Military chiefs in South Sudan have labeled the bombing of a market in the capital a "declaration of war" by Sudan. Khartoum denies the attacks but says it will not return to the negotiating table.
The risk of an all-out war between the countries appeared to be elevated late on Monday after Sudanese warplanes were reported to have bombed a market and oilfield in South Sudan.
At least two children were believed dead after bombs fell on a key bridge and market near Bentiu, the capital of South Sudan’s Unity state. An air attack on a nearby oilfield was also reported.
"The bombing amounts to a declaration of war," said Maj. Gen. Mac Paul, South Sudanese Deputy Director of Military Intelligence.
Bashir is declaring war on South Sudan," Aguer said. "It's something obvious."
Reports that tanks and artillery had crossed the border further ratcheted up the tensions between the two countries, which became separate entities in July last year.
In a statement responding to the reported attacks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he "condemns the aerial bombardment on South Sudan by Sudanese Armed Forces and calls on the Government of Sudan to cease all hostilities immediately."
Ban reiterated the UN position that the dispute could not be solved militarily, urging Sudan’s Bashir and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir "to stop the slide towards further confrontation and ... return to dialogue as a matter of urgency."
An "insect" to be eliminated
However, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir ruled out a return to the negotiating table, while denying that his air force had carried out the attacks. He had earlier claimed that the South’s government - which he described as "an insect" to be eliminated - understood only "the language of the gun".
Meanwhile, Kiir was in China ahead of talks that were expected to focus on the rising tension.
South Sudan said on Sunday it had completed a withdrawal of its forces from the disputed Sudanese oil town of Heglig. The South seized the area - where Sudan has its most important oil field - for 10 days earlier in the month after weeks of border hostilities.
The secession of South Sudan from Khartoum followed an independence vote. However, the split left key border disputes and disagreements about the piping of oil South Sudan's oil through Sudan to be resolved.
The poll was the result of a 2005 peace treaty ended decades of war, in which more than 2 million people are believed to have died, between the Khartoum government and southern rebels.
rc/av (AFP, AP, Reuters)