Uracil arises in DNA by hydrolytic deamination of cytosine (C) and by erroneous incorporation of deoxyuridine monophosphate opposite adenine, where the former event is devastating by generation of C → thymine transitions. The base excision repair (BER) pathway replaces uracil by the correct base. In human cells two uracil-DNA glycosylases (UDGs) initiate BER by excising uracil from DNA; one is hSMUG1 (human single-strand-selective mono-functional UDG). We report that repair initiation by hSMUG1 involves strand incision at the uracil site resulting in a 3'-α,β-unsaturated aldehyde designated uracil-DNA incision product (UIP), and a 5'-phosphate. UIP is removed from the 3'-end by human apurinic/apyrimidinic (AP) endonuclease 1 preparing for single-nucleotide insertion. hSMUG1 also incises DNA or processes UIP to a 3'-phosphate designated uracil-DNA processing product (UPP). UIP and UPP were indirectly identified and quantified by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and chemically characterised by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation time-of-flight mass-spectrometric analysis of DNA from enzyme reactions using 18O- or 16O-water. The formation of UIP accords with an elimination (E2) reaction where deprotonation of C2' occurs via the formation of a C1' enolate intermediate. A three-phase kinetic model explains rapid uracil excision in phase 1, slow unspecific enzyme adsorption/desorption to DNA in phase 2 and enzyme-dependent AP site incision in phase 3.