Siege of El Arish

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Arish is the capital of the North Sinai Governorate in north-east Egypt

In the Siege of El Arish French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte defeated Ottoman forces in the fortress in an eleven-day siege. It fell on February 19, 1799.

Forces[edit]

  • French: 2,160 under General Jean Reynier.
  • Turkish: 15,500 soldiers in fort and relief, commanded by Abdullah Pasha.

French take control of El Arish[edit]

January 2, 1799: Jezzar Pasha sent 4000 soldiers and 3 cannons, under the command of Abdullah Pasha of Damascus, to secure Kalaat El Arish. Upon reaching the village, the group took a position in the village and its fort. At the same time, Reynier and his forces were in Katieh Fort, finishing their fortification.

February 8, 1799: Reynier's division reached Masoodiah, where French soldiers captured a Mamluk runner who told them that El Arish was now under Turkish control. Reynier sent a courier to Bonaparte calling for immediate reinforcements and took position on a sand hill near El Arish. In response, the Turkish army moved into a nearby palm forest and obtained supplies and 12 cannons. Their cavalry begin attacking the French. After half an hour of artillery fire, Reynier sent the 85th demi-brigade to take the village El Arish. The Turkish defenders of the village escaped into their fort, and their cavalry withdrew on the road to Gaza under the cover of a defile.

  • French losses: 200 killed and 300 wounded.
  • Turkish losses: 500 killed wounded or captured.

Blockade of Turkish fort[edit]

At around 11:00pm the main Turkish forces took a position on the right side of the defile.

February 12, 1799: Kleber's division reached Kalaat El Arish, and his forces began a blockade of the Turkish fort. Reynier's division moved into position in the palm forest near the defile.

February 14, 1799: Reynier's forces began an assault on the Turkish camp, which they successfully captured.

  • French losses: 3 killed and 20 wounded.
  • Turkish losses: About 500 killed and 900 prisoners of war.

French siege of fortification[edit]

1,000 soldiers under Turkish commander Ibrahim Nizam were still inside the fort. After clearing captured material Reynier established a camp from which he blockaded the fort. Meanwhile, the main French forces arrived in Kalaat El Arish.

February 17, 1799: General Louis Caffarelli started engineering work.
February 18–19, 1799: French began artillery fire on the Turkish fortification.
February 20, 1799: The French began their assault. After capturing the fort, the French repaired the fortification.

  • Turkish losses: 400 killed or wounded. Around 300 joined the French army, most of the rest moved to Baghdad, however around 40 settled in Great Britain with the help of British military commanders sympathetic to their cause.