Monday, March 8, 2010

Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai.


Multinational Force and Observers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) is an international peacekeeping force overseeing the terms of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

On March 26, 1979 the Camp David Accords were signed by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat under the sponsorship of United States President Jimmy Carter.
Following the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, the United Nations was asked to provide the peacekeeping forces for the Sinai Peninsula mandated in the treaty. The terms of the treaty required the presence of international peacekeepers to ensure that both Israel and Egypt kept to the provisions regarding military build-up along the border. [1]
Initially, the peacekeeping force was provided by the US Sinai Field Mission, while efforts were made to create a UN force.
On May 18, 1981 the President of the UN Security Council indicated that the UN would be unable to provide the force, due to the threat of a veto of the motion by the USSR at the request of Syria.

As a result of the UN Security Council impasse, Egypt, Israel and the United States opened negotiations to set up a peacekeeping organization outside the framework of the UN. On August 3, 1981, the Protocol to the Treaty of Peace was signed, establishing the Multinational Force and Observers.[1]


The mission of the MFO is:
" supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace and employ best efforts to prevent any violation of its terms." [2]
This is accomplished by carrying out four tasks:
  • Operating checkpoints, observation posts and conducting reconnaissance patrols on the international border as well as within Zone C,
  • Verification of the terms of the peace treaty not less than twice a month,
  • Verification of the terms of the peace treaty within 48 hours, upon the request of either party,
  • Ensuring freedom of international marine navigation in the Strait of Tiran and access to the Gulf of Aqaba
Over the three decades that the MFO has carried out its mission it has proven a highly successful force. The desire for peace on the part of both Egypt and Israel, combined with the effectiveness of the MFO, has resulted in a durable and lasting state of peace between these two nations.[3]


The MFO has its main headquarters in Rome, where it is headed by the Director-General. It also has two regional offices, in Tel Aviv and Cairo, while the Force itself is based in Zone C on the Sinai Peninsula, under the command of the Force Commander.
The Force Commander is responsible for the military elements of the MFO, which comprise:
  • Headquarters
  • Three infantry battalions (FIJIBATT, COLBATT and USBATT)
  • Support Battalion (Formerly the Logistical Support Unit)
  • Coastal Patrol Unit (CPU)
  • Rotary Wing Aviation Unit (AVCO)
  • Fixed Wing Aviation Unit (FWAU)
  • Transport and Engineering Unit (TREU)
  • Military Police Unit (FMPU)
  • Flight Following (Air Traffic control) Unit
The Observer contingent of the MFO is made up of civilians seconded to the peacekeeping force. The observers are mostly retired US military and State Department personnel.

States involved

The personnel for these come from a total of eleven states:
  •  Australia - 25 personnel based at Force HQ (departing in 1986 and returning in 1993 replaced in the interim by a contingent from the United Kingdom) [4]
  •  Canada - 28 personnel within the Force and Contingent HQs in addition to the Operations, Liaison, V.I.P. Visit Office, Air Traffic Control, Transport, Support and Personnel Branches [5]
  •  Colombia - Infantry battalion (COLBATT) - 358 personnel
  •  Fiji - Infantry battalion (FIJIBATT) - 329 personnel
  •  France - 15 personnel based at Force HQ and with the fixed wing unit
  •  Hungary - Military Police Unit - 41 personnel
  •  Italy - Coastal Patrol Unit with 75 personnel and 4 ships: ITS Vedetta, ITS Sentinella, ITS Staffetta and ITS Esploratore
  •  New Zealand - 27 personnel divided between support battalions and Training and Advisory Team
  •  Norway - 6 personnel based at the Force HQ[6] including the Force Commander as of 12 October, 2007 - Major General Kjell Narve Ludvigsen[7]
  •  United States - The US contributes three units collectively known as Task Force Sinai[8] :
    • Force HQ - 40 personnel
    • Infantry Battalion (USBATT - drawn from National Guard units)- 425 personnel currently members of the Kansas Army National Guard
    • Support Battalion - 235 personnel consisting of:
      • Headquarters
      • Medical Company consisting of Dental, Medical, Physical Therapy, Veterinarian, and Preventative Medicine.
      • Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment (EOD)
      • Aviation Company
  •  Uruguay - 87 personnel with Transport and Engineering Unit
  •  Netherlands - Until 1995 provided Military Police and a Communications Squadron and were replaced by Hungary



