03/04/2014 07:28 EST | Updated 05/04/2014 05:59 EDT

Canadian Denis Thompson leads Sinai peacekeeping force

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

Canadian Maj.-Gen. Denis Thompson, who was a brigadier-general in the Canadian Forces prior to this new role, was sworn in as the new force commander of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) on Monday and will lead the team of about 1,600 army, air and naval troops for the next two years.

The MFO 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.

The CBC’s Sasa 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, has served in all three Royal Canadian Regiment Battalions, 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.