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UNTSO headquarters, Jerusalem, South view, 1986

UNTSO headquarters, Jerusalem, Israel, South view, 1986

The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) is an organization founded on 29 May 1948[1][2][3] for peacekeeping in the Middle East. Its primary task was providing the military command structure to the peace keeping forces in the Middle East to enable the peace keepers to observe and maintain the cease-fire, and as may be necessary in assisting the parties to the Armistice Agreements in the supervision of the application and observance of the terms of those Agreements.[3] The command structure of the UNTSO was maintained to cover the later peace keeper organisations of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).


In response to a request from Count Folke Bernadotte, United Nations Mediator for Palestine, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Trygve Lie, sent 50 members of the United Nations guard force from Lake Success to assist the Mediator in supervising the Truce in the former British Mandate of Palestine in 1948[4] and the "UNTSO", the first peacekeeping operation was established by the United Nations. All the members of the party were experienced international civil servants with a background of service with the United Nations Secretariat at Headquarters. While on duty in Palestine, they were to continue to wear United Nations guard uniforms. UNTSO military observers remain in the Middle East to monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating and assist other UN peacekeeping operations in the region. This resolution formed the basis for the establishment of the first United Nations peace-keeping operation which became known as the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization UNTSO In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a plan for the partition of the then British Mandate of Palestine, providing for the creation of an Arab State and a Jewish State, with Jerusalem to be placed in Trusteeship with international status. The plan was not accepted by the Palestinian Arabs and Arab States and only partially accepted by the Jewish Agency of Palestine.[5] On 14 May 1948, the United Kingdom relinquished its mandate over Palestine and the State of Israel was proclaimed. On the following day, the Arab States invaded Palestine Mandate territory.

On 14 May 1948, the Assembly adopts resolution 186 (S-2), which affirms its support for the efforts of the Security Council to secure a truce in Palestine; decides to appoint a U.N. Mediator. Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden was appointed. And sent him to Palestine. On 22 May 1948, the Security Council adopts resolution 49 (1948), calling for an abstention from any hostile military action in Palestine. The resolution also calls upon the parties to facilitate the task of the U.N. Mediator.

On 23 May 1948 Thomas C. Wasson, US Consul and member of the UN Truce Commission was assassinated in Jerusalem.

On 29 May 1948, UN Security Council Resolution 50 (1948), called for a cessation of hostilities in Palestine and decided that the truce should be supervised by the UN Mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte of Wisborg, with the assistance of a group of military observers. The first group of military observers, which has become known as the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), arrived in the region in June 1948,[6] when the Security Council threatened Chapter VII intervention. To enforce the first of two truces, lasting four weeks, the UN then established an observer formation, with members drawn from Belgium, France, and the United States. On 6 July the UN observers had their first casualty with the death of the French Observer Commandant Rene Labarriere, he was wounded near the Afoula area and later died in the Jewish Hospital at Afoula. He was wounded while investigating an alleged violation of the truce provisions by Jewish forces.[7] In 1949, UNTSO military observers remained to supervise the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbours, which were for many years the main basis of the uneasy truce in the whole area.

The Mediator was instructed on 29 May 1948 to create a one-month truce in Palestine. The Mediator concept was teamed with the Truce Commission for supervisory over-watch of the Truce Plan. As a result, the Mediator and the Truce Commission would be provided with a number of military observers which set a precedent for today's assignment of UNMO's (United Nations Military Observers) in the Middle East.

The month-long truce went into effect on 11 June,[8] 1948. On the same day, the first group of 36 observers arrived via Cairo, Egypt and continued to arrive for the next three days. The first truce did not last long due to widespread violence which again erupted. As a result, the observers were withdrawn on 9 July 1948.[9] The second truce, indefinite in length, was called by the United Nations Security Council on 15 July 1948. This declaration was to be put into effect on 18 July 1948. It was from Security Council Resolution 54[10] that the Mediator was instructed to supervise the observance of the truce and to establish procedures for examining alleged breaches of the truce since 11 June 1948, and authorized the Mediator to deal with breaches so far as it was within the capacity of the Mediator to do so by appropriate local action, also the Security Council Resolution 54 requested the Mediator to keep the Security Council informed concerning the operation of the truce and where necessary to take appropriate action. During the autumn of 1948, UNTSO was re-established with an increase in size to supervise the Second Truce. The first group of observers to serve in Palestine under the UN Mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, arrived in Rhodes at 6 P.M. GMT 20 July. It included 41 Americans and about 25 Belgians and were deployed on 21 July 1948.[11] The initial group was quickly expanded to 93 in total because of the tremendous area that had to be covered. As the number of personnel grew, the United Nations Secretariat (of Personnel) supported the creation of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the same organization UN Military Observers are assigned to today. Initially, the command was headed by a Chief-of-Staff (a general officer from one of the participating countries) in accordance with the personal direction of the Mediator, (a civilian).

