Heavy casualties were reported on both sides as fighting erupted Sunday near Port Sudan.
The rebels were reportedly being aided by fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement, or JEM, which launched a 2003 uprising in Sudan's western Darfur region.
The ongoing attacks and potential involvement of western rebels raise the possibility of a widening of the conflict that pits Sudan's black African rebel groups against a powerful, oil-rich Khartoum government dominated by Arab elites.
Sudan has accused Eritrea, its eastern neighbour, of arming and supporting the eastern rebels and instigating the attacks. Eritrea and Sudan have long traded accusations of providing safe havens for rebel groups.
The eastern rebels are comprised of non-Arab Beja tribes claiming marginalization by the Khartoum government.
The attacks come just days after a peace deal was signed between the Khartoum government and a Sudanese opposition group, the once-exiled National Democratic Alliance.
Earlier this year, Sudans government signed a peace accord with southern rebels that ended Africa's longest-running civil war. dpa rt sr
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