To the policy makers in Britain, the Suez Canal was a vital link between Britain and its oil interests located in the Middle East. The company that had ownership rights to the canal was Anglo-French. In a 1936 Anglo-Egyptian 30-year treaty forced by the British, the British had the right to station troops in the canal zone.
Immediately after the second world war, the Egyptian government faced heavy pressure to revisit the terms of the treaty. This instability led to a coup in July of 1952. The coup was headed by Gamal Abdel Nasser, who did not take full power until two years later.
One of Nasser's goals was the ownership of the Suez Canal and the withdrawal of British troops from Egypt. Through diplomatic attacks on Britain, he was able to force a gradual withdrawal of British troops. Nasser wanted to build a damn on the Nile River. However, Egypt did not have the financial means to undertake such a task. Therefore, Nasser asked the British and the Americans for financial aid. Britain, angered over previous encounters with Egypt declined. So did the United States of America. This angered Nasser, who on July 26, 1956, nationalized the Suez Canal Company.
Two days after the nationalization, the U.S., Britain, and France froze all Egyptian assets in their respective countries. Britain also ordered the mobilization of 20,000 army reserves, and dispatched reserves to the eastern Mediterranean.
Immediately negotiations began hoping to bring some kind of peaceful ending. However, meetings were being held sub rose between France and Israel. France was pushing for Israel to attack Egypt. Under the terms in the 1954 Ango-Egyptian treaty, the British could reclaim the canal zone if either Egypt or the canal zone came under attack from a third country. Each of the three nations had there own reason to attack Nasser:
On October 29th, 1956, Israel attacked Egypt. On October 30th, British and French governments issued an ultimatum to both sides ordering them to clear their forces to 10 miles from either side of the canal. The Israelis accepted, the Egyptians did not.
British aircraft then bombed four Egyptian airfields on Halloween night, and nine more the next day. For the next five days, Britain and France came under heavy international pressure. On November 4th, Egypt and Israel agreed on a cease-fire, thus negating the need for other force in the area.