Military personnel serving with the MFO wear national military dress appropriate to the climatic conditions of the Sinai. In the case of the U.S. Army, the Sinai saw the first use of the desert version of the Battle Dress Uniform, the six-color Desert Battle Dress Uniform which would later be worn during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, then the three-color Desert Combat Uniform - currently the US Army wears the standard Army Combat Uniform (ACUs). Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, Hungary, New Zealand and Norway have all developed or adopted their own desert uniform for use in the Sinai and elsewhere. All contingents wear national flags or crests to identify their country of origin.

MFO crests are sewn on uniforms to identify the wearer as a member of the force. All military members of the force wear a terracotta-colored beret or bush hat. Terracotta-colored helmet covers are provided for soldiers wearing field gear and/or body armor. Some contingents, such as Colombia, also wear terracotta neck scarves when on parade. During the eighties a terracotta-colored "ranger" patrol hat was also in use, but was discontinued by the 1990s.
The terracotta beret is unique to the MFO and was selected to show that the force is not a United Nations peacekeeping force. UN peacekeeping forces wear a distinctive light blue beret. An MFO badge is also worn on the beret, a metal badge for commissioned officers, and cloth badge for non commissioned officers.

 Civilian observers

The 15 civilian observers employed by the MFO wore highly visible orange coveralls while carrying out their treaty verification duties until the arrival of US Foreign Service Observer Harry Holland in 2002, when he affected a change to bright orange shirt worn with khaki trousers, now used on all ground verification missions. The orange shirts have since been replaced by black polo shirts.


Peacekeepers who complete a tour of service in the Sinai of six months are authorized their first Multinational Force and Observers Medal. These are commonly presented at contingent medal parades. Each six-month tour after that authorizes the wearer to place a number on their ribbon (beginning with the number "2"). Civilians employees of the Force are authorized to wear the MFO Civilian Medal[9] for the same terms of service as peacekeepers. Finally there is the Director General's Award [10], which is presented to both peacekeepers and civilians for outstanding service or action on behalf of the MFO. Other awards for service or merit are in accordance with the practices and traditions of the individual contingents.


