UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) -- The head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Monday urged related governments to repatriate thousands of foreign children stranded in northeast Syria following the latest escalation of the conflict in the region.
"Children, whether in the northeast or elsewhere inside Syria, must not be abandoned while the walls of war close in around them." UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
The agency estimates that nearly 28,000 children from more than 60 countries, including almost 20,000 from Iraq, remain trapped in the region, mostly in displacement camps.
The UN agency said that more than 80 percent of the stranded foreign children in northeast Syria are under the age of 12, and half are under the age of five.
The UNICEF chief reminded authorities of their responsibility "to do the right thing" and bring these children and their parents' home where they can receive care and be safe from violence and abuse.
So far, at least 17 countries have repatriated more than 650 children -- many of whom are now living with family members.
"Our message to governments is unequivocal: The best interests of children should be a primary consideration at all times," she said.
The agency reported that around 40,000 Syrian children have been newly displaced across the region.