The Sword of Allah - Khalid Bin Waleed (Ral)

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Chapter 30: The Conquest of Damascus

 Part III: The Invasion of Iraq

 

Page: 10

Meanwhile Shurahbil was not a little worried. He had lost quite a large number of men, killed and wounded, and feared that if another determined sally were made by the Romans, they might succeed in breaking through his corps. He consequently, asked Khalid for reinforcements; but Khalid had no men to spare. He could not weaken the other corps, because the Romans could attack at any gate, and might well choose another gate for their next sally. He instructed Shurahbil to hold on as best he could, and assured him, that Dhiraar with his 2,000 men would get to him in case of heavy pressure. If need be he himself, with his reserve, would come and take over the battle at the Gate of Thomas. Shurahbil prepared for another sally by the Romans, quite determined to hold on to the last man.

For the sally of the night, Thomas again selected the Gate of Thomas as the point of main effort in order to exploit the damage which he had undoubtedly caused to the corps of Shurahbil. But he planned to make sallies from other gates also. The locations of the various Muslim corps and their commanders, were known in detail to the garrison. To keep the Muslim corps at other gates tied down, so that they would not be able to come to the aid of Shurahbil, Thomas ordered sallies form the Jabiya Gate, the Small Gate and the East Gate. For the last he allotted rather more forces than for the others, so that Khalid would be unable to move to Shurahbil's help and take command in that decisive sector. Attacking from several gates also gave more flexibility to the operation. Thus, if success were achieved, in any sector other than the Gate of Thomas, that could be converted into the main sector and the success exploited accordingly.

In his orders Thomas emphasised the need for swift attacks, so that the Muslims would be caught unawares and destroyed in their camps. No quarter would be given. Any Muslim wishing to surrender would be killed on the spot-any, that is, but Khalid, who was to be taken alive. The moon would rise about two hours before midnight. Soon after, on the signal of a gong to be struck on the orders of Thomas, the gates would be flung open and the attacks launched simultaneously.

In the moonlight the Roman attacks began as planned. At the Jabiya Gate there was some hard fighting, and Abu Ubaidah himself entered the fray with drawn sword. The Son of the Surgeon was an accomplished swordsman, and several Romans fell under his blows before the sally was repulsed and the Romans hastened back to the city.

At the Small Gate Yazeed had fewer troops than were positioned at the other gates, and the Romans gained some initial success. But luckily Dhiraar was nearby and joined Yazeed with his 2,000 warriors. Without a moment's delay Dhiraar hurled his men at the enemy, whereupon the Romans reacted as if they had been assailed by demons and hastily withdrew to the fort with Dhiraar close upon their heels.

At the East Gate the situation soon became more serious, for a larger Roman force had been assigned to this sector. From the sounds of battle Khalid was able to judge that the enemy had advanced farther than he should have been allowed to; and fearing the Raafe might not be able to hold the attack, went into battle himself with his reserve of 400 veterans from the Mobile Guard. As he got to the Romans, he gave his personal battle cry: "I am the noble warrior, Khalid bin Al Waleed." This battle cry was by now known to all the Romans, and had the effect of imposing caution upon them. In fact it marked the turning point in the sally at the East Gate. Soon the Romans were in full retreat with the Muslims cutting down the stragglers. Most of this force was able to re?enter the city and close the East Gate behind it.

The heaviest fighting, however, took place at the Gate of Thomas, where Shurahbil's corps, having fought a hard action during the day, had to bear the brunt of the fighting of the night. The moonlight helped visibility as the Romans rushed out of the gate and began to form up for battle. In this process they were subjected to withering fire from Shurahbil's archers, but in spite of some losses, they completed their deployment and advanced to battle. For two hours the fighting continued unabated with Shurahbil's men struggling desperately to hold the Roman attack. And hold it they did.