Troops in the Suez Canal, 1956
deals with the Suez War of 1956. Please use the following
information, links and sources to learn more about the
Anglo-French attack on the Suez Canal and the Israeli
seizure of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
A brief summary of the
In 1956, three of the
Twentieth Century's most dominant forces came together in a
short, violent clash in the Egyptian regions known as the
Suez Canal and the Sinai Peninsula. These three forces, (or,
to use a literary term, themes), were: Nationalism,
the Cold War and the Arab-Israeli
conflict. Egypt and
other Arab nations had recently gained full independence
from the empires controlled by European powers such as Great
Britain and France. These young nations with ancient
cultures and histories strove to gain economic and military
sufficiency while asserting their political rights as free
peoples. The Cold War struggle between the mostly democratic
and capitalist West against the Communist East dominated by
the Soviet Union and China both helped and hindered the
Nationalist goals of many African and Asian countries. For
example, Egypt sought foreign aid in building the Aswan Dam
project which would control the wild Nile River. The United
States and Britain, major players in the West, declined to
help Egypt because of her political and military ties to the
Soviet Union. The Soviets eagerly rushed in to aid Egypt.
After this, Egypt came to be considered a friend of the
Soviets, and a nation not overly friendly to the West. In
this way, the Cold War affected the young nation of Egypt
and her relations with the rest of the world. The
Arab-Israeli conflict began in 1948 and caused Egypt and
Israel to be bitter foes until 1979. The second war between
these Middle East neighbors took place in 1956.
As part of Egyptian
President Nasser's nationalist agenda, he took control of
the Suez Canal zone away from the British and French
companies which owned it. At the same time, as part of his
ongoing struggle with Israel, Egyptian forces blocked the
Straits of Tiran, the narrow waterway that is Israel's only
outlet to the Red Sea. Israel
and Egypt had clashed repeatedly since their 1948 war as
Egypt allowed and encouraged groups of Palestinian fighters
to attack Israel from Egyptian territory. In response,
Israeli forces constantly made cross-border raids in
retaliation. Britain and France, both of whom were in the
process of losing their centuries-old empires, decided on a
strategy straight out of their 19th Century Imperial
histories. This plan led to a joint invasion and occupation
of the Suez Canal zone by Britain and France. This was meant
to reassert control of this vital waterway to the British
and French companies stung by Nasser's bold nationalization.
At France's suggestion, planning was coordinated with
Israel, a fact which all three nations denied for years
On October 29, 1956, Israeli
troops invaded Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and quickly overcame
opposition as they raced for Suez. The next day, Britain and
France, following their part of the script, offered to
temporarily occupy the Canal Zone and suggested a 10 mile
buffer on either side which would separate the Egyptian
forces from the Israelis. Nasser of course refused, and on
October 31, Egypt was attacked and invaded by the military
forces of Britain and France. In response to these
developments, the Soviet Union, which at the time was
ruthlessly suppressing an anti-Communist uprising in
Hungary, threatened to intervene on Egypt's behalf.
President Eisenhower of the United States pressured Britain,
France and Israel into agreeing to a cease-fire and eventual
withdrawal from Egypt. The United States, caught by surprise
by the dual invasions, was more concerned with the Soviet
war in Hungary and the Cold War than with Britain and
France's dealings involving Suez. The last thing President
Eisenhower wanted was a wider war over Suez. The war itself
lasted for only a week, and invading forces were withdrawn
within the month. As a result, Egypt now firmly aligned
herself with the Soviet Union, which armed Egypt and other
Arab nations for the continuing struggle against
Suez War Maps and
the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal region during the
Commander Moshe Dayan in the Suez Canal region during the
Hutchison Encyclopedia article on the Arab-Israeli
Reaction to the Suez War--Places
the Suez Crisis and War within the proper context of world
affairs at the time and explains America's
essay on the Suez Crisis written by University of San Diego
student Chris Leininger.
Suez War of 1956 : Table of Contents--
Part of the Jewish Student Online Research Center
Attack on the Suez Canal
Canal War (1956)--A
web page on French aviation details some of the French units
involved in the war.
Invasion of the Sinai
on the Anti-Defamation League website.
of the 1956 Sinai Campaign
by Nasser: Sept. 15, 1956--Nasser's
speech on the Suez Canal and negotiations with Britain and
Phillips, Charles, and Alan
of Wars. 1st ed. New
York: Facts on File, 2004.
Victory: Command Decisions in History's Shortest War:
Israel's Hundred-Hour Conquest of
New York, 1958.
Arab-Israeli Wars: War and Peace in the Middle East from the
War of Independence through Lebanon.
Vintage Books, New York, 1982.
Books, New York, 1980.
on British, French, Israeli, and Arab