7 October 2016 – 26 February 2017
Tuesday – Sunday | 10-18
On July 26 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein, leader of the nationalist movement, made a speech in front of a cheering crowd in Alexandria announcing the nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company, a symbol of the British Empire in the Middle East.
The British government, led by Anthony Eden, were opposed to this act and colluded with France and Israel to intervene with military force. Israel occupied various positions in the Egyptian Sinai with 400 paratroopers, provoking Egypt to react. The Franco-British force destroyed the majority of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground. The UN called for a ceasefire between Egypt and Israel on November 5 and approved the sending of a peacekeeping force on the initiative of the USA, who were not informed of the Franco-British pact.
France and Britain, hoping for a significant result, launched an offensive against Port Said which led to the occupation of the Canal Zone.
The situation worsened. The USSR, which in those days was choking in the blood of the Hungarian Uprising, threatened to intervene on the side of Egypt. The United States, wishing to avoid a direct conflict with Moscow, forced the British to retreat.
While Israel left Sinai, the Gaza Strip and Sharm el-Sheikh, the British withdrew from the Canal Zone.
The Suez Crisis revealed the inexorable decline of Britain on the world stage as the influence of two power blocs arose. The United States consolidated its role as guarantor of order in the Middle East, identifying more and more with Israel’s position. The Soviet Union instead presented itself as a champion of the Arab cause.
The images come from the Photographic Archive of the Italian War History Museum.