March 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 February 2024
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UNDOF (Golan)

Expected Council Action

In March, the Council will hold its quarterly consultations on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan.

Background and Key Recent Developments

UNDOF was established following the conclusion of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement (the 1974 agreement) between Israel and Syria, which ended the Yom Kippur War. Its mandate is to maintain the ceasefire between the parties and supervise the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces as well as the areas of separation (a demilitarised buffer zone) and limitation (where Israeli and Syrian troops and equipment are restricted) in the Golan.

Carrying out the mandate entails monitoring violations of the 1974 agreement, reporting them, and liaising with both sides. Such violations regularly include unauthorised personnel and equipment present in the areas of separation and limitation, weapons fired, and drones and aircraft traveling across the ceasefire line.

There has been a significant rise in hostilities in the Middle East following the 7 October attack against Israel by Hamas, the Palestinian armed group and de facto authority in Gaza, and the subsequent response by Israeli forces, including airstrikes and ground operations in the Gaza Strip.

The Golan has not been spared from the recent tensions in the region. On 30 January, several rockets were fired from Syria towards the southern area of the Golan Heights. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) retaliated by launching airstrikes on Syrian military infrastructure around Daraa, southwestern Syria.

On 20 February, missiles struck a residential building in Damascus, killing at least two people. Syrian state media has reported that missiles were launched from the direction of Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israel did not comment on the attack.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah launched 60 rockets at Israel’s Nafah military base in the Golan on 26 February. The group said the attack was in response to Israeli air strikes near Baalbek, Lebanon. No casualties were reported from the rocket fire.

Key Issues and Options

A key issue is restrictions on the movement and access of UNDOF personnel. In his 30 November 2023 report, the Secretary-General raised concerns over restrictions on UNDOF’s movement in the area of operation, including at the Qunaytirah crossing.

Another important issue is ensuring that UNDOF personnel are equipped with the necessary resources to fulfill the mission’s mandate, along with maintaining the safety and security of peacekeeping personnel.

The continuing hostilities in the region and the risk of wider escalation represent another issue for the Council. Members may consider pursuing a press or presidential statement urging the parties to adhere to international law and their commitments under the 1974 agreement, while expressing concern about the risk of escalation resulting from these violations and the potential danger they pose to the safety of peacekeepers.

Council Dynamics

It remains unclear whether and how the recent escalation of conflict in the region will affect the Council’s work on the Golan file in the future. But for now, the unanimous adoption of resolution 2718 on 21 December 2023, which reauthorised UNDOF’s mandate for six months, illustrated that the Council remains united in its view that UNDOF plays an important role in regional stability. Despite deep divisions in the Council regarding the Syria file and opposing positions by the UNDOF co-penholders—Russia and the US—about who holds sovereignty over the Golan, as well as antagonism over the conflict in Ukraine, the two countries continue to consider UNDOF as a separate issue on which they agree. The difficult dynamics on other Council files were not evident during the straightforward negotiations on UNDOF’s mandate in December, and no Council member felt that an explanation of vote was necessary following the adoption. Some Council members believe that the situation has turned into a protracted conflict owing to continued violations of the 1974 agreement by both sides.

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Security Council Resolutions
21 December 2023S/RES/2718 This resolution extended the mandate of UNDOF until 30 June 2024.
31 May 1974S/RES/350 This resolution established UNDOF.
Secretary-General’s Report
30 November 2023S/2023/935 This was the Secretary-General’s report on UNDOF.

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