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Updated: Tue, 04 Mar 2014 10:19:52 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Canadian Denis Thompson leads Sinai peacekeeping force



Thompson has moved from Ottawa to take command of the MFO. He was formerly in charge of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command which includes the elite JTF2. Saša Petricic/CBC

Thompson has moved from Ottawa to take command of the MFO. He was formerly in charge of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command which includes the elite JTF2. Saša Petricic/CBC

A Canadian general has been put in charge of a team of military observers in the violent border region between Egypt and Israel.

The CBC's Sasa Petricic was the only Canadian reporter at Canadian Maj.-Gen. Denis Thompson's swearing-in ceremony on Monday, and just the second reporter to ever visit the base.

Thompson, who was a brigadier-general in the Canadian Forces prior to this new role, will be the force commander of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) for the next two years.

The MFO — a team of about 1,600 army, air and naval troops — was created in 1981 as part of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, and its role is to keep the peace in the area.

Petricic reports that the force is spread along the border between Egypt and Israel on the east side of the Sinai Peninsula. Not many people live in the rough, arid area, but several groups of militants, including Bedouin fighters and Palestinian and Islamist fighters, are active in the region.

The MFO soldiers, including 31 Canadians, have dug into positions surrounded with barb wire. Soldiers from Canada have served in the Sinai since 1985 as part of the Canadian Forces’ Operation Calumet. The force is there to observe what’s going on, but they also have to protect themselves.

Thompson previously worked as the commander of Canada’s secretive Joint Task Force 2 and he was NATO’s commander of Task Force Kandahar in 2008.

Off the battlefield, he also worked in Ottawa for some time, something Petricic suggested will help him negotiate the political sensitivities surrounding working in the Middle East hot spot.

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