Saudi Arabia | Political Context
In June 1917 the coastal city of Aqaba in Jordan becomes the new base for Faisal’s army, renamed the “Arab Northern Army”. Attacks on the Hijaz Railway continue, extending now as far north as southern Jordan. T. E. Lawrence, “Lawrence of Arabia” himself led reconnaissance parties into Syria and made contact with Arab nationalists in Damascus. The spectacular victory of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) at the Third Battle of Gaza (Beersheba) in October 1917, and the subsequent British advance into the Jordan Valley, gave renewed impetus to Faisal’s “railway war” further east. Meanwhile, Amir Faisal, with Lawrence as his adviser, had captured the seaport of Wejh (al-Wagh) on the Red Sea, 150 km north of Yanbu. From there, Faisal’s men spent most of 1917 attacking the Hijaz Railway. Small raiding parties blew up sections of track, destroyed bridges, water towers and even some weakly defended railway stations. The British, planning to invade Palestine, were keen for the Arab rebels to keep the 12,000 Ottoman troops tied down in Medina (Madinah).