Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Tuesday, 6 May 2008 17:08 UK

1956: The Sinai campaign

British boats landing during the Suez Crisis
British boats landing during the Suez Crisis


While it was absorbing thousands of immigrants (the concept of the kibbutz, the communal farm, was becoming familiar to the outside world), Israel was also facing external threats.

In 1956 it decided to act against Palestinian guerrilla incursions from Egypt and to try to remove an Egyptian blockade of its port of Eilat.

A secret agreement was drawn up with Britain and France, which were planning to invade Egypt to regain control of the Suez Canal.

An Israeli attack into the Egyptian Sinai desert would be used as a pretext for a Franco-British intervention under the guise of separating the warring parties.

Israel's attack was successful. However, the British and French were forced to withdraw under US and Soviet pressure and the plan unravelled. Israel then had to pull back itself.

The war had shown the strength of the Israeli army and, in particular, of its armoured forces, and that Israel would use the principle of attack as a means of defence.

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