Middle East violence and instability in 2013 and 2014 have put increased strain on peace operations in the region. Iraq and Syria have seen intense fighting, with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants taking control of large portions of both states. The effects of these conflicts have had serious regional implications, with fighting in Syria spilling over into Lebanon and Israel. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced, many fleeing to neighboring countries.
Violence has limited the ability of some missions to fulfil their mandate, restricting the mobility of peacekeepers as they come into harm’s way. The flood of refugees has taxed the resources of multilateral actors, while political deadlock in Iraq and Lebanon has limited the ability of these states to effectively respond to the many problems they face.
Lebanon Lebanon’s stability and security are strongly tied to the states it borders. The war in Syria has fueled existing conflicts within Lebanon, while fighting has strayed across the border into Lebanon itself. ISIL and Nusra Front militants carried out attacks in Lebanese territory near the Syrian border. The small country’s already large refugee population has swelled, with over 1,100,000 Syrian refugees in the country registered with the UN in addition to a longstanding population of o Read More...
Lebanon’s stability and security are strongly tied to the states it borders. The war in Syria has fueled existing conflicts within Lebanon, while fighting has strayed across the border into Lebanon itself. ISIL and Nusra Front militants carried out attacks in Lebanese territory near the Syrian border. The small country’s already large refugee population has swelled, with over 1,100,000 Syrian refugees in the country registered with the UN in addition to a longstanding population of over 450,000 Palestinian refugees, most of whom live in 12 camps located within Lebanese borders.
Established in 1978, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is tasked with confirming the withdrawal of foreign forces from southern Lebanon and assisting the government in preserving an area free of unauthorized armed personnel, assets and weapons north of the UN-demarcated Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon. The UNIFIL Maritime Task Force also carries out maritime interdiction operations in support of Lebanese authorities and offers training to the Lebanese navy. In July 2014, Luciano Portolano of Italy was appointed UNIFIL commander, replacing Paolo Serra.
The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL) was established after the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war to oversee implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701. This resolution established a ceasefire, called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops, and emphasized the importance of full Lebanese governmental control over south Lebanon. UNSCOL supports domestic political processes and coordinates the integration of UN work in Lebanon to promote human rights, aid refugees and respond to border management challenges. Derek Plumbly served as the Special Coordinator for Lebanon until January 2015, succeeded by Sigrid Kaag (former head of the UN-OPCW mission to Syria).
UNSCOL coordinates its engagement with the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Implementation of Resolution 1559, Terje Roed-Larsen. Roed-Larsen’s office is tasked with strengthening the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Lebanon. UNSCOL also works with the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, in promoting progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Following the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005, Security Council Resolution 1636 implemented a sanctions regime providing for travel bans and asset freezes against individuals suspected of involvement in the incident. To date, the 1636 sanctions committee created to enforce the regime has not designated any targets.
Cross-border shelling, shooting incidents and rocket attacks occurred nearly every day on Lebanon’s border with Syria during the period under review. The Lebanese government has protested attacks on its territory and violations of its border by both Syrian rebels and Syrian government troops. In August 2014, militants crossed over from Syria to attack the town of Arsal. Lebanese soldiers, militants and civilians were killed over several days of fighting. Following this, the Lebanese military asked the UN to expand UNIFIL’s mandate to cover the Syrian-Lebanese border. In October 2014, a UNIFIL spokesperson said the mission would not be sent to the Syrian border because its mandate was confined to southern Lebanon.
The war in Syria has also increased tensions between groups within Lebanon. Supporters and opponents of the Assad regime have engaged in deadly clashes, most notably in the city of Tripoli. Car bombs have exploded in the mainly Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut, killing dozens of people. An ex-minister from a majority Sunni party was assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut in December 2013. Attacks have also targeted Hezbollah members and the Lebanese military.
