In July 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal Company over the protest of France and the United Kingdom. On 13 October, the Security Council adopted a resolution setting forth certain principles for the operation of the Canal. Consultations on the implementation of those principles were under way when new hostilities broke out in the area.

On 29 October 1956, Israeli forces launched an attack on Egypt and occupied Sinai and the Gaza Strip. A few days later British and French troops landed in the Suez Canal Zone. The Security Council discussed the matter on 31 October, but no decision could be adopted, owing to the vetoes of France and the United Kingdom. Under the "Uniting for Peace" resolution, the matter was then referred to the General Assembly, which met in emergency special session from 1 to 10 November. The Assembly called for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from occupied territories. It also established the first United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities. Following the dispatch of the Emergency Force to the area, the French and British forces left the Suez Canal Zone by 22 December 1956. The withdrawal of the Israeli forces was completed by 8 March 1957.

The creation of UNEF, the first United Nations peacekeeping force, represented a significant innovation within the United Nations. It was not a peace-enforcement operation, as envisaged in Article 42 of the United Nations Charter, but a peacekeeping operation to be carried out with the consent and the cooperation of the parties to the conflict. It was armed, but the units were to use their weapons only in self-defence and even then with utmost restraint. Its main functions were to supervise the withdrawal of the three occupying forces and, after the withdrawal was completed, to act as a buffer between the Egyptian and Israeli forces and to provide impartial supervision of the ceasefire. In the event, UNEF, stationed entirely on Egyptian territory with the consent of the Government, patrolled the Egypt-Israel armistice demarcation line and the international frontier to the south of the Gaza Strip and brought relative quiet to a long-troubled area. The Canal, blocked as a result of the conflict, was cleared by the United Nations. UNEF I was withdrawn in May-June 1967 at the request of the Egyptian Government, which informed the Secretary-General that it would no longer consent to the stationing of the Force on Egyptian territory and in Gaza.


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