On 17 September 1948, UN Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte, and Colonel André Serot while on an official tour of duty to Jerusalem were murdered "in cold blood... in the Katamon quarter of Jerusalem by Jewish assailants." Ralphe Bunche, Chief of the UN Mission in Palestine in his letter to the Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Shertok wrote "is an outrage against the international community and an unspeakable violation of elementary morality. His safety, therefore, and that of his Lieutenants under the ordinary rules of law and order was a responsibility of the Provisional government of Israel whose armed forces and representatives control and administer the area. The act constitutes a breach of the truce of the utmost gravity for which the Provisional Government of Israel must assume full responsibility."[12] Provisional Government of Israel did not submit the report to the Security Council or to the Acting Mediator regarding the progress of the investigation into the assassination of Count Bernadotte.[13]

1949 Diplomatic US passport

1949 United Nations mediator issued US diplomatic passport. Holder was a navy captain, military observer attached to the security council truce commission for Palestine.

After assassination, the talks between the warring parties began under the supervision of the Acting Mediator, Ralph Bunche. The General Armistice Agreements (GAAs) came out of the Mediator-chaired talks. UNTSO's activities have been and still are spread over territory within five States, and therefore it has relations with five host countries -- Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syrian Arab Republic. Since then, UNTSO has also supervised the General Armistice Agreements of 1949 and the observation of the ceasefire in the Suez Canal area and the Golan Heights following the Six-Day War of June 1967.

On 11 August 1949 it was decided by the Security Council that the mediators function had been completed and that the role in observing the ceasefire should be passed to the Chief of Staff of the UNTSO[14]


Cairo was the initial Headquarters of UNTSO. The UNTSO's HQ was moved, shortly after its creation, to Haifa (British enclave in this time), in late June 1948. The Haifa HQ was evacuated on 9 July due to renewed fighting. With the return of UN peacekeeping forces to Israel on 21 July 1948 the Headquarters for UNTSO was moved again on 7 October 1948 for the third and final time to the Commissioner's Palace in Jerusalem.

UNTSO has offices in Beirut and Damascus.

Contributing countries[]

Countries contributing military resources to UNTSO include, Argentina, Australia,[15] Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, the People's Republic of China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the US.

International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.[]

29 May has been designated as the "International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers" by the UN. 29 May 2008 being the sixtieth anniversary of United Nations Peacekeeping Forces being deployed.[16]

Sixty years ago on that date, the United Nations Security Council established the first peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), based in the Middle East. In 2001, the General Assembly proclaimed 29 May as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers to pay tribute to the men and women who serve in United Nations peacekeeping operations and honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.

Evolution of the UNTSO[]

Following the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, the functions of the observers changed in the light of changing circumstances, but they remained in the area, acting as go-betweens for the hostile parties and as the means by which isolated incidents could be contained and prevented from escalating into major conflicts.

Before 1949[]

Resolution 181[]

On 29 November 1947 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 on 'The future constitution and government of Palestine' setting forth a 'Plan of Partition with Economic Union'. The result of the vote was 33 in favor, 13 against and 10 abstentions.[17] The report consisted of four parts:

  • future constitution and government of Palestine;
  • boundaries;
  • city of Jerusalem;
  • and capitulations.

It called for the creation of Arab and Jewish states no later than 1 October 1948, with Jerusalem as corpus separatum under an international regime to be administered by the U.N. with the Trusteeship Council being the designated body in this regard. The plan also included steps to be taken prior to independence, including the issues of citizenship, transit, economic union between the two states, access to holy places and religious and minority rights. Resolution 181 (II) also establishes the United Nations Palestine Commission to carry out the plan. The Trusteeship Council was to administer Palestine for ten years.[18][19][20]

Resolutions 42 to 46: calls for cease-fire[]

As the disorders in Palestine increased The Security Council voted on and adopted Resolution 42 (1948) of 5 March 1948, appealing to all governments and peoples, particularly in and around Palestine, to take all possible action to prevent or reduce such disorders as were occurring in Palestine.[21] The Trusteeship Council decided on 10 March 1948 in resolution 32 (II)[22] "that the statute on Jerusalem was in satisfactory form and agrees that the question of its formal approval, together with the appointment of a governor of the city, shall be taken up at a subsequent meeting to be held not later than one week before 29 April 1948", the deadline given to the Council by the Assembly (on 21 April 1948, the Trusteeship Council transmitted The Resolution Along With The Draft Statute To The General Assembly).[23] The situation in Palestine was becoming even more chaotic when the Security Council met on 1 April 1948 it adopted Resolution 43 (1948), calling for an "immediate truce be effected in Palestine" and calls for "the Jewish Agency for Palestine and the Arab Higher Committee to make representatives available to the Security Council for the purpose of arranging a truce between the Arab and Jewish communities of Palestine; and emphasizes the heavy responsibility which would fall upon any party failing to observe such a truce".[24]
The Security Council adopts Resolution 44 (1948). Invoking Article 20 of the U.N. Charter on 1 April 1948 where the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to convoke a special session of the General Assembly to consider further the future of the government of Palestine.[25]
By 17 April 1948 the situation in Palestine had deteriorated further and the Security Council adopted Resolution 46 (1948), calling upon all persons and organizations in Palestine to immediately cease all military activities, as well as acts of violence, terrorism and sabotage; to refrain from any actions endangering the safety of the Holy Places in Palestine and refrain from importing or acquiring or assisting or encouraging the importation or acquisition of weapons and war materials (arms embargo). It also requests the government of the U.K., as the Mandatory Power, to supervise the execution of these measures and to keep the Security Council and the General Assembly informed on the situation in Palestine.[26] The General Assembly then convened for its second special session between 16 April to 14 May 1948, during which it considers a working paper submitted by the United States (U.S.) on the question of the "Trusteeship of Palestine", which was opposed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) as well as the Jewish Agency.[27]

