The Latest: UN says half of those trapped in Raqqa are kids

The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

An official with the U.N. children's agency says half of the estimated 20,000 people trapped in Syria's northern city of Raqqa are children.

Fran Equiza, the UNICEF representative in Syria, says the level of suffering among children living under the rule of Islamic State militants in Raqqa and Deir el-Zour is "absolutely staggering."

Equiza spoke to The Associated Press in Damascus following a visit to three camps in northern Syria where he met with displaced children from the two IS-held cities.

"I was completely overwhelmed," he says, describing children trapped in Raqqa in extremely dire conditions, with no electricity, no water and very little food.

"The situation is bad today but it's going to get worse," he warned.


2:10 p.m.

A Syria monitoring group says Islamic State militants have successfully pushed back government forces advancing on one of the last towns still in IS hands in the province of Raqqa.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says on Friday that the militants killed a number of government troops and seized their vehicles outside the town of Maadan, toward which government forces have been advancing for days.

IS media channels posted pictures of the attacked Syrian army convoy and bodies of over a dozen soldiers.

The Observatory says at least 34 Syrian soldiers and 12 militants were killed.

Maadan lies along the southern banks of the Euphrates River and is 60 kilometers, or 37 miles, east of the city of Raqqa, where the U.S-backed Syrian opposition forces are battling IS.