Fighting continued on Wednesday in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, despite a ceasefire that was announced by both the army and the paramilitary rapid support forces, two eyewitnesses in separate areas told Reuters.
Sudanese troops declared a new ceasefire on Wednesday in their fierce battle with paramilitary forces across the country after the failure of an earlier truce agreement to allow for the evacuation of civilians caught up in the sudden conflict.
The 24-hour ceasefire, which the army's paramilitary rivals had already announced, was supposed to come into effect at 6 p.m. local time (1600 GMT). It was not immediately clear whether fighting had stopped.
Earlier in the day continuous bombardments could be heard in central Khartoum around the compound housing the army HQ and at the main airport, which has been fiercely contested and put out of action since fighting erupted at the weekend.
Thick smoke billowed into the sky and the streets were largely empty in the capital. Gunfire rattled in the south of the city, a Reuters witness said, while the army appeared to retake a key military airport in Sudan's north, images on TV network al Arabiya showed.
Sudan's military ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, had said he was operating from the Khartoum army HQ. Reuters could not establish whether he was still there on Wednesday.
"The armed forces are responding to a new attack in the vicinity of the General Command," the army said in a statement.
Huddled in their homes, residents of the capital, one of Africa's largest cities, struggled with power cuts and worried how long food supplies would last.
"Today we were starting to run out of some essentials," said architect Hadeel Mohamed, concerned for the safety of her brother who had gone to look for food.
With no signs of peace in the city before the Eid festival that marks the end of Ramadan this week, some Khartoum residents braved the bombardments to leave for the nearby state of Al Gezira, to the south, where fighting has not been reported.
The conflict stems from a power struggle between military leader Burhan and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) chief General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti, over a plan to integrate the paramilitary fighters into the regular military.
Burhan heads a ruling council installed after the 2021 military coup and the 2019 ouster of veteran autocrat Omar al-Bashir, while Hemedti, who analysts say may command more than 100,000 fighters, was his deputy on the council.
At least 270 people have died and 2,600 have been injured, the World Health Organization said, citing Sudan's health ministry.
The conflict risks drawing inSudan's neighbors and could play into competition between Russia and the United States for regional influence. Sudan sits strategically between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Africa's volatile Sahel region.
Chad's armed forces disarmed 320 Sudanese soldiers who had entered its territory on Monday, the defense minister of Sudan's western neighbor said on Wednesday, adding that Chad did not want to be involved in the conflict.
A Reuters reporter said there was a heavy exchange of gunfire in the Jabra neighborhood of west Khartoum, where homes belonging to Hemedti and his family are located. Hemedti's location has not been revealed since fighting began on Saturday.
The RSF said the army had used heavy artillery against the homes of families and citizens in Jabra, breaching international law.
The army controls access to Khartoum, a metropolis of around 5.5 million people, and appeared to be trying to cut off supply routes to RSF fighters within the capital. Army reinforcements were brought to the city from eastern areas near the border with Ethiopia, witnesses and residents said.
Foreign powers including the United States and Egypt have pushed for a ceasefire to allow residents to obtain relief and supplies, along with evacuations of foreign citizens.
Both sides accused each other of breaking a 24-hour truce they had agreed from Tuesday. Both then announced they would observe a ceasefire from 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Wednesday.
Diplomatic missions in Sudan called on the warring sides to cease fire, initiate talks and protect civilians as well as diplomats and humanitarian actors.
With planes smoldering on the runway of Khartoum's international airport, evacuations looked difficult for now.
"There's no way to get out," Belgian diver Henri Hemmerechts told Reuters from Khartoum. "It’s just horrible and honestly, there’s nothing we can do at this point."
The US State Department said the "uncertain security situation" and the closure of the airport meant there were no plans for a US government-coordinated evacuation. Turkey has also said it could not currently evacuate.
Germany halted a mission on Wednesday to fly out about 150 citizens on three Luftwaffe A400M transport planes, Der Spiegel magazine reported, citing unnamed sources.
Asked about the report, the German foreign ministry said all options were being assessed.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary said authorities were planning to use a plane from its military Self-Defense Forces to evacuate around 60 Japanese citizens.
Gunmen have targeted hospitals and humanitarian workers, with reports of sexual violence against aid workers, the United Nations said. Most hospitals are out of service and health charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said armed men raided a warehouse of supplies it operates in the west of the country.
Even before the conflict, around a quarter of Sudan's population was facing acute hunger. The World Food Programme halted one of its largest global aid operations in the country on Saturday after three of its workers were killed.