1838 Druze revolt
|1838 Druze revolt|
|Part of Campaigns of Muhammad Ali of Egypt|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Ibrahim Pasha
Nasir ad-Din al-Imad
|Casualties and losses|
The 1838 Druze revolt was a Druze uprising in Syria against the authority of Ibrahim Pasha and effectively against the Khedivate of Egypt, ruled by Muhammad Ali. The rebellion was led by Druze clans of Mount Lebanon, with an aim to expel the Egyptian forces, under Ibrahim Pasha considering them as infidels. The revolt was suppressed with a bitter campaign by Pasha, after a major Druze defeat in the Wadi al-Taym, and the Egyptian rule effectively restored in Galilee and Mount Lebanon, with a peace agreement signed between the Egyptians and Druze leaders on July 23, 1838. Among the major sites of violence was the city of Safed, where the Jewish community was attacked by Druze rebels in early July 1838.
The tensions between the Druze and the Egyptians had been mounting since the 1834 Arab revolt in Palestine, which resulted in several deaths in Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus and Safed. The ruling classes of the region resented Egyptian authority and the Druzes in particular resisted the rule of Ibrahim Pasha, who personally considered the Druze as heretics and oppressed them. What sparked the revolt itself, however, was the conscription decree of the Egyptian army.
The first report of the Druze uprising were as of January 1838. Some 400 troops, led by Ali Agha al-Busayli, governor of Harran, attacked the Druzes in Tha'la, and suffered the first defeat, as Ali and a large number of his troops were killed. The Egyptian troops, dispatched from Damascus were slaughtered by Druze peasants during the night. Later, a second force of six thousand regulars was sent, requiring the Druze to reorganize for a more serious fighting. The Egyptian army, led by Muhammad Pasha caused the Druze to withdraw, but exhausted by the heavy mountainous terrain were repelled by the Druze fighters near Smaid. A new Egyptian force, led by Minikly Pasha, Egyptian Minister of War, and Sharif Pasha was again defeated by some 2,000 Druze insurgents.
The successive defeats prompted Ibrahim Pasha to arrive from Aleppo by himself. Ibrahim recruited loyal Albanians and recalled reinforcements from Hama, Acre and Aleppo, creating an army which according to British officials counted some 15,000 men. The force blockaded Lejat, while Sharif Pasha began negotiations with the insurgents. The Druze refused to lay their weapons, but concerned with the size of the amounting armies, tried to enlist additional forces to support the revolt from across Syria and Lebanon. The attempt was largely unsuccessful, and effectively failed.
In early April, Shibli al-Aryan attempted to secure more fighters from the supportive villages and succeeded in raising some 8,000 fighters. Soon, the Druze of Mt. Lebanon began streaming to join the rebel ranks, and from April it seemed the rebellion incorporated the entire Druze community. The main roads were cut by the Druze, disrupting the Egyptian army supplies. At this point, Ibrahim Pasha ordered Emir Bashir Shihab II, his ally, to send 1,000 men to Wadi al-Taym, where the clashes erupted on April 7. The Egyptian army was commanded by Ahmad Bek, consisting of an infantry regiment, 300 Bedouins and 500 irregulars, which succeeded to overwhelm the Druzes with 33 dead, scores wounded and 4 taken prisoners. Egyptian losses were 13 killed, 65 wounded.
Following the defeat by Ahmad Bek, Shibli occupied Rashayya and killed its governor, while Druze volunteers kept flowing to join his forces. Another reinforcement of 4,000 men was requested by Ibrahim Pasha from Bashir Shihab II, and arrived commanded by Bashir's son. Joined by two sheikhs from Mt. Lebanon - Hasan Junbalat and Nasir ad-Din al-Imad, the Druze fighters were led into Wadi Bakka, where on July 4 they suffered a grand defeat, losing some 640 men including sheikh al-Imad.
In early July, tensions still mounted as the Druze captured an Egyptian garrison outside of Safed. The local Safed militia of several hundred was heavily outnumbered by the Druze, and the city was gripped in despair as the militia eventually abandoned the city and the Druze rebels entered the city on July 5. The resulting plunder by the Druze rebels, which targeted the Jewish community, lasted for 3 days. Much of the local population sought refuge in Acre.
Subsequently, Shibli moved to south Wadi al-Taym, where he was attacked by the Lebanese Christian forces of Amir Bashir, led by Amir Khalil. The attack was not successful, and the Druze succeeded in withstanding the pressure until July 17, when Egyptian reinforcements crashed them at Shabaa. Shibli and 1,500 of his men fled to Mount Hermon, while most of the insurgents in Hauran surrendered and were granted amnesty.
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The critical points to end the rebellion were the water war, engaged by Egyptian forces upon the Druze population and the effective defeat of the main insurgent force in Wadi al-Taym. Those convinced to Druze leaders to negotiate peace with Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt. Sheikh Hasan al-Bitar of Rashaya and the Christian Jiris Abu ad-Dibs were the mediators of the agreement, in which Ibrahim Pasha agreed to provide amnesty to insurgents, guaranteed exemption from conscription and agreed for forced labor, in return for the surrender of their arms and those seized from Egyptians. The agreement was signed on July 23, 1838.
At first, the Druze were willingly surrendering their arms, but it soon became clear, that those were not the arms, previously used in fighting, thus Ibrahim Pasha sent his officers with a demand for an immediate surrender of the rest of the weapon stocks. The process continued slowly, and lasted until August.
Small groups of insurgents still refused to lay their weapons, including Shibli at Mt. Hermon and sheikh Husain Abu Asaf in Laja. Shibli eventually fled to Baalbek, but forced to hide he finally surrendered to the Egyptians. When Shibli met Ibrahim Pasha, he proposed his services as an irregular, and was accepted to Egyptian service. Shibli was later sent out of the country, appointed to Sinar. Apparently, Shibli was still in service of Ibrahim by late 1840, when Egyptians began evacuating Syria and Lebanon.
- Firro, Kais. A history of the Druzes, Volume 1. pp.70-75
- Taraze Fawaz, Leila. An occasion for war: civil conflict in Lebanon and Damascus in 1860. p.63.
- Goren, Haim. Dead Sea Level: Science, Exploration and Imperial Interests in the Near East. p.95-96.
- One a day: an anthology of Jewish historical anniversaries, p. 168, Abraham P. Bloch - 1987 
- Rossoff, David. Safed: the mystical city. p.162-165.
- p. 189