Resolution 185: Jerusalem[]

The Assembly adopted resolution 185 (S-2) of 26 April 1948, asking the Trusteeship Council to study measures for the protection of Jerusalem, its inhabitants and to submit proposals to the General Assembly.

Resolution 186 and 187: Bernadotte appointed[]

On 14 May 1948, the Assembly adopted resolution 186 (S-2), which affirmed its support for the efforts of the Security Council to secure a truce in Palestine; decided to appoint a U.N. Mediator in Palestine and specifies the functions of the Mediator; and relieved the Palestine Commission from further "exercise of responsibilities" under resolution 181 (II). Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden is appointed Mediator. After receiving proposals from the Trusteeship Council, the Assembly adopted resolution 187 (S-2), recommending to the Mandatory Power the appointment of a Special Municipal Commissioner for Jerusalem.[28]

On 14 May 1948, a Jewish state, Israel is proclaimed, one day before the mandate expired and just before the General Assembly began a discussion on the main resolution containing the U.S. idea on the trusteeship of Palestine. The U.S. government recognizes the Jewish state as does the U.S.S.R. War breaks out in Palestine.[29] Several Arab armies engaged the Jewish forces of the Provisional Government of Israel.

1949 to 1956[]

The period from August 1949 to June 1956 was initially chaotic but quickly settled into a routine of complaints on the Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian and Lebanese fronts. It was initially possible for the UN personnel to deal with complaints of violations of the "Truce" at the Local Commander level. As time progressed there arose a culture of claim and counter claim by the participating parties and regardless of the hard work and genuine intent of UNTSO the intensity of the violent incidents increased. The GAAs had been hastily prepared in anticipation of an early peace along the lines of the 1947 Partition Plan and the primary concern was an end to the bloodshed at the earliest opportunity.[30] As a result, the Armistice lines had been poorly laid out temporary boundaries marked out without thought to existing village boundaries or water rights. The Armistice Agreements were of a purely military character, intended to provide a transitional stage between the truce and a final peace. They constitute, in effect, non-aggression agreements of unlimited duration, but they contain in themselves no provision for establishing normal relations between the neighbouring countries. The Armistice lines did not follow the fighting lines in all cases especially the Syrian Armistice line. And in the case of the Egyptian Armistice line Israel forces carried on with a push South[31] arriving at Umm Rashrash (Eilat) in March[32] after the Egyptian Israel GAA of 24 February 1949. This caused friction on setting the "Truce Lines". The contribution toward the foundation of a peaceful existence by the Mixed Armistice Commissions (MACs) was limited by the sanctions that the MACs were able to apply (a formal condemnation by the Security Council). For approximately 18 years, (from 1949 until after the 1967 War), lack of harmony within the MACs was typical of the relationship existing between the countries. With the exception of the Israeli-Lebanon MAC, strife and discord became common.

The MACs were very different from one another, bringing about four unique peacekeeping missions under the head of the UNTSO. Disputes on the Israel/Syria Mixed Armistice Commission (ISMAC) centred on the most precious Middle Eastern commodity: water and sovereignty of the DMZ.[33][34][35] Contentious issues in the HKJIMAC principally concerned the divided city of Jerusalem,[36] the Israeli Mount Scopus enclave, the Latrun salient (sovereignty of the DMZ), Arab infiltration across the armistice demarcation line and large scale Israeli military incursions into Jordanian territory.[37] The troubles soon bloomed the Infiltration by the displaced Arabs, followed by raids of reprisal and intimidation by the Israelis, soon had the borders crackling with tension.[38] The infiltration by Palestinians was initially unarmed groups crossing to regain possessions, harvest their crops or visit relatives; later infiltrations became armed individuals and then progressing into small retaliatory raids.[39] As Pasha Glubb explained:[40]-

Some deep psychological urge which impels a peasant to cling to and die on his land. A great many of these wretched people are killed now, picking their own oranges and olives just beyond the line. The value of the fruit is often negligible. If the Jewish patrols see him he is shot dead on the spot, without questions. But they will persist in returning to their farms and gardens.