Special Coordinator Plumbly praised a security plan instituted in March 2014 by the Lebanese government restricting the movement of people and materiel involved in terrorist activities. The situation improved, although several attacks have since occurred in 2014 including major clashes between soldiers and militants in Tripoli in October that killed 10 civilians, 12 soldiers and a number of militants.
Special Coordinator Plumbly called for all actors in Lebanon to adhere to the country’s official policy of dissociation from the conflict in Syria, which was formalized in 2012. He has condemned the involvement of Lebanese groups in the war and violations of the Lebanese border by Syrian forces. The secretary-general has directly criticized Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite political party that has publicly affirmed its involvement in the Syrian conflict, calling on it to disarm. Israel has alleged that there are ongoing arms transfers to Hezbollah across the Lebanese-Syrian border. The secretary-general stated that the UN takes these allegations seriously, but that it is not in a position to independently verify them. UNIFIL has no formal communication with Hezbollah.
UNIFIL plays a key role in managing tensions along the Blue Line. Israel conducts overflights of Lebanese territory nearly every day in violation of resolution 1701. It also occupies the northern part of the border village of Ghajar, which is divided by the Blue Line. The secretary-general has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the area.
UNIFIL holds frequent meetings bringing together representatives of the Israeli and Lebanese militaries for discussion of issues regarding the Blue Line and resolution 1701. UNIFIL carries out daily coordinated activities with the Lebanese military near the de facto border. The mission conducts around 10,000 activities a month, around 1,000 of which are performed with the Lebanese military. UNIFIL also investigates incidents along the Blue Line and facilitates communication between the two sides to resolve disputes.
UNIFIL has removed thousands of mines and unexploded ordnance from the area around the Blue Line. The mission also provides training for local residents on how to avoid mines. UNIFIL’s naval presence, consisting of seven boats, is mandated to prevent the unauthorized entry of arms into Lebanon via the sea and assist the Lebanese navy with training and capacity building. UNIFIL peacekeepers in cooperation with local authorities conduct quick impact projects funded through the UNIFIL budget to benefit local communities, including the provision of water and power supply equipment. Medical assistance is also provided to the local population and to Syrian refugees in the UNIFIL area of operations.
In August 2013, several Israeli soldiers were injured in a roadside explosion after crossing the Blue Line into Lebanese territory. UNIFIL investigated the site but could not determine who was responsible. The most serious cross-border incident during the period under review occurred in December 2013, when a Lebanese military sniper shot and killed an Israeli soldier, the first such incident since 2010. The shooter was found to have acted alone. UNIFIL coordinated with the Lebanese military to investigate the shooting, and Special Coordinator Plumbly called a meeting to discuss the matter. In October 2014, an Israeli soldier injured a Lebanese soldier in a shooting incident and an Israeli military vehicle hit an improvised explosive device south of the Blue Line. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the explosion, and Israel fired artillery into Lebanon in response.
 UN Doc S/2014/784
 “UN Sanctions”, Security Council Report, November 2013
 “March 14 appeals to Syrian opposition”, Daily Star, August 6, 2014
A number of rockets were fired from Lebanese territory into Israel in incidents during 2013 and 2014. UNIFIL and the Lebanese military increase their presence around the Blue Line following such incidents and conduct investigations into the launches. Israel has returned fire toward targets in Lebanon on several occasions.
The number of rocket launches greatly increased in July and August 2014 after the beginning of Israeli military operations in Gaza. Special Coordinator Plumbly condemned both the rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli artillery strikes. Information gathered by UNIFIL suggested that the attacks were individual actions aimed at expressing solidarity with Gaza during Israel’s military actions there.
Plumbly also appealed for more international assistance to help Lebanon meet the needs of its refugee population. The UN has praised Lebanon’s willingness to allow new refugees in, but new proposed refugee policies have been criticized for potentially revoking the refugee status of Syrians in Lebanon if they travel to Syria. Lebanese authorities have also stopped some Palestinians in Syria from entering Lebanon. By November 2014, the number of Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon rose to 1.124 million.
