Preventing Renewed Interstate Conflict Between Israel And Syria

Preventing Renewed Interstate Conflict Between Israel And Syria

Year(s): 1974 – present.

Location: Israel/Syria International Border.

UN Regional Group: Asia-Pacific/Western Europe and Others.

Type of Conflict: Risk of an Interstate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: A peacekeeping mission.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The UN.

Impact: Limited.

Summary: The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force has helped to prevent renewed war between Israel and Syria since 1974.

Description of Case 

The State of Israel was proclaimed in May 1948 following the end of the British Mandate in Palestine. Within a day, a coalition of Arab states launched an offensive, sparking a relatively brief armed conflict.[1] Further wars took place in the ensuing decades, culminating in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War (sometimes known as the Yom Kippur War). Within weeks, the UN Security Council mediated a ceasefire and deployed United Nations Emergency Force II to separate Israeli forces from their Egyptian counterparts along the Suez Canal, stabilising the situation on that front.[2] In March 1974, the US Government led a diplomatic initiative which culminated with the Agreement on Disengagement between Israeli and Syrian forces.[3] The UN moved to support the peace process, establishing the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the same day that the agreement was signed.[4] The 1,250 peacekeepers of the Force were tasked with verifying compliance with the terms of the ceasefire, particularly in the contested area of the Golan Heights. They were supported in this task by the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), which had been operating in the region since 1948.[5]

After successfully facilitating the withdrawal of armed forces from the buffer zone, UNDOF mapped the frontlines and established the 80x10km Area of Separation. UN Observers monitor the Area and conduct regular inspections of armed forces near the border, sharing their findings with the Israeli and Syrian governments. UNDOF also serves to facilitate dialogue, ensuring that minor disputes are not escalated.[6] Between 1974 and 2012, UNDOF helped to ensure that there was not a single armed escalation in the Area of Separation. Since the current armed conflict in Syria began in 2011, the situation on the Syrian side of the Area has become highly volatile. A host of contributing states withdrew their troops from UNDOF, which verged on the brink of collapse until over 500 Fijian soldiers joined the Force in 2013.[7] Despite facing some serious challenges, such as attacks and kidnappings carried out by armed groups in Syria on peacekeepers, UNDOF remains in place, helping to prevent renewed interstate conflict between Israel and Syria.[8]

[1] Benny Morris. 1948. (Yale: Yale University Press, 2009)

[2] UN Peacekeeping. Middle East – UNEF II: Background. (UN, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 06/12/2020)

[3] Separation of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria, 1974. Available at: (Accessed 06/12/2020)

[4] UNDOF. Background. (UNDOF, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 06/12/2020)

[5] United Nations. The Blue Helmets. p103

[6] Ibid. p.109

[7] UNDOF. A New Beginning: 40 years of peacekeeping, 1974 – 2014. (UNDOF, 2014) p.34

[8] BBC. “Golan Heights profile.” BBC News. (2019) Available at: (Accessed 06/12/2020)