Israeli infiltration into Jordanian Territory being organised retaliatory raids by military units such as occurred at Qibya[41] and Nahhalin raids.[42] Israel's frustration with the UN and the other parties led to their withdrawal from ISMAC in 1951 and HKJIMAC in 1954. The functioning of the Israel Lebanon MAC remained smooth due to the more relaxed attitude of the Israeli patrols towards returnees and infiltrators.[43] Disputes with Egypt, who banned Israel-bound shipping from the Suez Canal[44][45] and blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba,[46] pertained to the al-Auja DMZ. By 1955, Egypt sponsoring of the Palestinian fedayeen (self-sacrificer) raids cause Israel to cease attending the Egyptian MAC and stepped up raids into the Gaza Strip and Sinai, which result Egypt arm the fedayeen. From 21 September 1955, the Egypt/Israel Demilitarized Zone was occupied by Israel armed forces, Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and the Chief of Staff UNTSO had engaged in efforts to secure the implementation of a plan for withdrawal of Israel armed forces and removal of Egyptian Forces from prohibited positions. Articles VII and VIII of the Egypt-Israel GAA established a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) centred on El-Auja and forbade the presence of armed forces it also prohibited Egypt from maintaining positions in an adjoining area west of the Demilitarized Zone, and limited the arms and troops in the Defensive Areas on both sides of the Line. Both Egypt and Israel had indicated to the Secretary-General their willingness to comply fully with these two articles, within the framework of a return to full compliance with the Armistice Agreement. The Israel Government gave assurances of its complete acceptance in principle of the plan. The agreed withdrawal, however, never took place.[47] Full compliance with the Armistice Agreements was incompatible with the invocation of a state of war. The full-scale 1956 invasion of Egypt by British, French and Israeli forces, The invasion followed Egypt's decision of 26 July 1956 to nationalize the Suez Canal after the withdrawal of an offer by Britain and the United States to fund the building of the Aswan Dam. The invasion demonstrated UNTSO's irrelevance in the final settlement to the full and lasting peace.

Suez Crisis to Six Day War[]

After the 1956 War (often referred to as the Suez Crisis),[48] UNTSO greatly assisted the establishment of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF); in large measure the result of diplomatic efforts of the UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and a proposal from Canadian minister of external affairs Lester Pearson, by providing a group of trained military personnel for peacekeeping and emergency operations to UNEF[49] It was the first time UNTSO's expertise was tapped in order to establish a United Nations Mission. UNTSO's contribution to UNEF set the precedent for many UN missions to come.

Israel, after the 1956 War subsequently ceased all cooperation/participation in its Israeli-Egyptian MAC. On 8 November, the representative of Israel informed the Secretary-General that his Government would withdraw its forces from Egypt immediately after the conclusion of satisfactory arrangements with the United Nations in connection with the Emergency International Force.[50] As a result, arrangements were made through which, without any change of the legal structure or status of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization the functions of UNTSO in the Gaza area were placed under the operational control of the Force. A close co-operation between UNTSO and UNEF was to be maintained.

The General Assembly, on 19 January 1957, noted "with regret and concern the failure of Israel to withdraw from Egyptian territory".[51] Later, on 2 February 1957, the Council deplored the" non-compliance of Israel with regard to completion of its withdrawal and called upon Israel to complete its withdrawal without delay". On 6 March 1957 General Burns was able to report to the Secretary-General of the UN that the "United Nations Emergency Force troops are now in position in all camps and centres of population in Gaza Strip".[52] The staged withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, with the exception of an Israel troop unit at Rafah camp, at 0400 GMT on 7 March 1957 was carried out according to plan and without incidents. By agreement, that last Israel element was withdrawn by 1600 GMT on 8 March and a full Israeli withdrawal from the Sharm al Shaikh area was effected at the same time.[53] In the following years, the Israel-Egypt MAC remained inactive, though UNTSO was occasionally called to investigate incidents involving often bedouins in the Negev.

In the period under review, the Lebanese sector was relatively calm, surprisingly so if one thinks of subsequent events in that area. The Israel-Lebanon MAC met regularly and had developed a routine for handling incidents that occurred. In contrast, the Jordanian and Syrian sectors were the scene of frequent and often serious incidents, and both the Israel-Jordan and the Israel-Syria MAC's were quite active in pursuance of their mandate.

In the Jordanian sector, most problems arose in relation to the illegal crossing of the border and in respect of the situation in Jerusalem, there in particular the control of the periodic convoys providing supplies to the Israeli enclave at Mont Scopus.

In response to activities conducted by Israel in the DMZ between the armistice demarcation lines in the area of Government House in Jerusalem Jordan complaints to UN this resulted in the Security Council adopting Resolution 127 (1958) on 22 January 1958,[54] noting that the status of the zone is affected by the provisions of the Israel-Jordan GAAs and that neither Israel nor Jordan enjoys sovereignty over any part of the zone and directing the Chief of Staff of UNTSO in Palestine to regulate activities in the zone. The sovereignty issues in the DMZs was never the sphere that the UNTSO could arbitrate on, though as will be mentioned below it got deeply involved in the matter in the Syrian sector also.