Political deadlock has delayed the Lebanese political process as politicians representing the country’s various religious groups have not been able to agree on a presidential candidate. Parliamentary elections originally scheduled for June 2013 were initially postponed until November 2014, the first time such a measure was taken since the end of the Lebanese civil war. In May 2014, the Lebanese parliament missed a constitutional deadline for electing a new president, postponing the parliamentary elections even further, until 2017.
Violence in Iraq has reached levels unseen since 2008. ISIL militants operating in Syria and Iraq rapidly gained control of Iraqi territory through 2013 and 2014, and at the end of 2014 dominated large portions of northern and western Iraq where they have killed civilians, displaced populations and committed human rights violations. 2.2 million people now live in ISIL-controlled territory and 5 million have been affected by the crisis. The United States and other countries have responded with military action including airstrikes targeting ISIL. Political deadlock and division limited the Iraqi government’s ability to respond to the crisis, while hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people were in need of assistance.
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), a political mission established in 2003, facilitates dialogue, provides technical assistance to the government, promotes talks between Iraq and its neighbors, advocates for the protection of human rights and judicial and legal reform, and coordinates the UN Country Team in Iraq. UNAMI is headquartered in Baghdad and also operates in Erbil, Basra, and Kirkuk. It maintains support offices in Jordan and Kuwait, and a liaison office in Iran that works to enhance cooperation between Iran and Iraq. UNAMI is headed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq Dimitry Mladenov, who was appointed to the office in August 2013, replacing Martin Kobler.
The other multilateral peace operation in the country, the European Union’s Integrated Rule of Law Mission for Iraq (EUJUST LEX-Iraq) ceased activities in December 2013. Established in 2005, it was the EU’s first integrated rule of law mission and trained more than 7,000 Iraqi officials working in the criminal justice system. EUJUST LEX-Iraq promoted modern investigation techniques, trained Iraqi judges and prosecutors, promoted better conditions in prisons, and sought to improve local capacities to address domestic violence and human trafficking. Prior to the mission’s drawdown EUJUST LEX-Iraq handed its training programs over to Iraqi counterparts.
In April 2013, after months of protests by mostly minority Sunnis against the Shiite-dominated government, a clash between security forces and demonstrators in Hawijah in Kirkuk province sparked a wave of violence resulting in over 200 deaths within a week. Then Special Representative Kobler urged all sides to show restraint and avoid “sectarian civil war.” Kobler met with officials in Kirkuk to urge an end to the fighting and call for those detained by security forces to be properly treated.
Amid this environment of tension, the Sunni militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carried out a number of attacks. Suicide bombings throughout the country in the first half of 2013 caused about 1,000 Iraqi deaths. The group continued to expand its presence and broaden its ranks, in part through a series of prison breaks culminating in the July 2013 Abu Ghraib mass prison breakout that freed more than 500 inmates including senior ISIL commanders.Less...
By June 2014, the militants took over Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. By November, only a few areas of Anbar province that the group entered at the beginning of the year were still under government control. In June 2014, the UN estimated that at least 2,417 people died in Iraq, the highest monthly total since 2008. Car bombs and attacks by gunmen have targeted security forces and civilians. Minority groups bear the brunt of the conflict, with people often targeted for ethnic or religious re Read More...
By June 2014, the militants took over Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. By November, only a few areas of Anbar province that the group entered at the beginning of the year were still under government control. In June 2014, the UN estimated that at least 2,417 people died in Iraq, the highest monthly total since 2008. Car bombs and attacks by gunmen have targeted security forces and civilians. Minority groups bear the brunt of the conflict, with people often targeted for ethnic or religious reasons. Baghdad also continued to be affected by acts of terrorism, including two deadly explosions in December 2014 that killed 21 civilians. A UNAMI convoy was targeted by an improvised explosive device in November 2014. In 2014, a total of 12,282 civilians were killed and 23,126 injured, the highest number of casualties in a year since 2007.