January 1982
Approximately 160 soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina were deployed to the Sinai. The mission of this augmented company size unit was to establish support facilities in preparation for the upcoming arrival of the infantry battalions to monitor the peace. This was not a typical US Army logistical company. Initially those who deployed were required to wear civilian clothing, due to the security threat. They arrived in the middle of the night and were bussed to Etam, Air Base, Israel. This Air Base would later be renamed El Gorah after the April 25, 1982 transfer of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. These soldiers were to prepare to assume the mission of the Sinai Field Mission. The goal was to establish a command structure, fixed and rotary aircraft support, parts support, water and petroleum supply, medical, logistics for the Multinational Force which would later assume the mission.
Upon arrival they were initially housed in several buildings which were in existence as part of Etam Airbase. It was several months before permanent buildings were in place.
March 1982
Australian and New Zealand military aviation units assemble and are deployed into the region on March 20, 1982, as the Rotary Wing Aviation Unit.
April 1982
The MFO assumed its mandate on April 25, 1982, the day Israel handed over sovereignty of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. In 1995 the United States experimented with a composite battalion consisting of National Guard soldiers from Virginia and Maryland, and Regular Army soldiers from the 82d Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). In April 2006, the US Third Army, in its role as Central Command's Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) assumed command of the 1st Corps Support Command (1st COSCOM) from the XVIII Airborne Corps. Under US Army reorganization, the 1st COSCOM has been re-designated as the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater). Since January 2002, the United States has been supplying National Guard Infantry battalions.
February 1984
MFO Director-General Leamon Hunt is assassinated in Rome while sitting in his chauffeur-driven armored car, outside the gates of his private residence. The assassins poured automatic weapon fire into the reinforced rear window until they were able to penetrate the glass and strike the director-general in the head. Credit for the assassination was claimed by Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Faction the Red Brigade.
Later that same year, American pilot Chief Warrant Officer Two Charles N. Hurt and two other crew members were killed on a UH-1 Iroquois test flight outside South Camp.[citation needed]
March 1985
Due to the imminent end of the four year Australian MFO commitment in April 1986, the governments of Israel, Egypt and the United States invited Canada to provide a contingent. Canada agreed to replace Australia in the MFO and to supply a helicopter squadron, staff officers and a flight following section of air traffic controllers totally 136 military personnel. The Canadian Contingent (CCMFO) was brought on strength of the Canadian Forces on September 26, 1985.[11]
December 1985
On December 12, 1985, a chartered Arrow Air DC-8 with two hundred and forty eight returning members of the US 101st Airborne Division and eight flight crew crashed into the cold, damp landscape at the end of runway 22 at Gander International Airport in Gander, Newfoundland, with no survivors. The 101st was rotating home from a tour of duty with the MFO. The accepted theory is that the crash was caused by ice accumulation on the leading surfaces of the wings, but debate and speculation still rages that the crash may have resulted from some type of incendiary device placed on the plane.
April 1986
The Australian contingent, consisting of staff officers and a helicopter squadron who were members of the initial deployment, withdrew in the course of their government's reduction of its peacekeeping commitments. They were replaced by the CCMFO Canadian Rotary Wing Aviation Unit, equipped with nine CH135 Twin Hueys, staff officers and flight following. The CCMFO was operational at El Gorah on March 31, 1986. Canadian tactical helicopter units rotated to El Gorah for six month tours of duty. The primary units proving military personnel were 408, 427 and 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadrons and 403 Squadron Helicopter Operational Training Squadron.[12]
December 1989
A Canadian CH-135 helicopter on a maintenance test flight crashes one mile north of El Gorah. Both crew members are injured, one seriously.
March 1990
After four years with the MFO, the Canadian helicopter squadron was withdrawn. This was due primarily to Canada accepting a new commitment to send a helicopter squadron to Central America with a UN peacekeeping force. This left 28 Canadian Staff and Air Traffic Controllers in the flight following role with the MFO, a commitment which continues to the present day. Due to the Canadians departure, the US split their rotary wing unit between South and North camps.
January 1993
The Australians, who had been replaced by a British contingent, returned to the mission, and the British contingent withdrew.
August 1994
Australian MFO contingent members were involved in a hit-and-run accident that they failed to report. The incident[13] came to light when one of the vehicle passengers, army Staff Sergeant David Hartshorn, reported it after he'd been returned to Australia. Prima facie evidence of the incident was established and included in a formal inquiry by the Australian Government.[14]
January 1995
The 4-505 PIR assume duties as USBATT. This battalion is composed of Reservists and National Guardsmen in addition to active duty soldiers. The US Army used this group as a test to see if reservists could take over the mission in the future.
September 1995
A Hungarian contingent arrived to serve as the Force Military Police Unit. The Hungarians replaced the Dutch contingent, and as well as military police include two members of the Force staff, a doctor and a liaison officer.

June 2004
The 1-114th Infantry (Sentinals) of the NJ Army National Guard assumed duties of the USBATT MFO 47 under the command of LTC Tommie O. Bellamy. While on deployment, the battalion was the first Army National Guard unit to win the Multinational Forces and Observer's Force Skills Competition. The competition is a military skills event. The New Jersey Guardsmen competed against soldiers from Columbia, Fiji, Australia, Britain, France, Hungary, Italy and New Zealand in events including an obstacle course, five-kilometer run, land navigation and first aid knowledge.[citation needed]
January 2005
The most experienced civilian observer in the history of the MFO, Tony Puccini (retired US Navy Commander), with over 10 years and 10 months service to the MFO Civilian Observer Unit (COU) in the Sinai, was presented with the Director General's Award.
August 2005
An MFO vehicle carrying two members of the Canadian contingent was badly damaged, the results of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack. The Canadians were only slightly injured.
January 2006
The 1-124th Cavalry assumed duties as the USBATT contingent. The 1-124th CAV is part of the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard. Units that were pulled together to complete the manning for the mission include elements of the 1-112th Armor and 3-112th Armor.
February 2006
MFO assisted Egyptian authorities in the search and rescue operation for the ferry boat El Salam Boccaccio 98 which sank on 3 February 2006 in the Red Sea. The ferry was enroute to Safaga from Dubaï, Saudi Arabia, with 1400 passengers on board. Italian Coastal Patrol Unit Ships patrolled for more than 90 hours in severe weather conditions. Eight passengers were rescued by MFO vessels "Vedetta" and "Sentinella".
April 2006
A suicide bomber attacked an MFO vehicle as it was driving along route Mike northbound from the North Camp base at El Gorah to the Rafah border crossing. Inside the vehicle was a Norwegian Liaison Officer and a New Zealand driver and two Egyptian officials. The vehicle was damaged, but there were no casualties besides the bomber himself. Half an hour later, a second bomber attacked an Egyptian police vehicle in the same area, with similar results.
May 2007
A French Air Force de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft on duty with the MFO Fixed Wing Aviation Unit crashed in the middle of the peninsula, 80 km south of the town of Nakhl. Eight French and one Canadian passengers and crew were killed. The aircraft reported trouble with one engine and was attempting an emergency landing on a highway when it struck a truck. It crashed and exploded moments later. The driver of the truck escaped unharmed.[16]
The aircraft was operated by the French Air Force as their contribution to the MFO. It made regular flights between the two main MFO bases at El Gorah and Sharm el-Sheik, as well as conducting observation missions as part of the MFO's mandate.
December 2008
The Czech Republic and the MFO announced that the Czechs have entered negotiations to contribute three staff officers to the Force as part of a new, permanent Czech Contingent. This proposed addition to the MFO is part of the Czech Republic's strategic plan to become more involved in foreign operations and is subject to parliamentary approval.

