United Nations: The United Nations is investigating Syrian opposition groups as well as government forces for attacks targeting children, the new UN envoy on children in conflict said Wednesday.

But Russia, China, Pakistan and Azerbaijan sought to restrict the scope of the envoy’s inquiries and refused to back an annual UN Security Council resolution condemning the use of child soldiers and the deaths of children in conflict.

Children in Syria now face a “dire” crisis, Leila Zerrougui, the new UN special representative on children in conflict, told a UN Security Council meeting.

She said UN agencies had “documented government attacks on schools, children denied access to hospitals, girls and boys suffering and dying in bombardments of their neighbourhoods and also being subject to torture, including sexual violence.”

Zerrougui added that her office was also collecting evidence on “violations” of international law by rebel groups.

“We have received information concerning indiscriminate bomb attacks which have killed children in Damascus and other areas, and continue to document incidents committed by armed actors, such as the Syrian Free Army, who may have children associated with their forces,” the envoy said.

Zerrougui said she had asked Syria’s UN ambassador to press the Syrian army “to evacuate schools as a matter of utmost priority.”

The envoy said she was also concerned about Libyan militia also still using child fighters and highlighted reports that Islamist groups in Mali were also using underage soldiers.