The government had been unable to halt the advance of the militias through mid-2014, in large part due to a longstanding stalemate in parliament keeping it from taking decisive action. The impasse only ended with the appointment of a new Prime Minister following Nouri al-Maliki’s resignation in August 2014. UNAMI’s leadership called on politicians to engage in dialogue to break the country’s political deadlock and effectively respond to the crisis.
In late 2014, progress toward national reconciliation began to be made as various factions supported efforts to counter ISIL. Special Representative Mladenov traveled to countries in the region in an effort to strengthen international support and cooperation with the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIL. He also engaged with political actors in Iraq to help establish a national guard force to complement the Iraqi security forces.
UNAMI worked with Iraqi authorities and humanitarian partners to provide safe passage for humanitarian assistance for the estimated 2.2 million internally displaced people in the country, in addition to the over 240,000 Syrian refugees registered in Iraq. In April 2014, the UN reported that most of its agencies working in Iraq had run out of cash and supplies due to insufficient donor response. The 2014-2015 Iraq strategic response plan to aid displaced families faced a shortfall of $1.5 billion as of February 2015.
In August 2014, Mladenov said that a “humanitarian tragedy” was unfolding in northern Iraq as tens of thousands of people in Sinjar, mainly minority Yazidis, sought refuge on a mountain surrounded by militants. The United States responded to the situation with airstrikes and humanitarian aid drops in northern Iraq. Violence continued throughout the country, including a massacre at a Sunni mosque, a wave of bombings, and the ISIL siege of a Shiite Turkoman community, as well as fighting between ISIL and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the town of Kobani.
In late 2014, the Iraqi government gained the support of tribal fighters to join military operations against ISIL. In November, around 40 tribes formed a coalition to fight ISIL in Anbar province. Iraqi armed forces were able to retake some areas from ISIL control in November and December 2014, preventing the militants from making further territorial gains. Iraqi forces were supported by international coalition airstrikes against ISIL targets.
Mladenov has urged the government to exercise restraint in its military operations and ensure the protection of civilians. In March 2014, UNAMI stated concerns about reports of arrests without evidence, detentions without charge, and torture and mistreatment. Amnesty International reported evidence of extrajudicial executions of prisoners and detainees by the Iraqi army. UNAMI monitors conditions at prisons and places of detention run by the Ministry of Justice throughout the country, where it has found poor health conditions and overcrowding. The mission has not been given access to facilities under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, but has received reports of mistreatment and abuse.
Mladenov stated in November 2013 that Iraqi security forces need “massive amounts of retraining” in respecting human rights. There were also reports of sectarian attacks by militia groups allied with Iraqi security forces. In December 2014, the Iraqi prime minister issued an executive order prohibiting arbitrary arrest and detention, and thousands of detainees were released soon thereafter.
In January 2014, Mladenov launched a capacity-building program to assist the High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq in implementing its mandate. The commission’s responsibilities include monitoring prisons and the human rights situation in Syrian refugee camps. UNAMI works with OHCHR to report on human rights issues in Iraq. Among other measures, they recommend that Iraq accede to further international human rights accords, review the training and conduct of police and security forces and amend its anti-terrorism law. UNAMI has repeatedly called for the suspension of all pending death sentences in Iraq.
UNAMI is also mandated to assist Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC). A team of UN electoral advisers provides IHEC with substantive advice and technical assistance. The April 2013 governorate elections were the first held under the full responsibility of the IHEC. UNAMI coordinated with the IHEC and the Kurdistan Regional Government to assist in preparations for the parliamentary elections held there in September 2013. In April 2014, despite election day violence, Iraqis voted for their national representatives, while the Kurdistan region voted for governorate council representatives. Some polling places, however, could not be opened due to security concerns.
