Tiran, Strait of

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A strategic strait connecting the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.

The Strait of Tiran is barely 2.5 miles wide at one point; it provides narrow passage for ships traveling from the Red Sea to the Jordanian port of Aqaba and the Israeli port of Elat. Near the coast of the Sinai Peninsula at the mouth of the strait are several islands, including Tiran and Sanafir, that Saudi Arabia permitted Egypt to claim in 1949. Egypt subsequently asserted that its territorial waters extended across the strait, and closed the passage to ships bound for Elat on two occasions as part of its political and military conflict with Israel. The first instance, in the early 1950s, was one of the reasons for Israel's attack on the Sinai in 1956. The second blockade was established in May 1967 and precipitated the 1967 War. Israel occupied the islands and reopened the straits to its ships after the war. As a result of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979, the Strait of Tiran was recognized as an international waterway. Israel relinquished the islands to Egypt in 1982 as part of its withdrawal from the territories it had occupied in the Sinai in 1967.

see also suez crisis (19561957).


Drysdale, Alasdair, and Blake, Gerald H. The Middle East and North Africa: A Political Geography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

anthony b. toth