Hundreds of foreigners fleeing Sudan have arrived in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah, Saudi state media reported, as Sudan entered a third week of fighting between rival military forces despite a ceasefire.
A ferry with around 1,900 evacuees arrived at a Saudi naval base in Jeddah, after crossing the Red Sea from Port Sudan, in the latest evacuation to the kingdom by sea, the SPA state news agency reported on Saturday.
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The group included the first known Iranian evacuees to escape the fighting, as Iran’s foreign ministry said 65 Iranian citizens had left from Port Sudan, through Jeddah, to Iran.
”We had a bad situation in Khartoum, because of the war and we didn’t know what we should do. Thank you, Saudi Arabia. Good trip to Saudi Arabia and I’m very happy,” said Iranian citizen Nima Saddei who was among those evacuated.
Earlier, an Emirati evacuation plane arrived from Sudan carrying citizens and nationals from 16 countries, the United Arab Emirates said. About 128 evacuees, including British and US citizens, landed in the capital Abu Dhabi where they were greeted by officials.
Separately, a US-government organised convoy arrived at the Red Sea city of Port Sudan on Saturday, evacuating US citizens, local staff and others, US Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
Tens of thousands of people have been uprooted within Sudan or embarked on arduous trips to neighbouring Chad, Egypt, South Sudan and Ethiopia to flee the battles between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Mosaab Abdel Rahman, a student in Port Sudan on the eastern Red Sea coast waiting to leave the country, told Al Jazeera, ”I was among the people trapped for nearly seven days in Khartoum with no food, electricity or water. The conditions were very bad, but thank God, we managed to leave and come here. The journey was a bit difficult but things worked out and we arrived.”
Conflict enters third week
On the ground, heavy clashes could be heard near downtown Khartoum, close to the army headquarters and the presidential palace late on Saturday. Residents said gunfire and artillery persisted throughout the day in the capital.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan reporting from Khartoum said fighting between the Sudanese army and the RSF was continuing in Bahri, in the northern part of the capital.
“Residents have been warned to stay indoors, and that’s despite the fact that this is supposed to be a period of ceasefire, where there should be a lull in fighting for people to be able to get out and get their basic necessities from the supermarkets and shops, or tend to their medical needs,” Morgan said.
“But that’s not possible in Bahri, as well as the city of Omdurman, the twin city of the capital of Khartoum where there’s been fighting [between the two warring sides], despite the fact that there’s supposed to be a ceasefire.”
The violence erupted on April 15 when a long-simmering power struggle between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted into conflict.
The violence since then has killed at least 528 people and wounded 4,599, the health ministry said on Saturday, but those figures are likely to be incomplete.
Approximately 75,000 have been displaced by the fighting in Khartoum and the states of Blue Nile, North Kordofan, as well as the western region of Darfur, the UN said.
The fighting has pitched Sudan towards a civil war, derailing an internationally backed transition aimed at establishing a democratic government and sending tens of thousands of people fleeing into neighbouring countries.
The sides have continued to battle it out during a series of ceasefires mediated by foreign powers, notably the United States. The latest 72-hour truce expires at midnight on Sunday.
The RSF said in a statement on Saturday it had shot down an army warplane in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, and accused the army of violating the ceasefire with an attack there. The army did not make a statement about the claim at the time of publication.
The army has previously blamed the RSF for violations and said on Saturday its forces were continuing to work to end “the rebellion”. For periods on Saturday, violence was less intense in the capital area than in recent days, residents said.
Residents also reported relative calm in the city of el-Geneina in the western Darfur region after days of fighting there. The Darfur Bar Association said the death toll had reached 200, and thousands had been wounded.
The prospects of negotiations between the army and paramilitary have so far seemed bleak.
On Friday, army leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said he would never sit down with the RSF’s “rebel” leader, referring to General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti. The RSF chief in turn said he would talk only after the army ceased hostilities.
UN head of mission in Sudan Volker Perthes said on Friday that tensions between the rival generals had been “clear” before the fighting broke out.
But “there was no … early warning that battles will begin on the morning of” April 15, Perthes told Al Jazeera television, adding that efforts had been made to de-escalate the tensions.