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Concerns are growing that the ongoing conflict in Sudan could spread to new areas, including eastern Sudan, which has so far remained untouched by the clashes in Khartoum and Darfur.

Clashes broke out between the national army and armed factions of local tribes in Port Sudan on Monday evening, raising fears of renewed violence. Since the outbreak of war in April, the coastal city has served as the country’s unofficial temporary capital.

The leader of the Alliance of Eastern Tribal Parties and Movements, Sheiba Drarar, claimed that the army unexpectedly fired on their forces in front of the Beja National Party headquarters and the troops responded before the situation stabilized.

Drarar, a prominent figure from the Beja tribe, stressed in a press statement that his forces did not initiate the aggression against the army.

He claimed that about 50 military vehicles surrounded their headquarters and interfered with the inspection of some trucks loaded with food products without proper documentation.

– Army questions without comment

The Red Sea state’s army and government have not commented on the clashes.

It is the first armed conflict in the coastal city since the outbreak of war between the army and the Rapid Support Force in April.

An eyewitness in Port Sudan said the area witnessed intense crossfire in the city center between the army and militia led by Drarar.

Another resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, said soldiers had spread out in the area after destroying militia checkpoints, although others said calm had returned shortly afterwards.

Port Sudan hosts Sudan’s only currently operational airport and serves as a haven for government and UN officials fleeing the fighting in Khartoum.

The city had not been affected by violence until Monday’s clashes.

For the past three weeks, Port Sudan has been the base of army general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who remained at the army headquarters in Khartoum until the end of August, besieged by Rapid Support Force fighters.

Burhan has made six foreign trips, departing from Port Sudan, in what analysts say were diplomatic efforts to shore up his position in the event that talks begin to end the conflict.

Videos circulating on social media show clashes with live ammunition in one of Port Sudan’s residential areas.

According to eyewitnesses, the “limited firefight” caused panic among the citizens.

Hassan Abdullah, a resident of Port Sudan, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the brief clash took place in the Deem Arab neighborhood.

The three states of Eastern Sudan, Red Sea, Kassala and al-Qadarif have historically faced tensions due to neglect by central governments.

Tribal and ethnic divisions have led to armed conflicts in the region, leaving hundreds of victims.

Earlier, the commander of the Rapid Support Force, Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, warned that his forces could reach any part of Sudan, including the eastern region, where the remnants of the ousted regime are reportedly hiding.

-Battles intensify in the capital

Clashes escalated in Khartoum between the army and the Rapid Support Force, covering many areas in the three cities of Khartoum, Bahri and Omdurman.

Witnesses reported that Sudanese military drones attacked Rapid Support Force positions in several areas in the East Nile region of the capital Khartoum.

In response, the Rapid Support Force fired artillery shells at the signal corps in Bahri and targeted locations in central Khartoum.

Meanwhile, the UN fears that Sudan could descend into full-scale civil war and face the risk of division.

Two UN-affiliated agencies said on Tuesday that more than 1,200 children have died of suspected measles and malnutrition in refugee camps in Sudan, while many thousands more, including newborns, are at risk of death before the end of the year.

The agencies added that more than five months after the start of the conflict between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Force, the country’s health sector is on its knees due to direct attacks by the warring parties and shortages of personnel and medicine.

UNHCR head of public health Alan Maina told a UN briefing in Geneva that since May, more than 1,200 Ethiopian and South Sudanese children under the age of five have died in nine camps in White Nile state, home to one of the largest groups of refugees in Sudan.

“Unfortunately, we fear that their numbers will continue to grow due to limited resources,” he added, adding that partners are struggling to vaccinate refugees, fueling the risk of epidemics.

The UN children’s agency (UNICEF) said it was worried that “many thousands of newborns” of the 333,000 babies known to be born before the end of the year would die.

UNICEF spokesman James Elder said at the same briefing that children and their mothers need skilled care at birth.

However, in a country where millions are either trapped in war zones or displaced, and where there is a severe shortage of medical supplies, such care is becoming less likely by the day.

Each month, some 55,000 children need treatment for the worst form of malnutrition in Sudan, but fewer than one in 50 feeding centers are functioning in the capital Khartoum and one in ten in West Darfur, he said.

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