Ugrás a tartalomhozUgrás a menüpontokhozUgrás a lábléchez

In the Desert, on the Beach

Szöveg: Béla Szabó |  2011. február 7. 8:00

Sand and stone deserts with temperatures above +40 Celsius degrees for most of the year, barren mountains and one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: this is the Sinai Peninsula. Hungarian peacekeepers have been serving for 16 years in this fascinating region which has seen so many wars.

The MFO (Multinational Force and Observers) was established on April 25, 1982 as a result of the peace talks brokered by President Jimmy Carter which ended with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister of Israel signing the Camp David Accords on September 17, 1978. This act put an end to almost three decades of hostilities between the two countries and set the framework for the conclusion of a Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel. Under the provisions of the Treaty, Israel agreed to withdraw its armed forces from the Sinai and at the same time three security zones were created on the peninsula and one in Israel (along the border).

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The MFO is responsible for supervising the implementation of the Treaty by monitoring and reporting military presence and movement within the security zones. The MFO peacekeepers also report crimes (eg. arms or drug smuggling, human trafficking) committed by civilians and take action against extremist Islamist groups and international terrorism. (In recent years, terrorists carried out several bomb attacks, of which the ones in Sharm el Sheikh’s Ghazala Garden Hotel and the tourist-packed city centre were the most serious, claiming 88 lives and wounding 150 people.)

The MFO is stationed in two camps (the North Camp in El Gorah, and the South Camp in Sharm el Sheikh) and operate 13 checkpoints and 19 observation posts. MFO also mans a number of temporary observation posts, carries out reconnaissance patrols and has a coastal patrol unit (CPU) ensuring freedom of navigation in the Straits of Tiran.
The Hungarian Defence Forces (HDF) joined the MFO mission in September 1995. On September 1, 2010 the 29th HDF troop rotation deployed to the Sinai. Members of the Hungarian contingent – 25 soldiers and 17 policemen – serve as liaison officers, officers on the Force staff and as military policemen (MP) in the FMPU (Force Military Police Unit). The FMPU maintains an orderly and safe atmosphere within the Force, executes convoy escort and event security tasks and provides personnel with escort duties for arms and ammunition transports. Furthermore, it carries out patrolling, criminal investigation, traffic investigation and traffic safety checks of MFO vehicles.

These days Hungarian peacekeepers perform their duties within the 3,000-strong MFO whose Force element has 12 troop contributing nations (the USA, Australia, the Czech Republic, Canada, France, Colombia, Fiji, Norway, Italy, Uruguay, New Zealand and Hungary).

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Since the security situation is constantly changing, in addition to the adaptation period prior to commencing their duties in the mission (tasks during this period include obtaining MFO driver’s licenses, target practice , convoy escort drills etc.), the troops of the 29th rotation draw on the assistance of US EOD technicians in receiving training in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to be followed in the event of IED attacks against convoys. In the early days of the mission the MFO peacekeepers were permitted to leave the base while off duty (for limited periods). Since the South Camp is close to Sharm el Sheikh, one of the most beautiful holiday resorts in the world, this was a great benefit. In recent years, the troops have not had the opportunity to go to Sharm el Sheikh owing to the deteriorating security situation. By way of compensation, the base has its own beach as well as sports facilities and a community centre for off-duty activities.

There are also several choices to relieve the demanding and often monotonous service at the Hungarian troops’ and policemen’s other base, the North Camp in El Gorah, a former military aerodrome in the desert where sports facilities, a swimming pool and the system of Contingent Clubs offer the troops opportunities for recreational activities.

One might be tempted to say that these bonuses make the mission “so easy", but it should be considered that the members of the MFO contingent do a one-year tour of duty in one of the most spectacular corners of the world at remote operational sites, performing regular, monotonous and frequently dangerous patrolling, observation and investigation. During the past 29 years of the MFO (including 16 years of Hungarian troop presence), every minute of the day the peacekeepers have had to be aware that their activity has been indispensable to the maintenance of the status quo in this dangerous region, and this will continue to be the case in the future

Photo: MFO-archive

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