From 1949 to 1956 the armed truce between Israel and the Arabs, enforced in part by the UN forces, was punctuated by raids and reprisals. Among the world powers, the United States, Great Britain, and France sided with Israel, while the Soviet Union supported Arab demands. Tensions mounted during 1956 as Israel became convinced that the Arabs were preparing for war. The nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt's Gamal Abdal Nasser in July, 1956, resulted in the further alienation of Great Britain and France, which made new agreements with Israel.
On Oct. 29, 1956, Israeli forces, directed by Moshe Dayan, launched a combined air and ground assault into Egypt's Sinai peninsula. Early Israeli successes were reinforced by an Anglo-French invasion along the canal. Although the action against Egypt was severely condemned by the nations of the world, the cease-fire of Nov. 6, which was promoted by the United Nations with U.S. and Soviet support, came only after Israel had captured several key objectives, including the Gaza strip and Sharm el Sheikh, which commanded the approaches to the Gulf of Aqaba. Israel withdrew from these positions in 1957, turning them over to the UN emergency force after access to the Gulf of Aqaba, without which Israel was cut off from the Indian Ocean, had been guaranteed.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.