War of 1956
page 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
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
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
Troops in the Suez Canal, 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 afterwards.
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
Maps and Pictures:
of the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal region during the 1956
Commander Moshe Dayan in the Suez Canal region during the 1956
Hutchison Encyclopedia article on the Arab-Israeli Wars.
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 reactions.
essay on the Suez Crisis written by University of San Diego student
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 Egypt.
Morrow, 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.
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