The UN Security Council has unanimously approved the first-ever “offensive” UN peacekeeping force to fight rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The 3,000-strong UN brigade has a unique mandate to carry out offensive operations to neutralize or disarm the rebels.
However, the UN resolution on March 28 says the "intervention brigade" would be established for one year on an exceptional basis “without creating a precedent” for the principles of UN peacekeeping.
M23 rebels and armed groups from neighboring countries have taken over large areas of eastern Congo.
An estimated 500,000 people have fled their homes since the M23 rebels began an offensive in April last year.
Rwanda and Uganda have been accused of backing the M23 rebel forces, who briefly captured the provincial capital, Goma, in November.
PHOTO GALLERY: Seven decades of UN peacekeeping
A UN commander in the Congo greets a youngster during his tour of an outpost in 1960. The UN mission there continued until 1964, during which time it evolved from being a peacekeeping presence into a military force.
Two UN soldiers patrol a shopping area of the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, in April 1964. UN troops were deployed on the island to prevent intercommunal violence between ethnic Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Austrian soldiers raise the UN flag on Mount Hermon in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel following the withdrawal of Israeli forces in 1974. It remains the highest manned UN position in the world today.
U.S. Marines clear rubble from their bombed headquarters in Beirut in October 1983. U.S. and French peacekeepers were bombed on the same day in attacks later claimed by Hezbollah. Altogether, 241 U.S. servicemen and 58 French troops were killed in the bombings.
Polish UN peacekeepers taken captive by Bosnian Serbs are chained to a radar station and kept under guard near Sarajevo on May 30, 1995.
Residents of Sarajevo take cover from sniper fire behind a United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) armored vehicle during the siege of the Bosnia-Herzegovinian capital in 1993.
One of the posts of Dutch UN troops near the Muslim enclave and UN safe area of Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina before Serb forces brushed aside the peacekeepers, overran the zone, and killed thousands of its male inhabitants in July 1995
A French commander shakes hands with Bosnian rugby players before a friendly game betwen UN peacekeeping forces and a local team some years after the Balkan conflict.
A UN peacekeeper stands at the entrance of the Kibeho camp in Rwanda in May 1994 after thousands of pro-peace Hutus were slaughtered by government troops. The UN was heavily criticized for not doing more to prevent the mass killings that occurred in Rwanda during this period.
Portuguese members of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) are accompanied by a group of local children as they conduct a security patrol in the Becora district of Dili in March 2000.
A human skull next to a United Nations helmet found in Sierra Leone. The UN peacekeeping operation in the country ran from 1999 to 2005 and its mission mandate was notable for allowing troops to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.
UN forces take part in an official ceremony to mark the launch of a UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast in 2004.
Pakistani soldiers receive the UN medal of recognition for their contribution to the United Nations mission in Haiti.
A former Liberian soldier shouts in front of a Nigerian UN peacekeeper during an antigovernment demonstration concerning wage arrears in Monrovia in February 2007.
UN peacekeepers stand atop their armored vehicle on a patrol near Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The United Nations' failure to have any significant impact on security in the war-torn country has prompted a new draft resolution to allow UN troops to use proactive force.
Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters