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1956: Jubilation as allied troops leave Suez
Crowds of Egyptians have poured onto the streets of Port Said to celebrate the withdrawal of British and French forces from Egyptian soil.

Yesterday's troop departure follows pressure from the United Nations and United States to end the armed occupation of the region which followed President Abdel Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal.

The demonstrations reached a peak this afternoon when a small detachment of the Egyptian Army marched into Port Said greeted by well-wishers waving the national flag and pictures of President Abdel Nasser.

Shouting "Long Live Nasser" and "Down with [British prime minister] Eden and [French PM] Mollet", demonstrators burned British and French flags.

King Hussein of Jordan has sent a message to President Nasser praising the "heroism" of the people of Port Said.

Allied forces completed their withdrawal by sunset yesterday to be replaced by a United Nations Emergency Force that has already handed over security responsibility to the Egyptian police.

The next tasks for the UN force are:

  • to complete clearance of the Suez Canal still blocked by wrecked ships,
  • to oversee withdrawal by Israel of the Sinai and the Gaza Strip,
  • to repair broken oil pipelines
  • and to set up a peacekeeping force on the Egyptian-Israeli border.

Although the French and British have bowed to US and UN pressure to abandon control of the Suez region, the military operation has strengthened the "entente cordiale" between France and Britain.

Speaking on BBC Radio, General Sir Charles Keightley, allied commander in chief, paid tribute to the spirit of his forces against stubborn fighting.

He stressed the "very close co-operation" between the three services and two nations' forces, and the "most spectacular" work done by the British and French Navies in clearing the canal so far.

The British withdrawal began yesterday at 1700 local time when The First Battalion The West Yorkshire Regiment and two companies of the Royal Scots moved to the quay at Port Said and boarded landing craft.

They were joined by a squadron of The 6th Royal Tank Regiment.

The last French troops left earlier yesterday afternoon from Port Fuad but not before a defiant march through the town with a military band playing.

During a ceremony aboard HMS Tyne, British naval commanders paid tribute to General Andrew Beaufre, deputy ground force commander, and other French officers.

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Suez Canal - 1956
The UN emergency force must now clear the canal of wrecked ships



In Context
The Suez crisis began in July 1956 when President Abdel Nasser angered British and French companies by nationalising the Suez Canal. He also blockaded the Straits of Tiran - Israel's main outlet into the Red Sea.

Britain and France joined forces with Israel to take control of Suez, although this alliance was denied for years afterwards.

US President Eisenhower and delegates at the United Nations feared the USSR would use the crisis as a way of gaining power in the Middle East and deflecting attention from its invasion of Hungary.

They put pressure on Britain, France and Israel to withdraw from Egypt. Israel withdrew from Sinai in March 1957.

As soon as the allies began to leave Egypt a UN emergency force took over to keep the peace and clear the Suez Canal of wreckage.

It was the first time the UN had created a peacekeeping force. UNEF remained on Egyptian soil patrolling the Egypt-Israel armistice demarcation line and the international frontier to the south of the Gaza Strip until 1967 when Egypt requested its withdrawal.

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