A United States-brokered cease-fire in Sudan appeared to be on shaky ground on Tuesday as gunfire and loud explosions erupted in Khartoum, the capital, threatening continued efforts by thousands of people to flee a conflict that has ripped through Africa’s third-largest nation for more than a week.
In pockets across Khartoum, residents reported low-flying warplanes and loud blasts near their homes. Many had hoped for a quiet day that would allow them to gain access to food and water or to flee the city altogether, and countries including Britain had aimed to take advantage of the pause in fighting to evacuate their citizens.
The clashes came just hours after Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced that the warring parties — the Sudanese Army, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan — had agreed to a 72-hour nationwide cease-fire. During the pause, the United States had hoped to engage with other countries on a peace process that would permanently end the hostilities.
Although both rival groups said late Monday that they had agreed to the cease-fire, by Tuesday morning it appeared not to have held, with residents reporting cracks of gunfire and shelling in the capital. The paramilitary force also accused the army of attacking its positions near the presidential palace in Khartoum.
The broken truce was the latest in a series of proposed cease-fires that the two warring parties have not adhered to since violence erupted on April 15 — although a respite in violence during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday allowed for the evacuation of diplomatic personnel from the country.
The conflict has upended life in Sudan, with more than 400 people killed and 3,700 others wounded as the two generals vie for control of the country, according to the World Health Organization. Tens of thousands have fled their homes and poured into neighboring countries including Chad, Egypt and South Sudan.
Foreign governments have been evacuating their embassy officials and citizens through airlifts or through long convoys by road to Egypt or a port on the Red Sea. The United Nations mission in Sudan said on Monday that members of its international staff had reached the city of Port Sudan and would move on to neighboring countries. It said that Volker Perthes, the organization’s envoy to Sudan, would remain in the country.
On Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain announced that British passport holders would be evacuated from Sudan, with priority given to older people and to families with children. France has evacuated more than 500 people, including about 200 French nationals, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday.
Constant Méheut contributed reporting.