Following a dress rehearsal on 17 March 1961 for a Military parade in the Israeli-occupied part of the Jerusalem, in which heavy military armament took part Jordan complained to the MAC. On 20 March 1961 the Mixed Armistice Commission decided that "this act by Israel is a breach of the General Armistice Agreement". The MAC also condemned this act by Israel and called upon the Israeli authorities to take the strongest measures to prevent a recurrence of such a breach of the GAA and to refrain in the future from bringing to Jerusalem any equipment that was in excess of that allowed for under the terms of the GAA. The Israeli authorities still contemplated holding the Full Dress Military parade on 20 April 1961 in the Israeli-occupied part of Jerusalem. The Security Council, on 11 April 1961, adopted Resolution 162 (1961), this endorsed the 20 March 1961 decision of the MAC; relating to the military parade contemplated for 20 April 1961 in the Israel-occupied part of Jerusalem, and urged Israel to comply with the decision Of the MAC made on 20 March 1961.[55] This showed that the MAC concept still had complete support of the United Nations.

The Israel-Syria Armistice Agreement provided for a demilitarized zone (DMZ) in the Hula Lake area at the foot of the Golan Heights, zone which encompassed the area of Palestine as defined in the League of Nations Mandate occupied by Syrian forces at the time of the armistice. This DMZ has constantly been a source of incidents involving the Israel-Syria MAC. Attempts by UNTSO to limit Israeli agricultural activities on account of Arab ownership[citation needed] of land according to the cadastral map of the area failed as Israel refused to accept any limitation to its civilian activities anywhere in the DMZ. Heavy fighting having broken out between Israel and Syria following Israeli work undertaken on Arab-owned land[citation needed] in the DMZ, the Security Council in Resolutions 92 (1951) and 93 (1951) of 8 and 18 May 1951 called upon the parties to cease fighting and endorsed the request of the Chief of Staff of UNTSO that the Israeli company involved be instructed to cease all operations in the DMZ until such time as an agreement is arranged through the Chairman of the MAC for continuing its project. In Resolution 111 (1956) of 19 January 1956, the Security Council dealt with the confrontation which had escalated following interference by the Syrian authorities with legitimate Israeli activities on Lake Tiberias. It condemned as "in no way justified" the Israeli action taken in response to that interference in the form of an attack by Israeli regular army forces against Syrian regular army forces on Syrian territory. It also noted that in violation of the provisions of the General Armistice Agreement concerning the DMZ, the Zone had been crossed by the Israeli forces that entered Syria.

Following a prolonged military confrontation between the parties, the Security Council was again involved in the Israel – Syria situation in 1962 in the light of a report by the Chief of Staff of UNTSO on the military activities in the Lake Tiberias area and in the DMZ. The Council in Resolution 171 (1962) of 9 April 1962 noted with satisfaction that a cease fire had been achieved. It deplored the hostile exchanges which had taken place and called upon the Governments concerned to comply with the General Armistice Agreement. It determined that an Israeli attack on 16–17 March had been a flagrant violation of its engagements, and called on Israel scrupulously to refrain from such action in the future. It also called upon both parties to abide scrupulously by the cease fire arranged by the Chief of Staff of UNTSO, and called specifically for strict observance of the article of the GAA which provides for the exclusion of armed forces from the demilitarized zone, and of the annex to the GAA which sets limits on forces in the defensive area.

It should also be noted that not for the first time unarmed service with UNTSO carried its risks. In June 1967 Comdt Thomas Wickham [56] of the Irish Defense Forces was shot dead in Syria.

Six Day War to Yom Kippur War (1967 to 1973)[]

The period between the Six-Day War of June 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, UNTSO performed a vital function of helping to establish and supervise ceasefire agreements which included new boundaries between the countries. Even though there was no change to UNTSO's mission, the execution of its original mission became nearly impossible with the advent of the newly drawn ceasefire lines between Israel and Egypt-Jordan-Syria respectively.

Additionally, UNTSO did not have the MACs to supervise since Israel abrogated its initial agreement to the Armistice as conceived. Realizing the changing political situation, the UN Security Council added some new tasks to the UNTSO Charter on the first few months following the 1967 ceasefire. Specifically, in the Egypt-Israel and Israel-Syria fronts, UNTSO established observation posts. These posts remained in effect until the Yom Kippur War of October 1973. The UN offices established in Amman and Gaza (before the 1967 War) were allowed to continue to function as Liaison Offices, even though the MAC concept had become defunct.

At the urging of the Lebanese government, UNTSO created an observation operation along the Lebanese border (1949 Armistice Demarcation line) in the spring of 1972. Due to the Palestinian activity in South Lebanon and the potential Israeli reprisal against their encampments, UNTSO felt the potential for further conflict warranted the additional observation posts.

Yom Kippur to Israel Lebanon War[]

As a result of the Yom Kippur War, the location of UN Observers Post in the Middle East was drastically affected. However, most Ops are still located in the same place today. In the Egyptian-Israeli sector, UNTSO personnel were structured around the Observer "Group" concept and placed under the UN Peace-Keeping Forces that occupied the region. Observer Group Sinai was formed and attached to the Second United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF II). The Charter for UNEF II expired on 24 July 1979 which only left UNTSO's presence. The observers (UNMOs) were then restructured on new OPs which were located on vantage points throughout the Sinai peninsula. For the Sinai Group, their main office was located in Cairo (in 1993 it was moved to Ismailia, closer to the OPs). On the Israeli-Syria border, UNTSO's ceasefire observation and supervision mission continued but with a readjusted ceasefire line. Observer Groups Damascus and Golan (Syrian sector) were established as a result of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). These Posts are still active today and are in the same location.

