HRW & AU: Sudan gov't launches new anti-rebel offensive in Kulkul, North Darfur
The rebels said the new offensive began two days ago as government forces attacked and occupied Kulkul about 35 km (22 miles) north of Darfur's main town el-Fasher.- - -
"Government forces have moved north of Kulkul with about 90 vehicles and are attacking the area of Um Sifir, bombing with Antonov planes," said Jar el-Neby, a rebel leader from a faction which did not sign a May peace deal.
A Sudanese armed forces spokesman said the army did have forces in Kulkul but that the area had always belonged to them.
"There are no new operations. Only before many days to confront an attack by the (rebel) National Redemption Front (NRF)," he added.
Sep 1 2006 AP report via Easy bourse:
The Sudanese government has launched a major offensive against rebels in war-torn Darfur in recent days, human rights activists and African Union officials said Friday.- - -
The fighting, which according to Human Rights Watch has involved government aircraft bombing villages, began as a senior US envoy was in Khartoum to press the government to accept the deployment of UN peacekeepers in the western region.
Sudan on Thursday rejected as "illegal" a UN Security Council resolution paving the way for the replacement of an ill-equipped 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur with more than 20,000 UN troops and police.
Government troops Monday attacked and later occupied Kulkul, a rebel-held village north of Darfur's provincial capital el Fasher, David Buchbinder of Human Rights Watch said by telephone from New York, citing local reports. Two other rebel-controlled villages have since reportedly fallen under government control.
An African Union official in Khartoum, Sam Ibok, said that more than 20 civilians have been killed and more than 1,000 have been displaced since major clashes started early this week according to reports from the affected areas.
He said that these northern areas were a "no-go" zone for AU forces and therefore he had no precise information.
International observers in north Darfur reported that civilians attempting to flee the attacks in Kulkul were turned back by Sudanese government troops, according to Human Rights Watch.
Sudanese officials could not be reached on Friday, a weekend day, to comment on the reports. Rebel commanders didn't answer calls. 
Eric Reeves, a professor from Smith College in the U.S. who is a prominent campaigner for an end to the Darfur conflict, said he had information that Minni Minnawi, leader of the only rebel faction to sign the peace deal, was collaborating with the government offensive.
He said his contacts told him that thousands of troops and janjaweed militias backed by Antonov planes that have been carrying out bombing missions have taken control of three villages north of el Nasher, Kulkul, Bir Maza and Sayeh.
"They are bombing villages without any regard for civilians, it is more genocidal violence. The end game is to take full control of northern Darfur and isolate the rebels," he said.
John Prendergast, an expert from the International Crisis Group, a global think-tank, who was in Darfur until the end of last week, said the government offensive was provoking spiraling violence and reduced humanitarian access to the region.
Earlier this week the U.N.'s top humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, warned that "a man-made catastrophe of an unprecedented scale" loomed within weeks in Darfur unless the Security Council acted immediately.
Egeland said there could be hundreds of thousands of deaths if aid operations - already at grave risk because of rising numbers of attacks against aid workers, dramatically reduced access to those in need, and massive funding shortfalls - collapsed.
Sep 1 2006 IRIN report: Army unleashes military offensive in Darfur - Sudanese government forces have recaptured the rebel-held town of Um Sidir near El Fasher, capital of North Darfur State, raising fears that a major new offensive has started in the region, observers said on Friday.