Suez Crisis: 65 years since Israel, Great Britain and France fought Egypt

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The period from October 29 to November 7 marks the 65th anniversary of the 1956 Suez Crisis, a conflict between Egypt, Great Britain, Israel and France over the vital waterway that had a significant geopolitical impact on the region and the western world.

The Suez Canal is one of the most important shipping routes in the world, connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and bypassing the long journey around Africa.
Until 1956, the canal was controlled by the Suez Canal Company, which in turn was mainly controlled by Great Britain and France. However, that changed when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized it.

Tensions between Nasser-led Egypt and the United Kingdom were high as the United Kingdom had supported the Nasser-overthrown monarchy and had close ties between Britain and Iraq, which Nasser believed threatened his ambitions to bring Egypt to the Bringing lace to the Arab world.

Cold War tensions also played a role, as Egypt was a non-aligned company and tried to maintain good relations with both the US and the Soviet Union. Egyptian support for Algerian rebels who fought against French colonial rule and cross-border raids between Israel and Egypt also played a role.

At this point a woman shouted from the balcony: “Kakh l’Natzer!” – “This also applies to the Egyptian Prime Minister Gamal Abdel Nasser”, who was cheered in Cairo after the Suez Canal Society announced on August 1, 1956. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

But money also played a role, as the money generated from traffic through the Suez Canal could be used by Nasser for other purposes.

Ultimately, in late July 1956, Nasser resumed nationalization and sent Egyptian troops to take control of the Canal, freeze Suez Canal Company assets and, most importantly, block Israeli shipping through the Canal and the Strait of Tiran.

What followed was a secret agreement between Britain, France and Israel. This agreement, known as the Sèvres Protocol, provides for Israel to invade the Sinai Desert and advance towards the Suez Canal. The next day Britain and France would demand that both Egypt and Israel withdraw and send troops the next day, on the pretext of restoring order to the region through Operation Revise.

On October 29, Israel launched Operation Kadesh, an offensive that targeted Sharm e-Sheikh, Arish, Abu Uwayulah and Gaza.

The offensive began when paratroopers were dropped near the Mitla Pass east of the canal. For the next few days the crimes continued and the Israeli forces saw victory after victory.

The Anglo-French ultimatum was issued on October 30th, and British and French troops arrived the next day.

The invasion soon proved to be a great success and the area was successfully occupied. As such, it was an overwhelming victory for the Israeli-Franco-British forces in terms of the military conflict.

Politically, however, it was an undisputed Egyptian victory.

International condemnation was strong after the invasion, and much of the international community stood firmly on Egypt’s side. Both the US and USSR condemned the actions of Israel, France and Britain, with the Soviets even threatening rocket fire against the three countries and sending troops to Egypt while the US exerted financial pressure on Britain. The Arab world had also reacted harshly and Saudi Arabia imposed an oil embargo on both France and Great Britain.

Eventually a ceasefire was announced and British and French troops withdrew from the region. Israel also withdrew, but remained successful in the crisis. The campaign was a military success and showed the strength of the IDF and also opened the Strait of Tiran. It also stressed that international mediators who want to bring peace to the Middle East are necessary so that no solution can be found if Israeli security needs are not met.

The crisis also led to the creation of the UN peacekeeping force.

But overall, the crisis cemented Egypt’s control of the Suez Canal and its position as the leader of the Arab world against Western colonialism.

Today the geopolitical situation has changed significantly, but the Suez Canal remains one of the most important waterways in the world.


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