Shortly after the 1973 War, U.S. participation in UNTSO expanded to twenty-five officers. The U.S. Marine Corps portion was six. Approximately the same period, the Soviets made a surprise move and announced their support of UNTSO and likewise wanted to provide Observers. To keep a balanced presence between the East-West Superpowers—the Russian participation was set at the same level as the United States (which was twenty-five each at that time). Subsequent to the 1973 agreement, the number of observers for all countries participating increased. As a result, the number of personnel to be provided by Soviet Union and the United States was re-established at thirty-six each (which still remains today). Since U.S. personnel are not allowed in Lebanon, (a limitation set forth by U.S. Secretary of Defence Frank Carlucci, due to the threat to U.S. personnel), there is a current move to reduce U.S. participation to UNTSO. Likewise, the Soviets would have to drop its participation to the same number as the United States. Due to the lengthy diplomatic process, this proposal has not been acted upon by both nations yet. However, the proposal is anticipated to receive favourable consideration.

After the Lebanon War[]

The Israeli-Lebanese conflict commenced in the late 1970s. It provided the latest major change to UNTSO as we know the organization currently. After the outbreak of the Civil War in Lebanon and the Israeli invasion into Southern Lebanon (March 1978), the United Nations established the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). UNTSO's observers were thus reorganized into Observer Group Lebanon (OGL) to assist UNIFIL. September 1982 saw a low point for UNTSO with the deaths of four of its unarmed officer observers in a landmine explosion just outside Beirut. The nationalities of those killed were one Finnish, one Irish [57] and two Americans.[58] As the Israeli penetration advanced north, the position of Observer Group Lebanon was adjusted. (15:372) An additional task of being the United Nations Liaison Office Beirut (UNLOB) was given to the headquarters of the Israel-Lebanon Mixed Armistice Commission (ILMAC) which was already located in Beirut. Under the close supervision of UNTSO's Chief-of-Staff, UNLOB/ILMAC functioned as a dual purpose headquarters/ liaison office for both UNTSO and UNIFIL. Four unarmed UN peacekeepers were killed by Israel air strike on 25 July 2006.


UNTSO personnel have also been available at short notice to form the nucleus of other peacekeeping operations. The availability of UNTSO's military observers for almost immediate deployment after the Security Council had acted to create a new operation has been an enormous contributory factor to the success of those operations.

UNTSO map feb 2011

UNTSO deployment as of February 2011.

The military observers are un-armed and they carry out their jobs by observing and reporting violations of the agreements of ceasefire, disengagement etc. that are relevant to their area of operations. All military observers are seasoned officers of the rank of captain or major coming from all branches of service in their respective countries armed forces.

The military observers work in multi-national teams, so that any observations will always be confirmed by at least two observers from different nations, as a measure to ensure impartiality.

UNTSO currently provides military observers to three different UN missions in the area; Observer Group Lebanon (OGL), supporting UNIFIL in Southern Lebanon, Observer Group Golan (OGG) supporting UNDOF in the Golan Heights and Observer Group Egypt (OGE) in the Sinai Peninsula.

OGG, who has its headquarters co-located with UNDOF HQ in Camp Faouar in Syria, is split into two outstations; OGG-D (Observer Group Golan - Damascus) based in Damascus, Syria and OGG-T (Observer Group Golan - Tiberias) based in Tiberias, Israel. Each outstation mans a number of observation posts on each side of the Area of Separation (AOS) that was put in place as part of the 1974 Disengagement Agreement between Syria and Israel following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The military observers carry-out fortnightly inspections inside the Area of Limitations (AOL) to verify, that both sides adhere to the limitations on troop levels and military equipment within 10, 20 and 25 km zones from the AOS as prescribed by the 1974 Disengagement Agreement.

OGL HQ are co-located with UNIFIL HQ in Naquora, Southern Lebanon. OGL mans four patrol bases along the "Blue Line" - a demarcation line between Israel and Lebanon.

OGE is based in Ismalia by the Suez Canal in Egypt. OGE conducts short and long-range patrols in the Sinai Peninsula.

