Expected Council Action
In October, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) will brief Council members in consultations on the most recent report of the Secretary-General on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). No formal outcome is expected.
The mandate of UNDOF expires on 31 December.
Key Recent Developments
On 29 June, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2426, renewing UNDOF’s mandate without changes for another six months, in line with usual practice. Language was added in the preambular section, recalling a request to the Secretary-General to ensure that data related to the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations, including peacekeeping performance data, is used to improve analytics and the evaluation of mission operations, based on clear and well-identified benchmarks. Language related to the Women, Peace and Security agenda was also included, recalling resolution 2242 and its aspiration to increase the number of women in military and police contingents of UN peacekeeping operations.
Lieutenant General Paolo Serra is leading a team conducting an independent review of UNDOF. The results of the review are expected later this year.
On 24 July, UNDOF received information from the Syrian authorities that Israel had shot down a Syrian aircraft flying in Syrian airspace. At the same time, UNDOF received a report from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that they had intercepted a Syrian fighter jet with a missile, stating that the jet had entered two kilometres into Israeli airspace.
Following an offensive in mid-July by the Syrian Arab Armed Forces (SAAF) and their allies in the south-western part of the country to regain areas held by rebels, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the “area of separation” increased sharply. UNDOF was not able to determine the number of IDPs but estimated that there were 2,590 tents for IDPs on 13 July. Following the recapture of that part of Syria by the SAAF, the IDPs started to leave. At press time, no tents were left. The Quneitra crossing point remains closed, as it has been since 2014, making it impossible for UNDOF to provide for humanitarian crossings.
The Secretary-General’s 11 June report, covering the period from 23 February to 23 May, said that the ceasefire between Israel and Syria was being maintained, notwithstanding the volatile environment due to the conflict in Syria. However, violations of the Disengagement of Forces Agreement of 1974 occurred. Those included the Syrian armed forces and non-state armed opposition groups exchanging heavy weapons fire in the areas of separation and limitation on the Bravo (Syrian) side. Armed groups—including terrorist groups listed by the Council such as Jabhat Fath al-Sham (formerly the Nusrah Front) and the Khalid Ibn al-Walid Army, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—continued to exchange fire in the UNDOF area of operations. UNDOF reported incidents in which IDF soldiers fired into the area of separation (where no military forces other than those of UNDOF are allowed) and across the ceasefire line. Every day, UNDOF personnel observed crossings by unidentified individuals from the Bravo to the Alpha (Israeli) side. On that side, 200 incidents of deployment of unauthorised military equipment in the area of separation were reported. UNDOF has protested the violations and called upon both sides to exercise restraint, in line with its mandate to observe violations, report them, and interact with both sides.
UNDOF continues to make progress towards a limited return to operations on Mount Hermon and at Camp Faouar on the Bravo side in accordance with a phased UNDOF plan. Phase one was completed on 14 November 2016 with the re-establishment of the UNDOF presence at Camp Faouar. Phase two involved the resumption of limited patrolling of the northern and central parts of the area of separation in February 2018 over a period foreseen to last six to eight months, although the timeline is subject to conditions on the ground. The Nepalese mechanised infantry company of UNDOF has conducted more than 30 protected patrols during the reporting period. Other developments include the relocation of the office of the force commander and the Irish force reserve company of UNDOF to Camp Faouar. Phase three will include the reoccupation of a number of observation posts.
DPKO has continued to engage with both the Syrian and Israeli governments seeking the deployment of appropriate technologies for UNDOF, which it considers a priority. Regarding a “sense and warn” system, the IDF has informally indicated it would not object to its deployment. Syrian authorities oppose it, however.
Key Issues and Options
The Syrian government is increasingly taking control of areas of the country formerly held by different armed actors. A changing environment may have implications for the ability of UNDOF to implement its mandate.
Ongoing issues for the Council are the numerous violations of the ceasefire and UNDOF’s ability to implement its mandate, including the full return of UNDOF to the Bravo side and the deployment of appropriate technologies. Press elements were issued in March as an outcome of the consultations referring to those aspects; this may again be a possibility. The Council is generally rather restricted in its options—how UNDOF operates is subject solely to the Disengagement of Forces Agreement of 1974 that ended the Yom Kippur war.
Council and Wider Dynamics
There is general agreement within the Council that UNDOF’s mandate, including its liaison functions, contributes to stability in the region, given the absence of a peace agreement between Israel and Syria. The mission’s observation role has been limited since its September 2014 relocation to the Alpha side because of the extremely unstable operating environment. Israel and Syria value UNDOF’s presence and want to see the mission return to the Bravo side. Council members continue to support the eventual complete return, mindful of the fact that this would require a favourable security environment, which is also crucial for maintaining the confidence of troop-contributing countries.
Russia and the US are the co-penholders on UNDOF.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE GOLAN HEIGHTS
|Security Council Resolutions|
|29 June 2018 S/RES/2426||The Council renewed UNDOF’s mandate until 31 December 2018.|
|11 June 2018 S/2018/550||This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNDOF for the period from 23 February to 23 May 2018.|