What has been the role of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights?
The Yom Kippur War in October 1973 ended with a cease-fire between Israel and Syria, but 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 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 May 31, 1974 and, on the same day, the Security Council adopted Resolution 350 by which it set up the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).
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.
As of May 31, 1999, UNDOF consisted of 1,029 troops; assisted by some 80 UN military observers, and supported by international and locally recruited civilian staff. Austria, Canada, Japan, Poland, Slovak Republic contributed troops to the force, which suffered 39 fatalities through the end of 1998.
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. 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.