The first United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) was established by the United Nations General Assembly to secure an end to the Suez Crisis with resolution 1001 (ES-I) on 7 November 1956. The force was developed in large measure as a result of efforts by UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and a proposal and effort from Canadian Minister of External Affairs Lester B. Pearson, who would later win the Nobel Peace Prize for it. The General Assembly had approved a plan submitted by the Secretary-General which envisaged the deployment of UNEF on both sides of the armistice line; Egypt accepted receiving the UN forces, but Israel refused it. The first UNEF lasted until 1967. The UN General Assembly later established a Second United Nations Emergency Force in 1973 in response to the Yom Kippur War. UNEF II lasted until 1979.
The first UN military force of its kind, UNEF's mission was to:
UNEF was formed under the authority of the General Assembly and was subject to the national sovereignty clause, Article 2, Paragraph 7, of the U.N. Charter. An agreement between the Egyptian government and the Secretary-General, The Good Faith Accords, or Good Faith Aide-Memoire, placed the UNEF force in Egypt with the consent of the Egyptian government.
Since the operative UN resolutions were not passed under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the planned deployment of a military forces had to be approved by Egypt and Israel. Israel's Prime Minister refused to restore the 1949 armistice lines and stated that under no circumstances would Israel agree to the stationing of UN forces on its territory or in any area it occupied. After multilateral negotiations with Egypt, eleven countries offered to contribute to a force on the Egyptian side of the armistice line: Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, India, Indonesia, Norway, Sweden, and Yugoslavia. Support was also provided by United States, Italy, and Switzerland. The first forces arrived in Cairo on 15 November, and UNEF was at its full force of 6,000 by February 1957. The force was fully deployed in designated areas around the canal, in the Sinai and Gaza when Israel withdrew its last forces from Rafah on 8 March 1957. The UN Secretary-General sought to station UNEF forces on the Israeli side of the 1949 armistice lines, but this was rejected by Israel.
The mission was directed to be accomplished in four phases:
Due to financial constraints and changing needs, the force shrank through the years to 3,378 by the time its mission ended in May 1967.
On 16 May 1967, the Egyptian government ordered all United Nations forces out of Sinai effective immediately. Secretary-General U Thant tried to redeploy UNEF to areas within the Israeli side of the 1949 armistice lines to maintain a buffer, but this was rejected by Israel. In a decision that proved to be controversial, Thant acted to effect the Egyptian order without consulting either the Security Council or the General Assembly. Most of the forces were evacuated by the end of May, but 15 UNEF forces were caught in combat operations and killed in the Six-Day War, 5–10 June 1967. The last United Nations soldier left the region on 17 June.
Stationed in Gaza City.
Contributors of military personnel were: Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, India, Indonesia, Norway, Sweden, and Yugoslavia.