UN council to hear latest on offensive in Syria's Idlib

The U.N. Security Council is going to receive a closed briefing on the ongoing offensive in the last rebel stronghold in Syria at the request of France and the United Kingdom

Vietnam’s U.N. Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy, the council president for January, told a news conference Thursday that U.N. political chief Rosemary DiCarlo and U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock will report to the council Friday on the current situation in Idlib province.

Syrian troops have captured more than 40 villages and hamlets over the past two weeks in Idlib, the rebel stronghold in the northwest. Idlib is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants and is also home to 3 million civilians.

The United Nations has warned of the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region, which lies along the Turkish border.

The current mandate ends on Jan. 10 and ambassador Dang said he thinks all council members will try their best to resolve differences and allow aid deliveries to continue.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that as a result of hostilities, more than 235,000 people had been displaced between Dec. 12 and Dec. 25. Many of them have fled from the town of Maaret al-Numan, toward which the Syrian troops have been steadily advancing.

He said the country's “number one priority is the protection of civilians."

The U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, said Thursday that at least 140,000 children have been displaced in the last three weeks because of heavy violence in and around Idlib.

On Wednesday, UNICEF said five children aged 6 to 13-years-old were killed when rockets hit a primary school in Sarmin in Idlib.