UNAMI facilitates talks between the government in Baghdad and leaders of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. In May 2014, the Kurdistan Regional Government began oil exports into Turkey, independent of Baghdad. The Iraqi government condemned the move and commenced legal action against those involved. UNAMI urged Baghdad and Erbil to reach an agreement on energy exports and revenue sharing. A deal between Baghdad and Erbil was signed in December 2014, addressing energy exports, revenue sharing and federal payments for Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers.
The mission is also involved in improving relations between Iraq and Kuwait. In June 2013, the Security Council voted to terminate sanctions measures that had been in effect since 1991 regarding Iraq’s obligations to Kuwait. The mandate previously assigned to the High-Level Coordinator for Iraq-Kuwait Missing Persons and Property was reassigned to UNAMI, and the Council asked UNAMI to advance efforts to find and return Kuwaiti and other nationals to Kuwait, along with Kuwaiti property that had been seized by Iraq. Provisions allowing military enforcement of these measures under Chapter VII of the UN charter were terminated.
Other sanctions − including measures by the Iraq sanctions committee established in 2003 to implement economic sanctions against certain individuals associated with the Saddam Hussein regime, and to observe compliance with an arms embargo against Iraq − remain in place. The committee’s actions, however, have been limited in recent years.
The UN and the Iraqi government have still not been able to conclude a status-of-mission agreement, and the secretary-general has urged the Iraqi government to intensify its cooperation with the UN. The UN says cumbersome entry and exit procedures hamper the effectiveness of UNAMI operations, causing delays in entry of critical equipment including ambulances remaining at the border for almost a year awaiting customs clearance.
Since 1974, the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has monitored the ceasefire line between Israel and Syria and supervised the disengagement agreement establishing an area of separation between the two sides in the Golan Heights. UNDOF also provides humanitarian medical assistance to civilians. In 2013 and 2014, fighting in and around its area of operations, abductions of mission personnel and regular violations of the area of separation have restricted its operations and its ability to fulfill its mandate.
In September 2014, most UNDOF personnel were removed from the area of operations pending an improvement in the security situation. Nevertheless, in December 2014, the mission’s mandate was extended for six months. The ceasefire was generally maintained despite the deteriorating security environment, but the continued presence of Syrian armed forces and military equipment in the area of separation was a violation of the agreement.
UNDOF’s area of operation has become the center of frequent clashes between the Syrian government and armed groups, with rounds landing near or inside UN positions. Checkpoints set up near the area of separation by Syrian armed forces have interfered with UNDOF’s freedom of movement. Improvised explosive devices planted by rebels have also hampered the mission’s ability to move.
In March 2013, a convoy of 21 Filipino UNDOF troops was detained by a group of Syrian rebels during a supply mission and held for three days. In May, four more Filipino UNDOF troops were detained by rebels and released after five days. In June, two UNDOF peacekeepers were injured during heavy fighting between Syrian government and rebel forces; and in October, a Canadian UNDOF staff member who had been kidnapped by rebels in February escaped from his captors. In November, a UNDOF national staff member was killed by mortar shrapnel near Damascus. In August 2014, 45 Fijian UNDOF troops were detained by Nusra Front militants but were released unharmed in mid-September.
As fighting between militants and Syrian forces in the area of separation increased and the Nusra Front indicated its intentions to detain additional UNDOF personnel and seize UNDOF weapons and vehicles, the mission began to relocate many of its personnel and assets out of the area of separation on 12 September 2014. UNDOF evacuated many of its peacekeepers to the Israeli side of the area of separation, leaving behind some mission assets and equipment that were subsequently seized by armed groups. UNDOF maintained a limited presence in the area of separation, maintaining four positions in the north, one in the south, and one on the Israeli side. The mission called this a “temporary” relocation until the security situation improves. DPKO and UNDOF were considering a temporary reduction of troop strength from 929 troops to 750.