Commanders (Chief of Staff) of UNTSO[]




  1. UN Doc A/RES/186 (S-2) 14 May 1948 Appointment and terms of reference of a United Nations Mediator in Palestine
  2. UN Security Council Resolution 50 UN Doc S/RES/50 (1948) S/801 29 May 1948
  3. 3.0 3.1 UN Doc S/RES/73 (1949) S/1376, II 11 August 1949 UN Security Council Resolution 73
  4. Fifty U.N. Guards to go to Palestine UN Press Release UN Doc PAL/189 17 June 1948
  5. UN Press Release Archived 18 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Dr Able Hillel Silver, Chairman of the American Section of the Jewish Agency makes the case for a Jewish State to the Ad Hoc committee on Palestine at the UN on 2 October 1947. Jewish Agency announces acceptance of 10 of the eleven unanimous recommendations of the UN partition plan and rejection of the minority report. Of the Majority report (the Partition Plan areas) Dr Able Hillel Silver vacillates saying that he was prepared to "recommend to the Jewish people acceptance subject to further discussion of the constitutional and territorial provisions".
  6. Press Release UN Doc PAL/191 19 June 1948 United Nations Guards Leave for Cairo
  7. Press Release UN Doc PAL/208 6 July 1948 UN Military Observer in Palestine Fatally Hurt While Investigating Report of Truce Violation; Another Observer Wounded
  8. Truce Effective from Friday, 11 June 1948 at 6:00 o'clock in the morning, GMT. UN Doc S/830 9 June 1948
  9. U.N. Personnel Withdraws from Palestine, UN Press Release UN Doc PAL/210 8 July 1948
  10. 54 (1948). Security Council Resolution 54 of 15 July 1948 UN Doc S/902
  11. Group of American and Belgian Observers for Palestine Reaches Rhodes Press Release UN Doc PAL/222 of 21 July 1948
  12. CHIEF OF UN PALESTINE MISSION HOLD ISRAEL RESPONSIBLE FOR ATTACK ON UN MEDIATOR AND OBSERVER. Press Release PAL/292 of 18 September 1948. UNITED NATIONS. Department of Public Information, Press and Publications Bureau, Lake Success, New York.
  13. Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations. Summary of Security Council Resolutions on Palestine since 1948.
  14. UNDoc S/Res/73 (1949) Mediator relieved of responsibility
  15. Operation Paladin
  16. UN press release PKO/181
  17. 'A vote was taken by roll-call. The result of the vote was as follows: In favour: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Union of South Africa, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela. Against: Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen. Abstained: Argentina, Chile, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mexico, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia. The report was adopted by 33 votes to 13, with 10 abstentions.' Hundred And Twenty-Eighth Plenary Meeting Un Doc A/Pv.128 29 November 1947
  18. Resolution 181 (II). Future government of Palestine A/RES/181(II)(A+B) 29 November 1947
  19. Plan Of Partition With Economic Union Annex A to resolution 181 (II) of the General Assembly, dated 29 November 1947
  20. City of Jerusalem Boundaries Proposed Annex B to resolution 181 (II) of the General Assembly, dated 29 November 1947
  21. Security Council Resolution 42 (1948). of 5 March 1948 UN Doc S/691
  22. Draft statute for the City of Jerusalem UN Doc T/RES/32(II) 10 March 1948
  23. Second Session Statute For The City Of Jerusalem Draft Prepared By The Trusteeship Council UN Doc T/118/Rev.2 21 April 1948
  24. Security Council Resolution 43 (1948). of 1 April 1948 UN Doc S/714, I
  25. Security Council Resolution 44 (1948). of 1 April 1948 UN Doc S/714, II
  26. Security Council Resolution 46 (1948). of 17 April 1948 UN Doc S/723 Archived 25 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. Draft Trusteeship Agreement For Palestine: Working Paper Circulated By The United States Delegation UN Doc A/C.1/277 20 April 1948
  28. Protection of the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants: appointment of a Special Municipal Commissioner UN Doc 1/A/RES/187 (S-2) 6 May 1948
  29. 1948 Arab-Israeli War
  30. General Progress Report and Supplementary Report of The United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine Covering the period from 11 December 1949 to 23 October 1950 Archived 6 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  31. Concerning Alleged Military Operations By Israeli Forces In The Southern Negev UN Doc S/1285 12 March 1949
  32. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappé p. 193
  33. A Report Dated 12 February 1950 From The Chief Of Staff Of The Truce Supervision Organization In Palestine To The Secretary-General On The Activities Of The Mixed Armistice Commissions[dead link]
  34. UN Security Council Resolution 100 of 27 October 1953 (UN Doc S 3182)
  35. Letter dated 25 February 1960 from the representative of Israel to the President of the Security Council (S/4271) 25 February 1960
  36. Jerusalem Area And Protection Of The Holy Places UN Doc T/681 1 June 1950
  37. Commander E H Hutchison USNR "Violent Truce: A Military Observer Looks at the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1951-1955"
  38. E H Hutchison "Violent Truce" p.xxvi
  39. Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War... By Benny Morris p. 38.
  40. Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War ... By Benny Morris p. 37
  41. CoS Vagn Bennike’s UNTSO Report UN Doc S/PV.630 27 October 1953 Archived 9 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  42. CoS UNTSO’s Report UN Doc S/3251 25 June 1954
  43. Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War ... By Benny Morris p. 39.
  44. UN Security Council Resolution 95 UN Doc S/RES/95 (1951) S/2322 1 September 1951
  45. CoS UNTSO’s Report UN Doc S/2194 13 June 1951
  46. UN Security Council Draft Resolution S/3188 19 March 1954
  47. Yearbook of the United Nations 1956
  48. GA Resolution UN Doc A/RES/1001 (ES-I)
  49. General Assembly Resolution 1000 (ES-I)UN Doc A/RES/1000 (ES-I) of 5 November 1956 Establishment of the UNEF
  50. Norman G. Finkelstein alludes to Brian Urquhart's memoir, A Life in Peace and War (ISBN 0-06-015840-9), 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." (Finkelstein 2003:277)
  51. GA Resolution 1123 (XI)UN Doc A/RES/1123 (XI) 19 January 1957
  52. UNEF Deployment in Gaza UN Doc Map 979
  53. Report of the Secretary-General in pursuance of resolutions I and II adopted by the General Assembly on 2 February 1957 (A/RES/460 and A/RES/461) UN Doc A/3568 8 March 1957
  54. SC Resolution 127 (1958) on 22 January 1958 UN Doc S/RES/127 (1958) S/3942 22 January 1958
  55. Security Council Resolution 162 (1961) of 11 April 1961 UN Doc S/4788
  58. UPI, (The New York Times), 26 September 1982 (Late City Final Edition, Section 1, Page 22
  59. Official UNTSO COSs gallery
  60. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (14 January 2009). "Norwegian to head UN observers in the ME". The Norway Post. Retrieved 6 April 2012. 
  61. Republic of Égyptien Q42 user:mgbtrust0 ®™✓©§∆∆∆€¢£ (18 June 2013). "Ban appoints Irish major general to head up UN’s oldest peacekeeping mission". UN News Centre. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 


