United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone

United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone


The resolution was passed on the same day the "Agreement on Disengagement"UN document |docid=S-11302-Add.1 |type=Document |body=Security Council |year=-1 |document_number=11302-Add.1 |accessdate=2008-07-01|date=30 May 1973] was signed between Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights, finally establishing a ceasefire to end the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The Force has since performed its functions with the full cooperation of both sides. The mandate of UNDOF has been renewed every six months since 1974 (most recently until December 2008).UN document |docid=S-RES-1821(2008) |type=Resolution |body=Security Council |year=2008 |resolution_number=1821 |accessdate=2008-07-01|date=27 June 2008] The UNDOF is the only military presence operating in the zone and continues to supervise the ceasefire. The situation in the Israel-Syria sector has remained quiet and there have been no serious incidents.


On 6 October 1973, in a surprise joint attack, Egypt attacked Israeli forces on the Suez Canal and in the Sinai while Syria attacked Israeli forces on the Golan Heights. The conflict is now known as the Yom Kippur War. On 22 October 1973 the United Nations Security Council by Resolution 338 called for a ceasefire. The ceasefire did not last, however, as both Israel and Egypt broke the ceasefire two days later. Resolution 339 was adopted and United Nations Emergency Force II moved into place between Israeli and Egyptian armies in the Suez Canal area, stabilizing the situation.

Resolution 339 primarily reaffirmed the terms outlined in Resolution 338 (itself based on Resolution 242). It required the forces of both sides to return to the position they held when the initial ceasefire came into effect, and a request from the United Nations Secretary-General to undertake measures toward the placement of observers to supervise the ceasefire.

Tension remained high on the Israel-Syria front, and from March 1974 the situation became increasingly unstable. The United States undertook a diplomatic initiative, which resulted in the signing of the "Agreement on Disengagement" (S/11302/Add.1, annexes I and II) between Israeli and Syrian forces. The Agreement provided for a buffer zone and for two equal areas of limitation of forces and armaments on both sides of the area. It also 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 UN Security Council adopted Resolution 350 to set up the UNDOF and the UNDOF Zone.

On 3 June 1974 General Briceno from Peru arrived, from Cairo, at the headquarters of the UNTSO ISMAC House, in Damascus and assumed operational command of all UNTSO Observers detailed to UNDOF. The first phase of the operation was manning the observation posts. The UNTSO observers were transferred to UNDOF on 1 June 1974 and were joined by advanced parties from both Austria and Peru on 3 June with Canadian and Polish personnel transferred from UNEF II to the UNDOF Area of Responsibility.

From 6 June 1974 to 25 June 1974, the second phase which included the physical disengagement of Syrian and Israeli forces was initiated. The Austrians and Polish shared a base camp at Kanikir near the town of Sassa. The Peruvians were deployed south of Quneitra near Ziouani. The Canadian logistics company and signal element were situated in Quneitra. The force headquarters remained in Damascus.

When UNDOF was re-organized in 1993 (the Finnish Government had decided to pull its troops from UNDOF), the UNDOF HQ moved from Damascus to Camp Faouar, the Austrian base camp situated half-way between the Sassa checkpoint and Quneitra, some 60 kilometers from Damascus.


The buffer zone is about 80 km long, and between 0.5 to 10 km wide, forming an area of 235 km². The zone separates the Golan Heights and Syria where the Israeli border is known as the "Alpha" line and the Syrian border is known as the "Bravo" line. The zone also borders the Lebanon Blue Line to the north and forms a border of less than 1 km with Jordan to the south.

Operationally, the Alpha Line was drawn in the west, not to be crossed by Israeli Forces, and the Bravo Line in the east, not to be crossed by Syrian Forces. Between these lines lies the Area of Separation (AOS) which is a buffer zone. Extending 25 km to either side is the Area of Limitation (AOL) where UNDOF, and OGG observers under its command, supervise the number of Syrian and Israeli troops and weapons. Inside the AOS UNDOF operates with checkpoints and patrols. In the AOS, the two line-battalions are operating, in the northern part AUSBATT from the Mount Hermon massif to the region of Quneitra, and in the south POLBATT down to the Jordanian border.

Between Israel and Syria there is no official border crossing, but for the UN one crossing point exists near Quneitra, which is called "The A-Gate". Although the line battalions and HQ operate on the Syrian side, HQ POLBATT, one checkpoint position, and HQ LOGBATT are on the Israeli side, located in Camp Ziouani. Most of the Austrians serve on the Syrian side and only a few who are members of the military police fulfill their duties at the crossing point.

The terrain is hilly on the highlands within the Anti-Lebanon mountain range system. The highest point in the zone is at Mount Hermon (2814 m) on the Lebanese border. The lowest point is at the Yarmuk River at 200m below sea-level.


[http://www.un.org/Depts/Cartographic/map/dpko/undof.pdf UNDOF Position Map - PDF]

[http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=33.413333,35.855833&spn=0,0&t=k&hl=en The worldwide highest UNDOF Position - Hermon Hotel]


The initial composition of the UNDOF in 1974 was of personnel from Austria, Peru, Canada and Poland. Today, about a thousand troops are provided by Austria, India, Japan, Poland, and Croatia. The troops are assisted by military observers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization's Observer Group Golan, international and local civilian staff.

