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: 12

As soon as the Greek had departed, Khalid ordered the procurement of ropes and the preparation of rope ladders. There was no time to make a co-ordinated plan of attack for the whole army; and so Khalid decided that he would storm the fort by the East Gate, with just the corps of Iraq which was positioned there. The moon would rise at about midnight, and soon after that the assault would begin.

According to Khalid's plan, 100 men would scale the wall at a place near the East Gate, where it was known to be the most impregnable. Here certainly there would be no sentries. At first three men would climb up with ropes. Then rope ladders would be fastened to the ropes and hauled up by the three to be used by the rest of the picked hundred to get to the top. Some men would remain at the top, while others would descend into the fort, kill any guards found at the gate and open the gate. Thereupon the entire corps would rush in and start the attack.

The three leaders who were to scale the wall were Khalid, Qaqa and Maz'ur bin Adi. The ropes were thrown up, lassoing the epaulements on the wall, after which these three indomitable souls climbed up hand by hand. There was no guard at the top. The rope ladders were drawn up, and on these others began to climb in silence. When half the group had arrived at the top, Khalid left a few men to assist the remaining climbers, and with the rest descended into the city. A few Roman soldiers were encountered on the way down and put to the sword. Thereafter the party rushed to the gate, where two sentries stood on guard. Khalid killed one while Qaqa killed the other. But by this time the alarm had been raised and parties of Romans began to converge towards the East Gate. Khalid knew that it was now touch and go.

The rest of the Muslim party hastily took up a position to keep the Romans away while Khalid and Qaqa dealt with the gate, which was locked and chained. A few blows shattered both lock and chain, and the gate was flung open. The next instant the corps of Iraq came pouring in. The Roman soldiers who had converged towards the gate never went back; their corpses littered the road to the centre of the city.

All Damascus was now awake. The Roman soldiers rushed to their assigned positions, as per rehearsed drills, and manned the entire circumference of the fort. Only a small reserve remained in the hands of Thomas as Khalid began his last onslaught to get to the centre of Damascus, killing all who stood in his way-the regiments defending the sector of the East Gate.

It was shortly before dawn, and now Thomas played his last card-brilliantly. He knew that Khalid had secured a firm foothold in the city, and it was only a matter of time before the entire city would lie at his feet. From the absence of activity at the other gates, he guessed that Khalid was attacking alone and that other corps were not taking part in the storming of the fort. He hoped-and this was a long shot-that the other corps commanders, especially Abu Ubaidah, would not know of the break-in by Khalid. Thomas acted fast. He threw in his last reserve against Khalid to delay his advance for as long as possible, and at the same time sent envoys to the Jabiya Gate to talk with Abu Ubaidah and offer to surrender the fort peacefully and to pay the Jizya.

Abu Ubaidah received these envoys with courtesy and heard their offer of surrender. He believed that they had come to him because they were afraid to face Khalid. At the distance at which he was placed from the East Gate, if he heard sounds of battle at all, he must have assumed that it was a sally by the Romans; for it could not have occurred to him that Khalid would scale the wall with ropes. Abu Ubaidah had no doubt in his mind that Khalid also would agree to peace to put an end to the bloodshed and ensure a quick occupation of Damascus. Consequently he took upon himself the responsibility of the decision and accepted the terms of surrender. Damascus would be entered peacefully; there would be no bloodshed, no plunder, no enslavement and no destruction of temples; the inhabitants would pay the Jizya; the garrison and any local inhabitants who wished to do so would be free to depart from the city with all their goods. After this the Roman envoys went to the corps commanders at the other gates and informed then that a peace had been arranged with the Muslim commander and that the gates would be opened shortly, through which the Muslims could enter in peace. There would be no resistance.