In July 1956, after America and Britain had withdrawn their offers to help finance Egypt's Aswan dam project (8), President Nasser of Egypt summarily expropriated the Suez Canal Company (6). He promised to respect the 1888 convention guaranteeing free passage, but this promise was not trusted by the main canal users, partly because Egypt was already barring the canal to ships bound to or from Israel, with which it claimed to be still at war, in spite of the armistices that had ended the 1948-9 Palestine conflict. In September Egypt rejected an 18-nation proposal for an international régime for the canal.
In October Egypt, Syria and Jordan set up a joint military command aimed against Israel, which was also being both blockaded by all its Arab neighbours and harassed by raids across its borders. On October 29th the Israelis invaded Sinai, routing the Egyptian army, capturing many of the tanks and other arms that Egypt had lately bought from Russia, and swiftly advancing to points near the Suez Canal. Britain and France demanded that both belligerents cease fire and allow them to occupy key places along the canal. Egypt refused, and on November 5th British and French troops seized Port Said. Egypt blocked the canal by sinking ships in it. Only a few hours after the Port Said landing all four parties ceased fire. The United Nations Assembly demanded almost unanimously that Britain, France and Israel withdraw from Egyptian soil, and an international UN force (F) was sent to the canal and Sinai to help prevent further conflict. The British and French withdrew in December, the Israelis from most of Sinai in January, from the Gaza strip and the Gulf of Aqaba coast in March 1957. By April the UN had cleared the canal and it was in use again, and the UN force was stationed around Gaza, along the border line southward to Eilat, and near Sharm el Sheikh, at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, from which point Egypt had been blockading the Israeli sea route from Eilat southward.
In 1961 the UN force was still guarding the border, and had prevented both border raids and the blockading of Eilat. But Israeli cargoes were still barred from the Suez Canal.
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Publication information: Book title: An Atlas of African Affairs. Contributors: Andrew Boyd - Author, Patrick Van Rensburg - Author. Publisher: Praeger. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1962. Page number: 60.
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