Tensions have heightened between Israel and both government and rebel forces on the Syrian side of the ceasefire line. Shells have landed in the Golan and have been exposed to gunfire. The Israeli military has returned fire, despite the urging of UNDOF that it refrain. In March 2014, after an explosion on the Israeli side of the area of separation injured four Israeli soldiers, the Israeli military fired artillery rounds and carried out airstrikes on Syrian military positions on the other side. Syrian authorities reported that two Syrian soldiers were killed and many more wounded. The UN Secretary-General referred to these events as “the most significant violation since the conclusion of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement.”
There were several more incidents in 2014, including firing from the Syrian side to the Israeli side and Israeli armed forces shooting down a Syrian air force aircraft in September. Israel claimed the aircraft had crossed the ceasefire line.
During periods of fighting near its area of operations, UNDOF communicates with Israeli and Syrian forces to relay information and prevent an escalation of the situation. Syrian forces told UNDOF that any rounds landing west of the ceasefire line are an inadvertent result of operations against rebels. The security situation has limited UNDOF’s ability to investigate claims by Israeli or Syrian forces of infractions.
As fighting increased around the Golan Heights, UNDOF reduced its activities and adopted heightened security measures. UNDOF supervises the area of separation primarily through static positions and patrols. The mission establishes temporary observation posts along the Israeli side of the ceasefire line, accompanied by Israeli liaison officers, but has been denied access to some positions. UN positions and observation posts in the southern part of the area of separation have been vacated temporarily due to the security situation. Inspections and mobile operations in the area of limitation on the Syrian side are also suspended.
Several countries contributing troops to UNDOF have decided to withdraw their personnel. In January 2013, Japan withdrew its troops due to the deteriorating security situation. In February, Croatia did the same, and in June Austria announced it would withdraw troops from the mission, saying the threat to its soldiers had reached “an unacceptable level.” The lost forces have been replaced by troops from Fiji, Nepal and Ireland. In September 2014, the Philippines also withdrew its troops.
The deep-seated tensions between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory of Gaza and the West Bank erupted into violence again in 2014 after fewer than 50 people were killed in 2013, a relative decline in casualties. Beginning in July 2014, fighting between Israel and Hamas resulted in the deaths of at least 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis. This occurred despite efforts by UN actors in the region to stem the violence. South of Gaza, violence and instability in the Sinai continued to hamper the work of peacekeepers.
UNTSO was the first peacekeeping mission deployed by the United Nations. Established in 1948, it is mandated to monitor ceasefires negotiated between Israel and its neighbors. UNTSO is headquartered in Jerusalem and maintains liaison offices in Beirut, Cairo and Damascus. The mission provides military observers and logistical and financial support to UNIFIL and UNDOF, as well as a small group of UNTSO observers in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Since June 2013, Michael Finn is heading UNTSO and also acts as chief of staff.
In May 2013, Syrian rebels detained three UNTSO members supporting UNDOF for several hours after a UN observation post was broken into. UNTSO military observers continued to work in Observer Group Golan despite the withdrawal of UNDOF peacekeepers from much of the Golan Heights in September 2014. The observers maintained nine observation posts on the Israeli side supporting UNDOF.
The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) seeks to mediate Israeli-Palestinian relations and mobilize technical, financial and other assistance to the Palestinian people. It carries out good office interventions and coordinates the actions of the UN Country Team and UN assistance to Palestinian state-building efforts. The mission reports on violations of international obligations and standards on both sides of the conflict. The breakdown of the Middle East peace process has left UNSCO unable to fulfill the mediation role at the heart of its mandate.
Special Coordinator Robert Serry maintains regular contact with key actors in the conflict, but his mandate does not allow for formal communication with Hamas. Serry has continued calls for a two-state solution and called on Israel to restore transfers of customs and tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority. Serry has regularly criticized new Israeli settlement activity as contrary to international law and an obstacle to peace.
