With the Italian declaration of war on Great Britain in June 1940, the narrow Sicilian Channel in the Central Mediterranean became one of the most important bodies of water in the world. Through it, from north to south ran the shipping lanes from Italy to North Africa and, from west to east, the main British supply route to Malta.
"Central Mediterranean Sea Control and the North African Campaigns, 1940-1942,"
Naval War College Review: Vol. 37
, Article 9.
Available at: http://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/nwc-review/vol37/iss4/9