Sinai Peacekeeping Zones

The Sinai Peninsula
Article 2 of Annex I of the Peace Treaty called for the Sinai Peninsula to be divided into zones. Within these zones, Egypt and Israel were permitted varying degrees of military build-up:
  • Zone A: Between the Suez Canal and Line A. Egypt is permitted a mechanized infantry division with a total of 22,000 troops in Zone A.
  • Zone B: Between Line A and Line B. Egypt is permitted four border security battalions to support the civilian police in Zone B.
  • Zone C: Between Line B and the Egypt-Israel border. Only the MFO and the Egyptian civilian police are permitted within Zone C.
  • Zone D: Between the Egypt-Israel border and Line D. Israel is permitted four infantry battalions in Zone D.
Within Zone C there are two main installations:
In addition there are thirty smaller sites at various points within Zone C. One remote observation post (OP 3-11) is located offshore on Tiran Island, requiring resupply by air or sea.

Zone C

Zone C is subdivided into sectors, each controlled by a Sector Control Center. The sectors are numbered from north to south and assigned:
  • Sectors 1 and 2 - Fijibatt
  • Sectors 2 and 4 - Colbatt
  • Sectors 5, 6 and 7 - USbatt.[18]


Life in the Sinai

Maintaining a good quality of life for MFO members in the Sinai is difficult, due to the remoteness and desolation of the region as well as more recent security concerns. Gym facilities, clubs, medical facilities, libraries and exchanges are provided at both North Camp and South Camp.[19] In addition, North Camp possesses a pool while South Camp boasts Herb's Beach, a section of the Red Sea coastline where it is possible to snorkel just a few feet into the water and see a variety of tropical fish.
The Force has its own magazine, the bimonthly and bilingual Sandpaper. Published in English and Spanish it is produced by the Press and Visits Office[20]. Sporting events are held at both camps. Members are encouraged to take trips to Israel and Egypt, usually in organized trips. In the Sinai there are also trips to Mount Sinai, Luxor, Cairo, Jerusalem, and other various sites within Egypt and Israel. A television and radio system also service North Camp and South Camp.[19]
There are venues for live shows at both camps and the U.S. organization Armed Forces Entertainment provides a variety of bands, dancers and other acts to keep the troops entertained.
At remote sites, which might house only a dozen peacekeepers, the quality of life is harder to maintain. During tours at remote sites peacekeepers have access to the internet, are provided with workout equipment and are permitted mascots. Mascots are not allowed at the main camps, even though a veterinarian is available to maintain the health of the animals, which are almost always dogs.
After the original inception of the MFO routine travel to al-Arish, Sharm el Sheikh and a beach facility near the Gaza Strip were restful getaways but recent security concerns over possible Hamas activity has changed that. Similarly, a bicycle competition known as the Tour de Sinai which had begun in 1985 had gone by the wayside in recent years.

 Further information

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