The UNDOF is deployed within and close to the zone with two base camps, 44 permanently manned position and 11 observation posts. The operation headquarters are located at Camp Faouar and an office is maintained at Damascus. The Austrian battalion and a Croatian company is deployed in the north; while the Polish battalion is deployed in the south with its base camp in Camp Ziouani. The Indian and Japanese logistic units perform 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.

As of March 2008, the force commander is Major-General Wolfgang Jilke of Austria. Mine clearance is conducted by both battalions directed from the UNDOF headquarters. The annual approved operating budget is under 45 million USD.

As of 2006, there have been 42 fatalities including one civilian staff since 1974. On 9 August 1974, a Canadian Buffalo transport aircraft was on a routine re-supply flight, from Beirut to Damascus for Canadian peacekeepers in the Golan Heights. Flight 51 was carrying five crew members and four passengers; Capt G.G Foster, Capt K.B. Mirau, Capt R.B. Wicks, MWO G. Landry, A/MWO C.B. Korejwo, MCpl R.C Spencer, Cpl M.H.T. Kennington, Cpl M.W. Simpson and Cpl B.K. Stringer. All were members of the Canadian Armed Forces. At 11:50, while on final approach into Damascus, the aircraft went down in the outskirts of the Syrian town of Ad Dimas killing all on board. This remains the largest single-day loss of life in Canada’s peace-keeping history.


In recommending the current extension of the mandate, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon observed that despite the present calm in the Israeli-Syrian border, the situation in the Middle East was likely to remain tense. Until a comprehensive settlement was reached, the Secretary-General considered the continued presence of UNDOF in the area to be essential.

The activities of the UNDOF include:
* Overall supervision of the buffer zone
* Monitoring of Syrian and Israeli military presence in the area (from permanent observation posts and by patrols day and night, on foot and motorised)
* Intervention in cases of entry to the separation area by military personnel from either side, or attempted operations
* Bi-weekly inspections of 500 Israeli and Syrian military locations in the areas of limitation on each side to ensure agreed limits of equipment and forces are being followed
* Assistance to the International Committee of the Red Cross in the passing of mail and people through the area, and in the provision of medical services
* Identifying and marking of minefields
* Promotion of minefield awareness amongst civilians and support of the United Nations Children’s Fund activities in this area
* Work to protect the environment and to minimise the impact of the UNDOF on the area.

Civilian activities

The buffer zone is currently inhabited and is policed by Syrian authorities. There are several towns and villages within and bordering the zone, the largest of which is Al Qunaytirah. Land mines continue to pose a significant danger to the UNDOF and the civilian population. The fact that the explosives have begun to deteriorate worsens the threat.

"Family shouting"

The "Family Shouting Place" near A-line is situated at 4.5 km southwest of the village of Hadar at 1,100m above sea level. The Family Shouting Place for the Druze village Majdal Shams is 300m west of the A-side. At least once a week, Druze families from both sides of the Israeli-controlled and Syrian controlled areas (Hadar and Majdal villages) talk to each other via loudspeakers to arrange weddings; or simply to discuss family issues. Both villages, Hadar and Majdal Shams are inhabited by the people belonging to the Druze religious community. The cease-fire line suddenly tore the local Druze community apart, which also inadvertently separated some families. The Shouting Place was deemed the only possible way to exchange news, to meet separated members of families, or to discuss family affairs. In 1974 the Israeli side agreed to the so called "family shouting" in order for families to "meet" every second week under UN supervision. This practice was ended after some problems occurred, but was resumed in 1987 and to this day, "family shouting" has taken place there regularly. The ground around Position 16 is also used for family-shouting. With the advent of mobile phones and internet, "family shouting" has become rare and younger Druzes now prefer these modes of communication for those separated from each other by the artificial barrier.

Border crossings

Members of the UNDOF are usually the only individuals to cross the Israeli-Syrian border through the zone. Since 1988, Israel has allowed Druze pilgrims to cross the border to visit the shrine of Abel in Syria. In the Al Qunaytirah area, a company monitors the main roads leading into the AOS. Several times during the year Israel and Syria permit crossings of Arab citizens under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross at an unofficial gate in the area. These people are pilgrims and students of the University of Damascus living in Israel or in the occupied territories. In 2005, Syria allowed a few trucks of Druze-grown Golan apples to be imported. The trucks themselves were driven by Kenyan nationals.

Since 1967, brides have been allowed to cross the Golan border, but they do so in the knowledge that the journey is a one-way trip. This phenomenon is shown in the Israeli-Arab film "The Syrian Bride".

The defunct Trans-Arabian Pipeline crosses through the southern half of the zone. Israel had permitted the pipeline's operation through the Golan Heights since the territory came under Israeli control as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967. However, this section of the line beyond Jordan have ceased operation since 1976 over transit fees by Lebanon and Syria, emergence of oil supertankers, and pipeline breakdowns.

See also

* Buffer zone
* Demilitarized zone
* United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon
* United Nations Truce Supervision Organization
* Mixed Armistice Commissions
* Purple Line


Related Link

* [http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/missions/undof/index.html Official UNDOF Website]
* [http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=33.236722,35.920194&spn=0,0&t=k&hl=en UNDOF HQ - Camp Faouar]
* [http://www.bmlv.gv.at/ausle/undof/index.shtml Official Austrian Army Website - UNDOF (German)]
* [http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNDOF_Ausbatt Austrian Army - UNDOF (Wikipedia-German)]

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