30/3/1917 Faisal eyes up Syria

The revolt in western Arabia has taken over much of the Hejaz region. British aid is flowing in through coastal ports. Emir Faisal is now trying to turn his tribal host into something approximating to a modern army. He has recruited Arab officers captured as prisoners of war from the Turks to provide the nucleus of an officer corps for his army. Many of these are natives of Mesopotamia and had a prior involvement in secret Arab nationalist organisations.

The Turks retain one outpost in the Hejaz, the city of Medina. Fahreddin Pasha holds this for the Ottoman Empire and is determined not to abandon it. His garrison is too strong for the rebels to attack him there. While they have attacked the railroad to Medina, the rebels have not been able to completely sever Fahreddin’s supply lines.

With Medina unassailable, Feisal now begins to think of expanding his operations elsewhere. Perhaps the time has come for the rebels to start moving northwards into Syria.

image sources:

Arab troops (Wikipedia)

The Medina railroad (Wikipedia)

20/2/1917 Attacking the Medina railroad

From their new base in Wajh, Arab rebels are able to threaten the railway line from Damascus to Medina, where Fahreddin commands a large Turkish force. Today an Arab raiding party succeeds in derailing a Medina-bound train with a mine exploded underneath it. The attack emphasises the isolation of Fahreddin’s force and the difficulty of keeping them supplied.

Djemal Pasha, one of the triumvirate that effectively rules Turkey, is the Ottoman proconsul in the Levant. Based in Damascus, he fears that the Medina garrison will be cut off. He would rather it was withdrawn. But Fahreddin is determined to stay in Medina, preventing the Arab rebels from establishing complete control over the Hejaz region. And truth be told the Arabs’ British friends are happy for Fahreddin to stay there. The British are preparing an offensive into Palestine and they do not want Fahreddin’s men joining the Turks there. So through liaison officers like Captain Lawrence they arrange for the Arabs to continue their attacks on the railroad, disrupting travel along it sufficiently that it will be nigh impossible for Fahreddin to extract his garrison.

image source: (Weapons and Warfare; I think the image is a still from Lawrence of Arabia)

5/6/1916 Arab rebels attack Medina

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.