United Nations: The United Nations on Thursday said it is "temporarily" withdrawing some of its staff from Syria amid concerns over the violent crackdown on civilian demonstrators by the authorities in the country.

The UN is "relocating 26 non-essential international staff and their families from Syria," a statement here quoted UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams as saying.

The UN Security Council will hold a special session on Syria on Friday to discuss the latest developments in the country.

UN's Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay is scheduled to brief the 15-member council in a closed-door session on the deteriorating situation in the country.

A UN spokesperson said the organisation normally has about 160 international personnel in Syria.
   
Williams said he was "very concerned" about the situation in the northern port city of Latakia, where Syrian military forces have engaged in a heavy and sustained assault since the weekend. Dozens of people have reportedly been killed.
   
The assault on Latakia is the latest in a series of deadly confrontations between government forces and protesters since large numbers of Syrians first took to the streets in mid-March to demand greater freedom.

On Sunday, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East voiced grave concern about the situation in Latakia, where a camp housing Palestinian refugees has come under attack from government forces.

The United Nations' envoy advocating for the rights of children during armed conflict has also called on Syrian authorities to end the bloodshed.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, has said: "the use of excessive and lethal force" by the security forces is
"taking a heavy toll on civilian lives, including children."

"We have had credible allegations of children being killed or wounded in security operations against civilians in Syria," Coomaraswamy said.

She added that there are also allegations that children have been tortured by the security forces.
   
"State parties have a duty to protect children in any police or military operations and I call on the Syrian authorities to fulfill their obligations," she said.

As many as 2,000 people have reportedly been killed in Syria in the past five months and top UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have spoken out against the
government's crackdown.

The civilian protests are part of a broader uprising across North Africa and the Middle East that has led to the toppling of long-standing regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and conflict in Libya.

(Agencies)