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1956: Allied forces take control of Suez

British and French troops have seized control of two major ports in Egypt's Canal Zone and declared a ceasefire.

This evening, an official statement said Port Said was in allied hands and the town had suffered little damage.

There was a sense of relief at the United Nations headquarters in New York as the Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold announced the allies had accepted the terms of the UN ceasefire and had ordered troops to stop fighting.

The Israelis have also announced a ceasefire in the Sinai.

'Tough fighting'

At dawn today, French commandos sent over from Cyprus landed at Port Fuad and advanced south along the banks of the Suez Canal.

Yesterday, the British Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade, were brought into Port Said by naval helicopter.

They captured Gamil airfield after what Sir Charles Keightley, the allied commander-in-chief described as "some very tough fighting" with Egyptian troops armed with guns, mortars and tanks.

Allied casualties are reported to be light with 30 members of the 16th Parachute Brigade injured. Some 70 Egyptians soldiers have been killed.

Sunken ships block canal

Last week, the Soviet leader Nikolai Bulganin proposed sending his troops to the Middle East to restore peace to the region.

The suggestion was rejected in a statement issued by the White House as "unthinkable" and "an obvious attempt to divert world attention from the Hungarian tragedy".

The next major task for the allies is to restore order to the two ports and to clear the entrance to the Suez Canal currently blocked by ships sunk by the Egyptians.

The canal was nationalised on 26 July by Egypt's President Abdel Nasser after the US turned down a previous offer to fund a new dam at Aswan.

The move outraged the canal's Anglo-French owners as well as the British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, who has compared President Nasser to Adolf Hitler.

The present military action began on 29 October, when Israel invaded the Sinai.

British and French planes entered the fray two days later after President Nasser refused their offer of creating a buffer zone between Israel and Egypt.

They began by destroying most of the Egyptian air force on the ground.

In Context
President Abdel Nasser not only 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.

So 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 and a UN emergency force took over.

Britain failed to get control of Suez and this, along with condemnation by Commonwealth leaders of military action not sanctioned by the UN, led to the resignation of Anthony Eden in January 1957.

His successor, Harold Macmillan, was quick to restore damaged relations with the United States.

Israel finally withdrew from Sinai in March 1957 after receiving assurances from the US that it would have access through the Straits of Tiran.


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