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1918 was another very significant year for the Allied forces in World War I in the Middle East. 1917 had seen the momentous breakthrough by the ANZAC Light Horsemen at Beersheba (see JPF 2017) that spearheaded the liberation of southern Palestine and surrender of Jerusalem. On the same day as the charge, the Balfour declaration was agreed by the British war cabinet, allowing the Jews to return to their homeland and establish a state. However, another whole year passed before the task was completed.

By December 1917, the Turkish forces had formed another line of defence north of Jaffa to the Jordan River and beyond. 100 years ago today, the British artillery blasted a hole in the defence line on the coastal plain at Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, and Australian General Chauvel sent two cavalry brigades through to gallop north over the Carmel range to Megiddo and Nazareth (about 80 km away), while others headed for Haifa and Afula to cut off the retreat of the Turkish armies. Approximately 34,000 troops from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France and India were involved across a 100 km front. Around 15,000 prisoners were taken on the first day! The ‘Chaytor force,’ led by New Zealand’s General Chaytor, was then sent to capture Amman and deal with the 4th Turkish army east of the Jordan. This included a Jewish contingent – the first to fight on behalf of their country in modern times.

On September 25, 1918, the ANZAC troops were involved in a moonlight charge to capture the heavily-defended railway intersection at Semakh, on the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee. They had to fight hand-to-hand and room-to-room to defeat the Germans in the station building. Nineteen Australians died and 27 were wounded, with nearly half their horses being lost. With Galilee liberated, the troops went on to take Damascus on October 1 and Aleppo by the end of October, despite sickness ravaging their numbers. In six weeks they had liberated Palestine and Syria, taking 75,000 prisoners, and the Ottoman Empire had collapsed.

Though Beersheba is better known, the 2018 breakthrough was across a wide front from the Mediterranean to Amman, attacking three Turkish armies almost simultaneously and involving tens of thousands of troops. General Allenby’s ambitious plan was brilliantly executed by Chauvel and Chaytor. Chauvel was a devout Christian, who regularly wrote describing the biblical places they were liberating.

Without the success of this second part of the campaign, there may be no Israel today - and no Jordan, Lebanon or Syria. The fall of the Ottoman Empire set biblical prophecy in motion again, paving the way for the return of the Jewish people and re-creation of the State of Israel.

Day 11: Wednesday Sept 19