Sudanese families have been massing at a border crossing with Egypt and at a port city on the Red Sea, desperately trying to escape their country's violence.
In Sudan's capital, Khartoum, the intensity of fighting eased on the second day of a three-day truce, and the military said it had “initially accepted” a diplomatic initiative to extend the current cease-fire for another three days after it expires Thursday.
The initiative, brokered by the eight-nation East Africa trade bloc known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, would also include direct negotiations between the military and the Rapid Support Forces, the paramilitary group it has been battling since 15 April.
There was no immediate comment from the RSF on the initiative, which, if accepted by both sides, would mark a major breakthrough in more than a week of intense international diplomacy. The two rivals, army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and RSF commander Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, have until now seemed determined to vanquish the other.
Taking advantage of relative calm, many residents in Khartoum and the neighbouring city of Omdurman emerged from their homes to seek food and water, lining up at bakeries or grocery stores, after days of being trapped inside by the fighting between the army and a rival paramilitary group. Some inspected shops or homes that had been destroyed or looted.
“There is a sense of calm in my area and neighbourhoods,” Mahasen Ali said, a tea vendor who lives in Khartoum’s southern neighbourhood of May. “But all are afraid of what’s next.”
Still, gunfire and explosions could 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 capital in recent days, trying to get out of the crossfire between the forces of Sudan's two top generals.
Food has grown more difficult to obtain, and electricity is cut off across much of the capital and other cities. 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.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said only one in four hospitals in the capital was fully functional and that the fighting has disrupted assistance to 50,000 children who are acutely malnourished.
Many Sudanese fear the two sides will escalate their battle once the international evacuation of foreigners is completed.