External links[]

UNTSO: Transfer of computers via Israel normal

Start Date End Date Name Rank Country
May 1948 July 1948 Thord Bonde Colonel Flag of Sweden Sweden
July 1948 September 1948 Åge Lundström Major General Flag of Sweden Sweden
September 1948 June 1953 William E. Riley Lt. General Flag of the United States USA
June 1953 September 1954 Vagh Bennike Major General Flag of Denmark Denmark
August 1954 November 1956 E.L.M. Burns Lt. General Flag of Canada Canada
November 1956 March 1958 Byron V. Leary Colonel Flag of the United States USA
March 1958 July 1960 Carl von Horn Lt. General Flag of Sweden Sweden
July 1960 December 1960 R.W. Rickert Colonel Flag of the United States USA
Jan 1961 May 1963 Carl von Horn Lt. General Flag of Sweden Sweden
May 1963 July 1970 Odd Bull Lt. General Flag of Norway Norway
July 1970 October 1973 Ensio Siilasvuo Lt. General Flag of Finland Finland
October 1973 March 1974 Richard Bunworth Colonel Flag of Ireland Ireland
March 1974 August 1975 Bengt Liljestrand Major General Flag of Sweden Sweden
September 1975 December 1975 Keith D. Howard Colonel Flag of Australia Australia
January 1976 March 1978 Emmanuel Erskine Major General Flag of Ghana Ghana
April 1978 June 1979 William O'Callaghan Lt. General Flag of Ireland Ireland
June 1979 January 1980 O. Forsgren Colonel Flag of Sweden Sweden
February 1980 February 1981 Erkki R. Kaira Major General Flag of Finland Finland
February 1981 May 1986 Emmanuel Erskine Major General Flag of Ghana Ghana
May 1986 June 1987 William O'Callaghan Lt. General Flag of Ireland Ireland
June 1987 October 1990 Martin O. Vadset Lt. General Flag of Norway Norway
October 1990 October 1992 Hans Christensen Major General Flag of Finland Finland
October 1992 December 1993 Krisna Thapa Major General Flag of Nepal   Nepal
December 1993 April 1994 John Fisher Colonel Flag of New Zealand New Zealand
April 1994 June 1995 Luc Bujold Colonel Flag of Canada Canada
June 1995 September 1995 Jaakko Oksanen Colonel Flag of Finland Finland
October 1995 March 1998 Rufus Kupolati Major General Flag of Nigeria Nigeria
April 1998 March 2000 Tim Ford Major General Flag of Australia Australia
April 2000 March 2002 Franco Ganguzza Major General Flag of Italy Italy
March 2002 Sept 2004 Carl Dodd Major General Flag of Ireland Ireland
November 2004 November 2006 Clive Lilley Major General Flag of New Zealand New Zealand
November 2006 February 2008 Ian Gordon Major General Flag of Australia Australia
February 2008 April 2011 Robert Mood[60] Major General Flag of Norway Norway
May 2011 June 2013 Juha Kilpiä Major General Flag of Finland Finland
July 2013 31 July 2015 Michael Finn[61] Major General Flag of Ireland Ireland
1 September 2015 June 2017 Dave Gawn[62] Major General Flag of New Zealand New Zealand
6 October 2017 Present Kristin Lund[63] Major General Flag of Norway Norway

Coordinates: 31°45′16″N 35°14′10″E / 31.75444°N 35.23611°E / 31.75444; 35.23611

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The original article can be found at United Nations Truce Supervision Organization and the edit history here.