Crowds desperately try to cross Sudan border as unrest continues

British Nationals seen here onboard an RAF aircraft in Akrotiri, Cyprus, after being evacuated from Sudan. Credit: UK Ministry of Defence

Crowds of families have been growing at Sudan's border crossing with Egypt and at a main port, desperately trying to escape their country's violence.

Those waiting are at times forced to go for days with little food or shelter, witnesses said on Wednesday.

In the capital Khartoum, the intensity of fighting eased on the second day of a three-day truce.

Taking advantage of relative calm, many residents in Khartoum and the neighboring city of Omdurman emerged from their homes to seek food and water, lining up at bakeries or grocery stores, after days of being trapped indoors.

“There is a sense of calm in my area and neighborhoods,” said Mahasen Ali, a tea vendor who lives in Khartoum’s southern neighbourhood of May. “But all are afraid of what’s next.”

A man walks by a house hit in recent fighting in Khartoum, Sudan. Credit: AP

Gunfire and explosions could still be heard in the city, though residents said clashes were in more limited pockets, mainly around the military’s headquarters and the Republican Palace in central Khartoum and around bases in Omdurman across the Nile River.

With the future of any truce uncertain, many took the opportunity to join the tens of thousands who have streamed out of the region of the capital in recent days.

It comes as the first flight carrying British nationals evacuated from Sudan landed at Stansted Airport on Wednesday.

The British evacuation mission from Sudan has lifted 301 people to safety over four flights as the military races against time to rescue citizens while a fragile ceasefire holds.

More than 2,000 British nationals have registered in Sudan under evacuation plans, but thousands more could be in the country.

Families with young children were prioritised in the Sudan evacuation mission. Credit: Ministry of Defence

The two rival generals, army chief Abdel Fattah Burhan and RSF commander Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, have so far ignored calls for negotiations to end the crisis and have seemed determined to crush each other.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that their power struggle is not only putting Sudan’s future at risk, but “it is lighting a fuse that could detonate across borders, causing immense suffering for years, and setting development back by decades.”

The generals' war for power since April 15 has pushed the population to a near-breaking point.

Food has grown more difficult to obtain, electricity is cut off across much of the capital and other cities, and many hospitals have shut down.

Multiple aid agencies have had to suspend operations, a heavy blow in a country where a third of the population of 46 million relies on humanitarian assistance.

Many Sudanese fear the army and its rival Rapid Support Forces will escalate their battle once the international evacuations of foreigners that began on Sunday are completed.

Many have been making the exhausting 15-hour drive across the desert to access points out of the country - to the city of Port Sudan on the eastern Red Sea coast and to the Arqin crossing into Egypt at the northern border.

Large crowds waited at the port in Port Sudan, trying to register for a ferry to Saudi Arabia.

Dallia Abdelmoniem, a Sudanese political commentator, said she and her family arrived on Monday and have been trying every day to get a spot, but “priority was given to foreign nationals."

Home Secretary Suella Braverman defended the government's response to evacuating British nationals, saying it's "unfair to compare the UK to other countries"

Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it has evacuated 1,674 people from 56 countries, as well as 13 of its citizens.

At the Arqin crossing, families have been spending their nights outside in the desert, waiting to be let into Egypt, with buses piling up at the crossing.

“It’s a mess - long lines of elderly people, patients, women, and children waiting in miserable conditions," said Moaz al-Ser, a Sudanese teacher who arrived along with his wife and three children at the border a day earlier.

“Authorities on both sides don’t have the capacity to handle such a growing number of arrivals.”

Help and advice

  • If you are in Sudan you can contact the FCDO 24/7 helpline at +44 1908 516 666

  • Select option 2 for consular services for British nationals.

  • If you’re in the UK and worried about a British person in Sudan you can call 020 7008 5000.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has said it is gearing up for potentially tens of thousands of Sudanese and others to flee into South Sudan.

Tens of thousands of Khartoum residents have also fled to provinces neighboring Khartoum or even into already existing displacement and refugee camps within Sudan that house victims of past conflicts in the country and its neighbours.

At least 459 people, including civilians and fighters, have been killed, and over 4,000 wounded since fighting began, the UN health agency said, citing Sudan’s Health Ministry.

The Doctors’ Syndicate, which tracks civilian casualties, said at least 295 civilians were killed and 1,790 others injured

The 72-hour cease-fire announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to last until late Thursday night.

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