Expected Council Action
In October, the Council is expected to receive a briefing on the activities of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). A representative from the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) is expected to brief Council members in consultations on the Secretary-General’s latest 90-day report on UNDOF and on the most recent developments.
The mandate of UNDOF expires on 31 December.
Key Recent Developments
UNDOF was established following the conclusion of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria, which ended the Yom Kippur War, and is mandated to maintain the ceasefire between the parties and supervise the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces as well as the so-called areas of separation and limitation. The implementation of the mandate entails observing any violations of the 1974 agreement, reporting them, and liaising with both sides. The mission’s observation role has been limited since its September 2014 relocation from the Bravo (Syrian) to the Alpha (Israeli-occupied) side because of the armed conflict in Syria. As of July, UNDOF comprises 1,042 personnel.
As noted in the Secretary-General’s report of 6 June, the situation in the UNDOF area of operations has remained generally calm. The Secretary-General has, however, expressed concern over continued violations of the Disengagement of Forces Agreement. The report stressed the importance of UNDOF’s full return to the area of separation for the mission to be able to implement its mandate.
Over the past several weeks, Israel has taken more active measures in countering the threat posed by Iran and its proxies in the region, particularly Hezbollah, which has a strong presence in Syria. On 9 September, the Hezbollah media unit reported that Israeli airstrikes had hit Syrian military targets in eastern Syria. According to media reports, the attacks targeted military barracks and arms depots. There were conflicting reports on the casualties caused by the strikes. The Hezbollah media unit reported no casualties, but other media outlets said that 18 pro-Iranian fighters were killed. Later the same day, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that several rockets had been launched toward Israel from the outskirts of Damascus. According to the IDF, none of the rockets reached Israeli territory.
In late August, Israel allegedly conducted multiple strikes targeting Iranian proxy forces in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Israel claimed responsibility for only the strikes in Syria, which targeted Iranian-operated sites that were allegedly preparing a major drone attack on Israel. According to reports, at least two Hezbollah fighters were killed in the strikes. The Syrian military said that it detected the Israeli strikes in its early stages and intercepted most of the Israeli missiles.
On 26 June, the Council adopted resolution 2477, which extended the mandate of UNDOF in its current configuration for a further six months.
Key Issues and Options
The Council continues to face several related issues on UNDOF. Most prominent among these are frequent violations of the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and challenges in UNDOF’s ability to implement its mandate, including the deployment of appropriate technologies as recommended by the Secretary-General. Given Syria’s reassertion of control over the areas of separation and the reopening of the Qunaytirah crossing point, UNDOF may be getting close to an eventual full return to the Bravo side. The return of the situation to pre-2014 conditions may cause the Council to consider requesting the Secretary-General to resume a six-month reporting cycle, as had been the practice until December 2012, instead of the current 90-day cycle.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council remains largely united in its support for UNDOF, as evidenced by the unanimous reauthorisation of the mandate in June. Negotiations on the draft were relatively straightforward and technical. There was little apparent disagreement by members, the vote was unanimous and no states felt the need to give explanations of their votes.
Russia and the US are the co-penholders on UNDOF.
UN DOCUMENTS ON UNDOF
|Security Council Resolution
|26 June 2019S/RES/2477
|This resolution renewed UNDOF’s mandate until 31 December 2019.
|6 June 2019S/2019/467
|This was Secretary-General’s report on UNDOF.
|Security Council Meeting Records
|26 June 2019S/PV.8562
|This was a vote on resolution 2477.
|27 March 2019S/PV.8493
|This was a briefing by Rosemary DiCarlo, Undersecretary-General of DPPA and Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Undersecretary-General of DPO.