Straits of Tiran

The Strait of Tiran and Tiran Island

The Straits of Tiran (Arabic: مضيق تيران Maḍīq Tīrān) are the narrow sea passages between the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas which separate the Gulf of Aqaba from the Red Sea proper. The distance between the two peninsulas is about 13 km (7 nautical miles). The Strait of Tiran is named after Tiran Island located at its entrance 5 or 6 km (3 or 4 mi) from the Sinai, on which the Multinational Force and Observers has an observation post to monitor the compliance of Egypt in maintaining freedom of navigation of the straits as provided under the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

Sanafir Island lies to the east of Tiran, southeast of the shallow strait between Tiran and Saudi Arabia.


International documents inconsistently refer to both the "Straits of Tiran" and the "Strait of Tiran". There are several passages formed by the islands between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The westernmost strait, between Egypt and the island of Tiran, overlooked by the Egyptian city Sharm el-Sheikh is the "Strait of Tiran", 5 or 6 km (3 or 4 mi) wide. It has two passages deep enough to be navigable by large ships. The Enterprise passage, 290 metres (950 ft) deep, is adjacent to the Egyptian side, while the 73-metre (240 ft) deep Grafton passage, surrounded by shallows, is to the east, nearer to the island of Tiran. To the east of Tiran, between it and Saudi Arabia, the other strait has reefs and shallows with a single channel 16 metres (52 ft) deep.[1]


Access to Jordan's only seaport of Aqaba and to Israel's only Red Sea seaport of Eilat is through the Gulf of Aqaba, which gives the Straits of Tiran strategic importance.[2][3] Despite this, according to Major General Indar Jit Rikhye, military adviser to the United Nations Secretary General, the accusation of a blockade was "questionable", pointing out that an Israeli-flagged ship had not passed through the straits in two years, and that "The U.A.R. [Egyptian] navy had searched a couple of ships after the establishment of the blockade and thereafter relaxed its implementation".[4]

In 1967, ninety percent of Israeli oil passed through the Straits of Tiran, making it a target of Egyptian blockade during the Arab League boycott of Israel.[5] Oil tankers that were due to pass through the straits were required to submit documents insuring their cargo was not destined for an Israeli port.[6][7]

However, Israel viewed the Straits of Tiran as a vital interest as it is where Israel received vital imports, mainly oil from Iran, and it threatened Israel's ability to develop the Negev.[8]

Bridge project

A project to build a 15-kilometre (9.3 mi) bridge across the straits, linking Egypt and Saudi Arabia, is under consideration by the Egyptian government (see Saudi–Egypt Causeway).[9]

See also


  1. Carl F. Salans (December 1968). "Gulf of Aqaba and Strait of Tiran: Troubled Waters". Proceedings. United States Naval Institute. 94 (56).
  2. Robert Priewasser, Tiran Island and Straits of Tiran. Unexplained Sovereignty over an Island in the Context of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Saarbrücken: Akademikerverlag, 2013)
  3. Oren, Michael B. (2002). Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515174-7.
  4. Rikhye, Indar Jit (1980). The Sinai Blunder: Withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force Leading to the Six-Day War of June 1967. London: Rutledge. ISBN 0-7146-3136-1.
  5. Shlaim, Avi; Louis, William Roger (13 February 2012). The 1967 Arab-Israeli War: Origins and Consequences. Cambridge University Press. p. 224. ISBN 978-1-107-00236-4. 90% of Israeli oil was imported through the Straits of Tiran
  6. Shlaim & Louis (2012), p. 27
  7. "Daily brief to the U.S president on 27 May 1967" (PDF). 27 May 1967. diverted as was a sister ship yesterday
  8. Bregman, Ahron (2013). Israel's Wars: A History since 1947. Taylor & Franci. p. 7. ISBN 1135687870.
  9. Najla Moussa (2 March 2006). "Bridge connecting Egypt, Saudi Arabia considered". Daily News Egypt. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
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Coordinates: 28°00′14″N 34°27′55″E / 28.00389°N 34.46528°E / 28.00389; 34.46528

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