The Sinai War 1956

[ 1956 ]

In early 1955, Egypt began sponsoring raids launched by fedayeen (Arab commandos or guerrillas) from the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, and Jordan, into Israel. As the number and seriousness of these raids increased, Israel began launching reprisal raids against Arab villages in Gaza and the West Bank of the Jordan. These retaliatory measures, which cost the lives of Arab civilians and did little to discourage the fedayeen, became increasingly controversial both within Israel and abroad. Shortly thereafter Israeli reprisal raids were directed against military targets, frontier strongholds, police fortresses, and army camps.

In addition to these incidents, which at times became confrontations between regular Israeli and Arab military forces, other developments contributed to the generally escalating tensions between Egypt and Israel and convinced Israeli military officials that Egypt was preparing for a new war. Under an arms agreement of 1955, Czechoslovakia supplied Egypt with a vast amount of arms, including fighter aircraft, tanks and other armored vehicles, destroyers, and submarines. The number of Egyptian troops deployed in Sinai along the Israeli border also increased dramatically in 1956. In July Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal; shortly thereafter Egypt closed the Strait of Tiran, at the southern tip of Sinai, and blockaded Israeli shipping.

Fearing these actions to be signs of an imminent Egyptian invasion, Israel rapidly mobilized its reserves. On October 29, under Major General Moshe Dayan, the IDF launched a preemptive attack into Sinai. Israeli advances on the ground were rapid, and, supported by air cover, by November 2 they had routed the Egyptian forces and effectively controlled the entire peninsula. With Israeli troops on the east bank of the Suez Canal, British and French troops landed at Port Said and demanded withdrawal of both sides from the Canal. The UN met in an emergency session and demanded that the British and French leave Suez, which they did in December 1956 in response to both United States and UN pressure, and that Israel withdraw to the Armistice line of 1949, which it did somewhat reluctantly in March 1957 after the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) had been stationed in the Gaza Strip and at Sharm ash Shaykh on the Strait of Tiran.

Israel's victory in the 1956 War (known in Israel as the Sinai Campaign) thus afforded it a modicum of increased security by virtue of the UN presence. Far more important, however, was that it enhanced Israel's standing as a military power and as a viable nation. Although many Israelis felt that the military victory was nullified by the UN demand to withdraw from Sinai, Israel had achieved significant psychological gains at a cost of fewer than 170 lives.

The decade after the 1956 War was the most tranquil period in the nation's history.


After President Gamal Abdul Nasser's seizure of the Suez Canal in July 1956, the British, French, and Israelis began coordinating an invasion. On October 29, 1956, the Israelis struck across Sinai toward the canal and southward toward Sharm ash Shaykh to relieve the Egyptian blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba. At the crossroads of Abu Uwayqilah, thirty kilometers from the Israeli border, and at the Mitla Pass, Egyptian troops resisted fiercely, repelling several attacks by larger Israeli forces. British and French forces bombed Egyptian air bases, causing Nasser to withdraw Egyptian troops from Sinai to protect the canal. At the heavily fortified complex of Rafah in the northwestern corner of Sinai and at other points, the Egyptians carried out effective delaying actions before retreating. Egypt vigorously defended Sharm ash Shaykh in the extreme south until two advancing Israeli columns took control of the area. At Port Said (Bur Said), at the north end of the canal, Egyptian soldiers battled the initial British and French airborne assault, but resistance quickly collapsed when allied forces landed on the beach with support from heavy naval gunfire.

The performance of many of the Egyptian units was determined and resourceful in the face of the qualitative and numerical superiority of the invaders. Nasser claimed that Egypt had not been defeated by the Israelis but that it had been forced to abandon Sinai to defend the canal against the Anglo-French attacks. According to foreign military observers, about 1,650 of Egypt's ground forces were killed in the campaign. Another 4,900 were wounded, and more than 6,000 were captured or missing.

<table class='table table-bordered col-lg-12 col-md-12 col-sm-12 col-xs-12 margin20 row-30' border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><tbody><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">State</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Entry</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Exit</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Combat Forces</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Population</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Losses</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Britain</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1956</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1956</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">2000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">56000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">20</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Egypt</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1956</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1956</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">300000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">37000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">3000</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">France</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1956</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1956</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">45000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">10</font></td></tr><tr><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">Israel</font></td><td width="16%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1956</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">1956</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">175000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">3000000</font></td><td width="17%"><font face="Arial" size="2">200</font></td></tr></tbody></table>

Total Casualties 3230 Killed and Wounded
Casualties Killed / Wounded
Military Casualties Killed 3230 /Wounded
Civilian Casualties Killed / Wounded
Belligerents Initiation Date Termination Date
Republic of Egypt and Israel 1956 / 10 / 29 1956 / 11 / 7 View
Republic of Egypt and United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1956 / 10 / 29 1956 / 11 / 7 View
Republic of Egypt and France 1956 / 10 / 29 1956 / 11 / 7 View

Related Conflicts

No Releted Conflicts