In December 2013, Serry announced that Israel would resume the transfer of construction materials into Gaza for UN projects including schools and water facilities. He expressed support for a unified Palestinian government following the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah in April 2014, traveling to Gaza to meet newly appointed ministers. Serry has criticized deteriorating socioeconomic conditions in Gaza and condemned incidents of violence on both sides of the conflict.
Serry was closely involved with negotiations between Israel and Hamas during the 2014 Gaza conflict, including arranging a temporary humanitarian pause in July allowing assistance to reach people in Gaza. Serry also traveled to Egypt to discuss a ceasefire initiative. The UNSCO compound in Gaza was hit by shelling in late July 2014, damaging the building and UN vehicles. In August, Serry participated in indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas held in Cairo to negotiate a long-term ceasefire.
Since 2006, the EU Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS) has assisted the Palestinian Authority in building policing and criminal justice institutions. EUPOL COPPS trains police officers, prosecutors, lawyers, law students, and officials, through programs in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Europe. The mission has also donated equipment and facilities to police forces, and has discussed policy issues related to the police with Palestinian Authority officials. During 2013 and 2014, EUPOL COPPS arranged training programs for Palestinian police, organized a conference on rule of law issues, held a workshop on enforcing drug laws, gave traffic enforcement equipment to local police, and educated police on economic crimes, among other activities.
The EU Border Assistance Mission at Rafah (EUBAM Rafah) is mandated to provide a third-party presence at the Rafah crossing point between Egypt and Gaza. EUBAM Rafah suspended its operations in 2007 after Hamas took control of Gaza, but the EU continues to extend its mandate and is ready to reactivate the mission once political and security conditions allow. To do so, the mission must be invited by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Until January 2014, the EU also deployed a Special Representative (EUSR) for the Middle East Peace Process to promote final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian, and Israeli-Lebanese conflicts. However, the post, held by Andreas Reinicke, was abolished and its responsibilities were transferred to the European External Action Service.
An Israeli-Palestinian agreement established the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) in 1994 to promote stability and provide security for residents of Hebron, a city divided between Palestinians and Israelis. TIPH conducts monitoring and reporting on matters including violations of international law, harassment, improper ID checks or incidents of violence. In 2014, TIPH increased its presence in the Tareq Ibn Ziyad area of Hebron, an Israeli-controlled neighborhood that had seen increased tensions and clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.
TIPH regularly meets with local officials and also provides other assistance. In 2013 and 2014, this included building sports facilities, projects benefiting children in need, and a civil society capacity building program. The mission is coordinated by Norway. In September 2014, Geir Holmenes replaced Christine Fossen as TIPH head of mission.
Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel is under continued strain in the Sinai Peninsula. The Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai (MFO Sinai), established in 1981, consists of a military peacekeeping force and a twenty-person Civilian Observer Unit that monitors compliance with the treaty and related agreements. The mission has ground, sea, and air components. MFO, an independent international organization, itself became a target of violence when the security situation in the Sinai began to deteriorate in 2011. In March 2014, Denis Thompson was named MFO force commander.
With the breakdown in security, MFO observers have been alerting Egyptian and Israeli officials about the growing presence of armed non-state actors in the region. Bedouin gunmen and other militant groups have continued to fight against Egyptian security forces, a situation that has persisted since 2011. The Sinai has witnessed multiple car bombs and an attack that killed 25 Egyptian police officers in August 2013.
The mission’s movements have been restricted due to local threats and active military operations. In April 2013, armed men briefly detained one mission member. In June 2013, demonstrators demanding the release of tribe members imprisoned in Israel attempted to enter an MFO facility, surrounding it and causing damage around the perimeter.
During 2014, MFO’s area of operations saw increased militant activity including the use of improvised explosive devices and armed militant checkpoints. In January 2014, militants shot down an Egyptian military helicopter. Since that time, the mission has only conducted ground observations in northeast Sinai. In July and August, the Egyptian military’s activity increased in northeastern Sinai as the conflict flared in neighboring Gaza. This restricted MFO’s capacity to observe and verify in the area, but MFO did not find itself the target of direct threats or attacks during 2014.
