United Nations Emergency Force

United Nations Emergency Force

The first United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was established by United Nations General Assembly to secure an end to the 1956 Suez Crisis with resolution 1001 (ES-I) on November 7, 1956, and in large measure as a result of efforts by UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and a proposal from Canadian minister of external affairs Lester Pearson. The first UN military force of its kind, its mission was to:

:... enter Egyptian territory with the consent of the Egyptian Government, in order to help maintain quiet during and after the withdrawal of non-Egyptian forces and to secure compliance with the other terms established in the resolution ... to cover an area extending roughly from the Suez Canal to the Armistice Demarcation Lines established in the Armistice Agreement between Egypt and Israel.

Since the operative UN resolutions were not passed under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the deployment of a military force had to be approved by Egypt. After multilateral negotiations with Egypt ten countries offered to contribute to the force: Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, India, Indonesia, Norway, Sweden, and Yugoslavia. Support was also provided by United States, Italy, and Switzerland. The first forces arrived in Cairo on November 15, and UNEF was at its full force of 6,000 by February 1957. The force was fully deployed in designated areas around the canal, in the Sinai and Gaza when Israel withdrew its last forces from Rafah on March 8, 1957. The UN secretary general sought to station UNEF forces on the Israeli side of the 1949 armistice lines, but this was rejected by Israel.Norman G. Finkelstein alludes to Brian Urquhart's memoir, "A Life in Peace and War" (ISBN 0060158409), where Urquhart, describing the aftermath of the 1956 Suez Crisis, recalls how Israel refused to allow the UNEF to be stationed on the Israeli side of the line, and labels the Israeli rejection as a "grave weakness for a peacekeeping force." () ]

The mission was directed to accomplish its mission in four phases:
# In November and December 1956, the force facilitated the orderly transition in the Suez Canal area when British and French forces left.
# From December 1956 to March 1957, the force facilitated the separation of Israeli and Egyptian forces and the Israeli evacuation from all areas captured during the war, except Gaza and Sharm-el-Sheik.
# In March 1957, the force facilitated the departure of Israeli forces from Gaza and Sharm-el-Sheik.
# Deployment along the borders for purposes of observation. This phase ended in May 1967.

Due to financial constraints and changing needs, the force shrank through the years to 3,378 by the time its mission ended in May 1967.

On May 16, 1967, the Egyptian government ordered all United Nations forces out of Sinai effective immediately. Then Secretary-General U Thant tried to redeploy UNEF to areas within the Israeli side of the 1949 armistice lines to maintain buffer, but this was rejected by Israel.U Thant in his memoir describes how he met permanent representative of Israel to the UN ambassador Gideon Rafael on May 18, 1967 and asked him, "in the event of the United Arab Republic's official request for a UNEF withdrawal, if the government of Israel would be agreeable to permit the stationing of UNEF on the Israeli side of the line..." The ambassador refused, declaring such a proposal was "entirely unacceptable" to his government. U Thant later stated that if only Israel had agreed to permit UNEF to be stationed on its side of the border, "even for a short duration, the course of history could have been different. Diplomatic efforts to avert the pending catastrophe might have prevailed; war might have been averted." () ] In a decision that proved to be controversial, Thant 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, but 15 UNEF forces were caught in combat operations and killed in the Six Day War. The last United Nations soldier left the region on June 17.




External links

* [http://www.un.org/Depts/dpko/dpko/co_mission/unefi.htm United Nations history of UNEF]

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