Egypt’s Nasser Dies
Nasser's funeral procession in Cairo, October 1970. Photo: Al-Akhbar

September 28, 1970

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser dies of a heart attack at age 52 after experiencing symptoms while returning from ceremonies marking the end of an Arab summit, in which he brokered a cease-fire between Jordan’s King Hussein and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. It is believed that Nasser’s death results from an accumulation of years of heart troubles, coupled with the stresses the Jordanian civil war put on him and his policy of pan-Arab nationalism.

Shortly before his death, Nasser took a chance by accepting American initiatives for peace and expressing his willingness to reach a settlement with Israel.

After leading the Free Officers Movement’s 1952 revolution against King Farouk, which put Muhammad Naguib in power, Nasser became Egypt’s prime minister in 1954 and, under a new constitution, its president in 1956. He worked to rid Egypt of the British, then maintain its freedom from foreign influence; to unite the Arabs, including forming a short-lived union with Syria; and to modernize Egypt. He was defeated by Israel, Britain and France in the 1956 war over control of the Suez Canal, but U.S. intervention restored Egypt to its pre-war position. He lost the Sinai to Israel in the June 1967 war after vowing to wipe out Israel and taking actions Israel considered acts of war, including closing the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. And he ordered continual fighting along the canal until 1970 during the War of Attrition.

Nasser’s vice president, Anwar Sadat, succeeds him as president.