From the Washington Post:
KHARTOUM, Sudan, Sept. 4 -- The Sudanese government has dramatically intensified the war in Darfur in a bid to finish off the tenacious, three-year-old rebellion before a U.N. peacekeeping force can deploy there, say analysts, rebels and officials from the African Union monitoring mission.
Four months after what was hailed as a groundbreaking peace deal was signed in the Nigerian capital of Abuja, bombing raids on villages and increasingly aggressive ground attacks are allowing government forces to drive back rebels while also pushing tens of thousands of civilians into already overflowing camps.
The African Union's 7,000-strong monitoring force, meanwhile, has been threatened with expulsion by the government and, under its current mandate, is scheduled to end its mission in Darfur by month's end. Many humanitarian groups also have curtailed operations there because of the dangers presented by the new fighting.
Aid groups warn that conditions could grow far worse without the African Union's moderating influence and ability to provide crucial, if limited, protection for humanitarian operations such as food delivery and health care. Even with the African Union force in place, 12 humanitarian workers have been killed since the peace deal was signed May 5, including an International Rescue Committee nurse killed in fighting Friday.
The U.N. Security Council last week approved a peacekeeping force of up to 22,500 that would take the place of the African Union troops, but Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has sought to block it from being deployed. Two students were killed and 10 wounded in the North Darfur capital of El Fasher on Monday as troops violently dispersed a rally supporting the deployment of a U.N. force, news reports said.
The new push by government forces and the uncertainty surrounding peacekeeping efforts could produce a fundamental shift in the fighting in Darfur, which has already left at least 100,000 dead and 2 million displaced. Aid workers say that in recent weeks, civilian casualties, rapes and looting have grown more widespread. Tens of thousands of Darfuris have surged into camps, voting with their feet against a peace deal that many there regard as deeply flawed.
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