Another turning point for Nasser came in February 1955 when he became convinced that Egypt had to arm to defend itself against Israel. This decision put him on a collision course with the West that ended on the battlefields of Suez a year later. In February 1955, the Israeli army attacked Egyptian military outposts in Gaza. Thirty-nine Egyptians were killed. Until then, this had been Israel's least troublesome frontier. Since the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egypt's leaders, from King Faruk to Nasser, had avoided militant attitudes on the ground that Israel should not distract Egypt from domestic problems. Nasser made no serious attempt to narrow Israel's rapidly widening armaments lead. He preferred to spend Egypt's meager hard currency reserves on development.
Israel's raid on Gaza changed Nasser's mind, however. At first he sought Western aid, but he was rebuffed by the United States, France, and Britain. The United States government, especially the passionately anticommunist Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, clearly disapproved of Egypt's nonalignment and would make it difficult for Egypt to purchase arms. The French demanded that Egypt cease aiding the Algerian national movement, which was fighting for independence from France. The British warned Nasser that if he accepted Soviet weapons, none would be forthcoming from Britain.
Rejected in this shortsighted way by the West, Nasser negotiated the famous arms agreement with Czechoslovakia in September 1955. This agreement marked the Soviet Union's first great breakthrough in its effort to undermine Western influence in the Middle East. Egypt received no arms from the West and eventually became dependent on arms from the Soviet Union.