In March 2015, a coalition of Arab states intervened in Yemen, targeting the Houthi rebel movement. Shortly thereafter, Jamal Benomar, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Yemen, resigned after nearly four years in post. Benomar headed a mission based in Sana’a with a small team of professional staff. Since former president Ali Abdullah Saleh ceded his office in 2012 as part of an internationally-backed transition plan, the mission has been tasked with supporting and implementing the agreement through engagement with Yemeni and regional actors. In 2013 and 2014, national dialogue talks were held, but deep divisions and
The national dialogue began in March 2013, four months behind schedule. The talks brought together leaders from across Yemeni society to reach a political settlement and pave the way for a new constitution and new parliamentary and presidential elections. The divide between north and south Yemen (formerly separate countries) remains strong, with some southern leaders rejecting dialogue and calling for secession. Benomar met with key figures from both sides and persuaded as many as possible to participate in the dialogue.
As the talks began, a civil disobedience movement demanding secession attracted large numbers of followers in the south. Benomar called on the transitional government to undertake confidence-building measures to address long-standing grievances in the south. He also accused members of the former regime of undermining political talks, including through a well-funded media campaign.
In December 2013, agreement was reached on creating a new federal state with special arrangements for southern representation. The national dialogue concluded in January 2014, but because the talks ran longer than initially planned, elections scheduled for February 2014 were postponed to 2015.
nce amongst armed groups and between state and non-state actors has persisted in Yemen. While Al-Qaeda has been driven out of regions in the south that it had controlled, it still carries out frequent operations. The group claimed responsibility for a December 2013 attack on a military hospital that killed at least 52 people. US drone strikes continue to attack targets in Yemen believed to be involved in terrorist activities. In August 2013, the prime minister survived an assassination attempt.
Armed groups have engaged in bloody clashes around the town of Dammaj in the north. A ceasefire negotiated by Benomar in November 2013 to stop the fighting and allow humanitarian assistance in the area fell apart within hours. Over 100 were killed in the fighting. Yemeni government forces have regularly clashed with rebels, including confrontations with members of the Houthi separatist group in June 2014. Fighting in Al Dhale governorate between government forces and opposition fighters grew fierce in late 2013. In February 2014, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned what she deemed “indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks” by Yemen’s armed forces in Al Dhale, where over 40 people were killed, including many civilians. Hospitals and schools were also hit by army shells.
In February 2014, the Security Council adopted resolution 2140 establishing a sanctions committee to implement travel bans and asset freezes against individuals or entities held to be obstructing or undermining the political transition in Yemen. In September 2014, this transition was severely undermined when Houthi rebels overran Sana’a and took control of the capital with little resistance from the military. Benomar brokered a peace deal designed to lead to the formation of a new government, but Houthi forces refused to agree to a withdrawal from Sana’a and remained in the capital. Fighting between Houthis, other tribes, and Al-Qaeda continued through 2014, eventually precipitating the Saudi intervention in late March 2015.Less...
Peace operations in the Middle East will continue to face adversity while large-scale conflicts rage. The UN must manage the risks to which peacekeepers and civilian staffers are exposed in conflict areas, while assuring that they play an effective monitoring and mediating role. The ability of missions to solve longstanding intricate conflicts in the region may be limited, but they can assist in the delivery of aid to those in need and facilitate dialogue between key players. Multilateral peace Read More...
Peace operations in the Middle East will continue to face adversity while large-scale conflicts rage. The UN must manage the risks to which peacekeepers and civilian staffers are exposed in conflict areas, while assuring that they play an effective monitoring and mediating role. The ability of missions to solve longstanding intricate conflicts in the region may be limited, but they can assist in the delivery of aid to those in need and facilitate dialogue between key players. Multilateral peace operations may have few tools, however, with which to address the rise of non-state actors like ISIL.Less...