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Two dozen killed in Darfur town as war spreads: monitor, eyewitnesses

 A woman rides a donkey past a convoy of government troops in Tabit village in the North Darfur region of Sudan, 2014. [AP Photo]

Clashes between the Sudanese army and its rival paramilitary have killed at least 25 civilians in the North Darfur town of El-Fasher, a pro-democracy lawyers committee said Tuesday.

The city and its surrounding villages have suffered several days of "arbitrary shelling and air strikes," according to the Emergency Lawyers, which have been documenting atrocities committed against civilians since fighting began a year ago between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

As the war entered its second year, the United Nations and United States have warned the breakdown of the fragile peace in El-Fasher - the last Darfur state capital not under RSF control - will be catastrophic for hundreds of thousands already suffering a humanitarian disaster.

El-Fasher also functions as the main humanitarian hub in the vast western region of Darfur, home to around a quarter of Sudan's 48 million people and the site of harrowing violence during this and previous conflicts.

Eyewitnesses in the nearby displacement camp of Abu Shouk reported Tuesday seeing hundreds flee the camp towards the city after clashes reached its borders.

Over the past year, Darfur residents and the UN have reported displacement centres routinely besieged and attacked by fighters.

The already-fragile health infrastructure in Darfur has nearly collapsed.

Across the country, 70 percent of health facilities are out of service, according to the UN.

"Dozens of injured have arrived to the hospital today," a medical source at El-Fasher Southern Hospital told AFP, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisal from the warring parties, who are known to target medics.

"We're suffering a severe shortage in blood and medical personnel."

Both sides have been accused of war crimes, including targeting civilians and aid workers, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and torture.

Since it began last April 15, the war has killed many thousands, including up to 15,000 in a single West Darfur town, according to UN experts.

It has also forced over 8.5 million people from their homes. In already war-ravaged Darfur in particular, many of those have been displaced for the second or third time.

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