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Sudan fighting eclipses new truce as aid groups raise alarm

CAIRO (Net) — Sudanese and foreigners streamed out of the capital of Khartoum and other battle zones, as fighting Tuesday shook a new three-day truce brokered by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Aid agencies raised increasing alarm over the crumbling humanitarian situation in a country reliant on outside help.
A series of short cease-fires the past week have either failed outright or brought only intermittent lulls in the fighting that has raged between forces loyal to the country’s two top generals since April 15. The lulls have been enough for dramatic evacuations of hundreds of foreigners by air and land, which continued Tuesday.
But they have brought no relief to millions of Sudanese caught in the crossfire, struggling to find food, shelter and medical care as explosions, gunfire and looters wreck their neighborhoods. In a country where a third of the population of 46 million already needed humanitarian assistance, multiple aid agencies have had to suspend operations and dozens of hospitals have been forced to shut down. The U.N. refugee agency said it was gearing up for potentially tens of thousands of people fleeing into neighboring countries.
Calls for negotiations to end the crisis in Africa’s third-largest nation have been ignored. For many Sudanese, the departure of diplomats, aid workers and other foreigners and the closure of embassies are terrifying signs that international powers expect the mayhem to only worsen.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the power struggle between rival generals and their military forces is not only putting Sudan’s future at risk, “it is lighting a fuse that could detonate across borders, causing immense suffering for years, and setting development back by decades.”
The U.N. chief urged the Sudanese military, commanded by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the rival Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, “to silence the guns” immediately.
“”The conflict will not, and must not, be resolved on the battlefield,” Guterres told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council late Tuesday.
U.N. special envoy for Sudan Volker Perthes, who moved from Khartoum to Port Sudan with most U.N. staff and many humanitarian organizations, accused both warring parties of fighting “with disregard for the laws and norms of war,” citing attacks on densely populated areas.
With supply lines running out, he said, there is mounting fear of increased criminality, and “reports of prisoners being released from detention centers across Khartoum have compounded these fears.”
Thousands of Sudanese have been fleeing Khartoum and its neighboring city of Omdurman. Bus stations in the capital were packed Tuesday morning with people who had spent the night there in hopes of getting on a departing bus.
Drivers increased prices, sometimes tenfold, for routes to the border crossing with Egypt or the eastern Red Sea city of Port Sudan. Fuel prices have skyrocketed, to $67 a gallon from $4.20, and prices for food and water have doubled in many cases, the Norwegian Refugee Council said.
Those lucky enough to reach the border crossings face additional hardships.
Moaz al-Ser, a teacher, arrived at the Arqin border crossing with Egypt early Tuesday with his wife and three children after a harrowing trip from Omdurman. They were among hundreds of families who were waiting to be processed. Many had spent the night in an open area near the border.
“The crossing point is overwhelmed and authorities on both sides don’t have the capacity to handle such a growing number of arrivals,” he said.
Secretary-General Guterres cited reports of armed clashes across the country, with people fleeing their homes in Blue Nile and North Kordofan states and across Western Darfur as well. Terrified people remain trapped indoors with dwindling food, water, medicine and fuel, and health services near collapse, he said.
Joyce Msuya, the assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said at least 20 hospitals have been forced to close due to damage, military use or lack of resources. She also told the council “there have been numerous reports of sexual and gender-based violence.”
The 72-hour cease-fire announced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to last until late Thursday night, extending a nominal three-day truce over the weekend.
The rival forces said Tuesday they would observe the cease-fire. In separate announcements, they said Saudi Arabia played a role in the negotiations.
But fighting continued, with explosions, gunfire and the roar of warplanes overhead around the capital region.
Mohammed Mahdi, of the International Rescue Committee, warned that resources were growing thin at the Tunaydbah refugee camp in eastern Sudan after 3,000 people fleeing Khartoum took refuge there, joining some 28,000 refugees from Ethiopia.
At least 20,000 people have fled from Khartoum to the city of Wad Madani, 160 kilometers (100 miles) to the south, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. Some 20,000 Sudanese have fled to Chad and around 4,000 South Sudanese refugees living in Sudan have returned home, according to the U.N. refugee agency, which is gearing up for tens of thousands more to flee to neighboring countries.

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