forces for the attack, saying the shooting was a “failed attempt” to “obstruct evacuation efforts” — an allegation the R.S.F. denied.
But even as other foreign nations sent planes to evacuate their nationals, the United States had still not done so. The White House on Thursday urged American citizens to leave within the next 48 hours. There are believed to be about 16,000 Americans in Sudan, many of them dual nationals.
“We are working continuously to create options for American citizens to leave Sudan promptly because the situation could deteriorate at any moment,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary.
Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said late on Tuesday that there were a “relatively small” number of Americans who wanted to leave the country and that American officials were identifying any available seats on international flights that would help those citizens leave the country.
The U.S. was helping secure land routes, he said, and had positioned naval ships off the coast of Sudan along the Red Sea to evacuate those fleeing the violence.
The clashes, which began on April 15, have killed at least 512 people and wounded close to 4,200 others, according to the World Health Organization. Children, health workers and humanitarian operatives have been killed in the conflict, with observers saying the death toll is likely much higher than currently being reported.
The conflict has also decimated the country’s nascent health sector. In Khartoum, where the violence has been the most intense, more than 60 percent of health facilities are closed, the W.H.O. said, and only 16 percent are operating as normal. The U.N. agency also believes that many more lives will be lost because of outbreaks of diseases, lack of food and water, and access to vaccination.
Thousands of people continue to flee the country, getting on buses, taxis and private cars toward smaller towns and neighboring countries. Some 20,000 refugees have already crossed over to Chad, the U.N. said, while 16,000 others have arrived in neighboring Egypt, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
With the security and power vacuum in Khartoum, the U.N. said that violence was escalating in Darfur, a region plagued by two decades of genocidal violence. Over the past few days, the U.N. has reported renewed inter-communal clashes, the looting of aid agencies and the burning of homes and markets, particularly in El Geneina town in West Darfur.
The region was already experiencing the resurgence of violent attacks by Arab gunmen against ethnic African communities, leading to widespread hardship and displacement.
“The suffering is getting from bad to worse,” said Adam Regal, a spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, an aid agency.
But even as families and foreigners flee the violence, some Sudanese are staying home.
Those include Tagreed Abdin, who has been sheltering in her apartment with her three sons and husband, barely eating in order to conserve dwindling food and water supplies amid rising temperatures.
“We are trying to stay hopeful,” Ms. Abdin, 49, said in a telephone interview on Friday from her home in Al-Diyum, a neighborhood close to Khartoum’s international airport, which has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting. “But we are feeling increasingly desperate as there’s no end in sight,” she said.
Ms. Abdin finally left her apartment yesterday, for the first time since the fighting began, on a mission to find medicine for her mother, who is in her 80s and has hypertension.
“It was totally surreal,” she said, describing the trash and debris piled on the corners of streets, deserted and blackened by shelling.
Al Deim Street, a main drag in her neighborhood that on an ordinary day would take an hour to drive through, was deserted, she said. A local gas station was overcrowded with hundreds of vehicles because of the depleted fuel supply across the city. A long line of people wrapped around a block nearby, waiting for fresh bread outside a bakery.
“It’s very grim,” she said, referring to the situation for those who remain in the city. “It’s an unseen tragedy.”
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