El Arish

8-19 February, 1799

Advancing towards Syria, the French army under General Jean-Baptiste Kleber found its passage blocked near the border by a fort at El Arish.

The garrison, some 2500 determined defenders, refused to surrender and sat tight within the fort while the French captured its surrounds and brought up cannons with which to blast open a breach.

The 8-pounders did little damage to the strong walls and when an impatient Napoleon Bonaparte arrived to discover the cause of the delay to the advance, he ordered heavier guns into action.

After two days under a ferocious bombardment the defenders finally agreed to give up. Despite giving their parole, most of them then returned to fight Bonaparte at Jaffa.

The siege of El Arish cost Bonaparte 10 precious days and had allowed his enemies time to fully prepare a defence at the formidable fortress at Acre. Bonaparte's chances of victory were now virtually destroyed.





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