The Hejaz region of western Arabia is a protectorate of the Ottoman Empire, ruled by Sharif Hussein of Mecca. Hussein has been intriguing with the British and is seeking to establish himself as the leader of all Arabs in Arabia but also further north in Syria. For the moment he is not declaring his hand. His sons Faisal and Ali however are ready for action. Until recently Faisal had been effectively held as a hostage in Damascus, but he managed to persuade the Turks to let him return to the Hejaz. Now he and Ali attack the Turkish garrison in Medina.
The Arab rebels may have been hoping for a quick victory in Medina. If so they are quickly disappointed. The Turks in Medina greatly outnumber the rebels and are commanded by Fahreddin Pasha, a tough general accused by some of involvement in the persecution of the Armenians. His men brush off the Arabs’ attempt to seize Medina and then fight skirmishes with them outside the town.