Throughout 1956, conflict increased between Israel and Egypt, with Israel launching frequent sorties into Egyptian territory and Egypt increasingly defending itself. Egypt, under the leadership of President Gamal Abdul Nasser, blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba and closed the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping. At the same time, Egypt nationalized the canal, a vital trade route to the east, in which British banks and business held a forty four percent investment. Throughout the nationalization process the Egyptians usurped title to the canal. They of course believed it was their right to do so. The British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, felt compelled to persuade the British public of the need for war and compared Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal with that of the industrial and commercial nationalization of businesses under Mussolini and Hitler twenty years earlier.