|Yugoslav soldiers serving in the UN Emergency |
Force, Sinai Desert, 1957 [Image Source]
Turns out that already yesterday (Monday), with scant attention from the news media, the UN was told much the same thing. From a Times of Israel report posted this evening:
The United Nations peacekeeping force deployed on the Israeli-Syrian border has begun taking precautions against the possible use of chemical weapons, and may collapse in the face of a Syrian regime offensive, France’s ambassador to the UN said on Monday. Gérard Araud told London-based daily Al-Hayat that clashes between Syrian government and opposition forces on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights have sparked fears in Western countries concerning the safety of their nationals serving at the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force. Some of these countries, Araud said, may withdraw their men from the force, known as UNDOF, as a result. “Such a situation may bring about the collapse of UNDOF and the security arrangements between Israel and Syria which it represents,” Araud told Al-Hayat. [more]The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force was created by a UN Security Council decision on May 31, 1974 after the agreed disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights. UNDOF's role is currently carried out by a deployment of 1,034 troops sent by Austria, Croatia, India, Japan and Philippines; plus 84 local (Syrian) civilians and 41 international civilian staff. (We had cause to write about them some months ago, when mortar fire crashed into Israel from the Syrian side of the border - see "25-Sep-12: Incoming fire on the northern border".)
The 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement Between Israel And Syria, brokered by US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, created a security zone between the two countries and established UNDOF. Its contribution to preserving the often-tense peace between Syria and Israel is in their inspections ("not less often that once every fifteen days") of the buffer zone along the Israel-Syria border. But that value depends on UNDOF actually having men and equipment in place to do the job. The Security Council was told Monday by its head of peacekeeping services, Herve Ladsous, that
gas masks and additional armored vehicles were sent to UNDOF as a safety precaution against a possible chemical attack by the Assad regime.But as the French are suggesting, it's at least questionable whether measures like that will keep the UN forces there. Japan already announced a week ago [report] that because of the "deteriorating security situation in Syria", the 47 Japanese soldiers serving in UNDOF are going to go home now instead of in March 2013 when their tour of duty is supposed to end.
Way back in 1956, soldiers of the UN Emergency Force were stationed in Sinai near Israel's borders with Egypt and Egyptian-occupied Gaza. Their removal from the scene came very quickly, and in the end was a simple matter of the Egyptians demanding on May 16, 1967 that they go. Wikipedia notes that U Thant, the Secretary General of the UN,
"acted to effect the Egyptian order without consulting either the Security Council or the General Assembly. Most of the forces were evacuated by the end of May"and full-scale war in the region broke out a week later.
Not that we're making any comparisons.