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Azaz (Arabic: أعزاز / ALA-LC: A‘zāz) is a small town in northwestern Syria, roughly 20 miles (30 kilometres) north-northwest of Aleppo. According to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Azaz had a population of 31,623 in the 2004 census. As of 2015, its inhabitants were almost entirely Sunni Muslims, mostly Arabs, with a number of Arabized Kurds and a small Yazidi community of ten people.
It is historically significant as the site of the Battle of Azaz between the Crusader States and the Seljuk Turks on June 11, 1125. It is notable for its proximity to a Syrian–Turkish border crossing, which enters Turkey at Oncupinar, south of the city of Kilis.
Joscelin I of Edessa had captured the city from the atabeg of Aleppo in 1118. The next year the Crusaders under Roger of Salerno were severely defeated at the Battle of Ager Sanguinis, and King Baldwin II of Jerusalem was captured while patrolling in Edessa in 1123.
In 1124 Baldwin II was released, and almost immediately he laid siege to Aleppo on October 8, 1124. This caught the attention of il-Bursuqi, the Seljuk atabeg of Mosul. Il-Bursuqi marched south to relieve the siege of Aleppo, which was nearing the point of surrender in January 1125 after a three-month siege. In spite of the city being "the greatest prize the war could offer," Baldwin cautiously withdrew without a fight.
Later, il-Bursuqi besieged the town of Azaz, to the north of Aleppo in territory belonging to the County of Edessa. Baldwin II, Joscelin I, and Pons of Tripoli, with a force of 1100 knights from their respective territories (including knights from Antioch, where Baldwin was regent), as well as 2000 other foot soldiers, met il-Bursuqi outside Azaz, where the Seljuk atabeg had gathered his much larger force. Baldwin pretended to retreat, thereby drawing the Seljuks away from Azaz into the open where they were surrounded. After a long and bloody battle, the Seljuks were defeated and their camp captured by Baldwin, who took enough loot to ransom the prisoners taken by the Seljuks (including the future Joscelin II of Edessa).
Apart from relieving Azaz, this victory allowed the Crusaders to regain much of the influence they had lost after their defeat at Ager Sanguinis in 1119. Baldwin planned to attack Aleppo as well, but Antioch, which passed to Bohemund II when he came of age in 1126, began to fight with Edessa and the plan fell through. Aleppo and Mosul were united under the much stronger ruler Zengi in 1128, and Crusader control of northern Syria began to dwindle.
Syrian Civil War
On 19 July 2012, during the Syrian civil war, rebels opposed to the Syrian government succeeded in capturing the town. The town is highly valued as a logistical supply route close to the Turkish–Syrian border.
Azaz was mostly controlled in early 2015 by Northern Storm, a brigade under the authority of the Islamic Front. A Sharia Committee is responsible for the administration of Sharia law, and is policed by the Northern Storm brigade. A Civil Council governs the field of public services.
- General Census of Population and Housing 2004. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Aleppo Governorate. (Arabic)
- "Special Report: Northern Storm and the Situation in Azaz (Syria)". MERIA Journal. 7 January 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- Smail, p 182
- Smail, p 30
- "Syrian TV shows images of Assad as battles rage on for control of Damascus", Al-Arabiya News
- Syrian Kurdish leader: Moscow wants to work with us Al Monitor, 8 October 2015
- Smail, R. C. Crusading Warfare 1097-1193. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, (1956) 1995. ISBN 1-56619-769-4