Following the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Jamal Abdul Nasser, France, Britain and Israel occupied this Canal along with Port Saeed and Islamiya. Before nationalization, the majority of the canal’s shares belonged to the British and French bankers, whilethe French and British aggression was faced with Russian and American opposition.
Abdul Nasser announced that the Egyptian people will persevere. Following a resolution issued by the UN, foreign troops withdrew from the occupied regions and a peace-keeping force was stationed on the Egyptian-Israeli border. The incident led to the resignation of Britain’s Prime Minister Anthony Eden, and was widely perceived as heralding the end of Britain’s era as a major international power. Nasser’s prestige, by contrast, soared within the developing world.
After it was opened to navigation in 1869, the 163 km (101 mi) Suez Canal measured 8 m (26 feet) deep, 22 m (72 feet) wide at the bottom, and 70 m ( 230 feet) wide at the surface. Construction began 10 years earlier and used special types of barges to dredge the canal so that the width and depth were kept uniform.
Suez Canal, artificial waterway running north to south across the Isthmus of Suez in northeastern Egypt; it connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez, an arm of the Red Sea. The canal provides a shortcut for ships operating between both European and American ports and ports located in southern Asia, eastern Africa, and Oceania.
The first canal between the Nile River delta and the Red Sea was excavated about the 13th century BC, possibly at the command of an Egyptian ruler, either Seti I or Ramses II. For long periods of time during the next 1000 years the canal was neglected, but several rulers at various times had it reexcavated or modified. All efforts to maintain it in good condition were finally abandoned in the 8th century AD. From time to time thereafter various proposals to dig a canal across the Isthmus of Suez were advanced, but no action was taken. In 1854 the French diplomat and engineer Vicomte Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps succeeded in enlisting the interest of the Egyptian viceroy Said Pasha in the project. In 1858 La Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez (Universal Company of the Maritime Suez Canal) was formed with authority to cut a canal and to operate it for 99 years, after which ownership would return to the Egyptian government. The company was originally a private Egyptian concern, its stock owned chiefly by French and Egyptian interests. In 1875 the British government purchased Egypt’s shares.
On July 26, 1956, shortly after the United States and the United Kingdom withdrew their offers to help finance the construction of the Aswan High Dam, the Egyptian government seized the Suez Canal in accordance with a decree of nationalization issued by President Jamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser announced that Egypt planned to use the proceeds from the operation of the canal to finance the dam. On October 29, 1956, Israel invaded Egypt. Two days later, British and French military units attacked Egypt for the announced purpose of ensuring free passage through the canal. In retaliation, Egypt sank 40 ships in the canal, effectively blocking it. Through the intervention of the United Nations (UN), a truce was arranged in November, and by the end of the year Israeli, French, and British forces were withdrawn from the area. Following removal of the sunken vessels by a UN salvage team, the Egyptian government reopened the canal in March 1957. In 1958 Egypt and its nationalized canal company reached agreement on terms of a financial settlement for the canal, and by 1962 final payments had been made to the original shareholders.