Washington - The United States condemned intense fighting in war-wracked South Sudan, where government forces recaptured a key rebel enclave after a weeks-long assault marred by accusations of rights abuses.
The government assault that began in late April is one of the heaviest offensives in South Sudan's 17-month-long civil war, which has cut off over 650 000 people from aid.
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"The United States condemns the intensified fighting and violence in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei states in South Sudan," a statement from State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said late on Wednesday.
The US also warned against humanitarian violations, following reports by the United Nations and aid agencies of gunmen raping women and children, torching towns and looting relief supplies.
Rights abuses and violations
"The outright targeting of civilians already vulnerable to greater harm, especially women and children, and grave human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by all sides are unacceptable."
"The international community will hold those who perpetrate such abuses and violations to account."
South Sudan's conflict broke out in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup.
Also Read: 'Girls raped, boys abducted, towns torched' as South Sudan battle rages
Leer is the birthplace of Machar. It was ransacked by government forces in January 2014, with gunmen looting and torching the hospital there run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
MSF has since rebuilt the hospital, the only facility of its type in opposition-held areas.
The US statement also called for a ceasefire and open access for the UN and aid agencies to investigate alleged rights abuses and help affected people.