The UN’s Dubious Role in Keeping the Peace between Israel and Syria

At the end of last month, the UN Security Council passed a little-remarked-upon resolution renewing the mandate of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force on the Golan Heights (UNDOF) for the duration of 2018 and instructing this force to resume those operations that had ceased with the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. UNDOF, created in 1974 to police the demilitarized zone separating Israel and Syria in the wake of the Yom Kippur war, presided over several decades of relative peace along the Golan, but largely ceased its activities due to the fighting in the area. Upon its return, writes Assaf Orion, it faces new challenges:

Unlike in the past, the UN force will not encounter the standing Syrian army but rather a spectrum comprising military forces, local and foreign militias, and armed civilians. As noted in [a recent] UN report, the prohibition against any military or armed presence in the DMZ is violated blatantly today, both by the regime forces and by all of the rebel organizations, which are battling among themselves in the territory. The complete disarmament of the population will take a long time, if it is possible at all, and will affect UNDOF’s safety.

The patient entrenchment efforts of Iran and its proxies can be expected to take the form not of tanks and cannon but rather of the assimilation of foreign forces into the ranks of the Syrian army; the building of military infrastructure—particularly underground infrastructure—under the guise of civilian rehabilitation (e.g., building bomb shelters that are in fact bunkers) and embedding it in a populated environment; and intelligence activity and military patrols [masquerading] as “journalists,” “ornithologists,” “hunters,” “environmental activists,” “angry civilians,” [and the like].

Shooting incidents, minelaying, and improvised-explosive-device attacks from Syria into Israeli territory are also possible. As in Lebanon, the Syrian army will provide explanations, excuses, and justifications for any UN findings attesting to violations, and will naturally impede UN forces from gaining access to prohibited military targets on the pretext of maintaining law and order, privacy, or preventing disruption of the population’s day-to-day life and local customs. UNDOF will have a hard time verifying or refuting these allegations by its own means if the UN continues to refrain from collecting intelligence.

At the same time, west of the buffer zone, Israel can be expected to continue to be the butt of criticism about its “violations” of the agreement—mainly response fire into Syrian territory [when Israel is fired upon], the deployment of Iron Dome missile-defense systems on the Golan Heights and on the Poriyya Heights (overlooking Tiberias), . . . clashes with forces on the other side of the border, and negligible delays in the opening of gates to UN forces that are crossing the security fence.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Golan Heights, Hizballah, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, United Nations

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7