On 6 October 1973 war erupted in the Middle East between Egyptian and Israeli forces in the Suez Canal area and the Sinai, and between Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights. On 24 October, as fighting between Egypt and Israel reached a critical stage, the Security Council decided to set up a second United Nations Emergency Force UNEF II. The Force was immediately moved into place between the Israeli and Egyptian armies in the Suez Canal area, and its arrival effectively stabilized the situation.

In the Israel-Syria sector tension remained high, and from March 1974 the situation became increasingly unstable. Against this background, the United States undertook a diplomatic initiative, which resulted in the conclusion of an Agreement on Disengagement (S/11302/Add.1, annexes I and II) between Israeli and Syrian forces. The Agreement provided for an area of separation and for two equal zones of limited forces and armaments on both sides of the area, and called for the establishment of a United Nations observer force to supervise its implementation. The Agreement was signed on 31 May 1974 and, on the same day, the Security Council adopted resolution 350 (1974) by which it set up the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). The Force has since performed its functions effectively, with the cooperation of the parties. The situation in the Israel-Syria sector has remained quiet. Both parties cooperate fully with the mission and for a number of years there have been no serious incidents.

Activities of UNDOF

In order to carry out its mandate, UNDOF maintains an area of separation, which is some 80 kilometres long and varies in width between approximately 10 kilometres in the centre to less than one kilometre in the extreme south. The terrain is hilly and is dominated in the north by Mount Hermon. The highest United Nations position is at an altitude of 2,800 metres. The area of separation is inhabited and is policed by the Syrian authorities. No military forces other than UNDOF are permitted within it.

UNDOF is entirely deployed within and close to the area of separation, with two base camps, 44 permanently manned positions and 11 observation posts. The headquarters of UNDOF is located at Camp Faouar and an office is maintained at Damascus. In addition, the Force operates patrols by day and night. The Austrian battalion, which includes a Slovak company, is deployed in the northern part of the area of separation, while the Polish battalion is deployed in the southern part. Its base camp is Camp Ziouani. Mine clearance is conducted by both battalions under the operational control of UNDOF headquarters. The Force is assisted by the military observers of UNTSO's Observer Group Golan.

The Canadian and Japanese logistic units, which are based in Camp Ziouani, with a detachment in Camp Faouar, perform the second-line general transport tasks, rotation transport, control and management of goods received by the Force and maintenance of heavy equipment. First-line logistic support is internal to the contingents and includes transport of supplies to the positions.

From its various positions and through its patrols, the Force supervises the area of separation and intervenes whenever any military personnel enter or try to operate therein. This is effected by means of permanently manned positions and observation posts, by foot and mobile patrols operating at irregular intervals by day and night on predetermined routes.

On each side of the area of separation there is one area of limitation with three zones, one 0 to 10 kilometres, one 10 to 20 kilometres and one 20 to 25 kilometres wide. UNDOF inspects these areas every two weeks in order to ascertain that the agreed limitations in armaments and forces are being observed.

UNDOF continues to assist the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with facilities for mail and the passage of persons through the area of separation. Within the means available, medical treatment is provided to the local population on request.

In UNDOF’s area of operation, especially in the area of separation, minefields continues to pose a threat to UNDOF personnel and local inhabitants. In consultation with the Syrian authorities, UNDOF instituted a minefield security and maintenance programme in the area of separation to identify and mark all minefields. The Force also supported the activities of the United Nations Children's Fund to promote mine awareness among the civilian population.

Another priority for the mission is to address the environmental consequences of the Force’s activities and presence in the area of operations. The Force is taking steps to ensure that its presence does not contribute to further environmental pollution of the area.

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