This Week in Middle East History

Events –

– Battle of Aqaba – July 6th, 1917 – Arabs rebelling against the Ottoman Empire, led by T.E. Lawrence and Auda Ibn Tayi, fought the first battle of the Arab Revolt.  They were victorious in present-day Jordan, the first of many successes for this motley army led by an Englishmen, but mainly composed of Arab tribesman.

Tel-Aviv Bus 405 attack – July 6th, 1989 – A Palestinian militant attacked a passenger bus traveling between Tel Aviv and Israel as it was driving on the edge of a cliff resulting in fourteen deaths.  This attack is widely regarded as the first use of ‘suicide’ attacks by Palestinians in their revolt against Israeli control.

– Israeli Knesset passes the Law of Return – July 5th, 1950 – The Law of Return was the fulfillment of Israel’s Zionist pledges made before it gained independence in 1948.  The Law stated that all people ‘born Jewish’ have the right to immigrate to Israel and will be helped by the Israeli government to do so.  When they reach Israel they will immediately gain citizenship and receive government stipends if they need them.  Over the years this law has been used to support the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Jews all over the world to Israel.

Ousting of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from office – July 5th, 1977 – Bhutto was the effective ruler of Pakistan from 1971 until his ousting by military coup in 1977. He negotiated two successful treaties with India that returned thousands of Pakistani POW’s and gave Pakistan a small piece of disputed Indian territory.  However his use of the Pakistani army to quell rebellions led to dissension and he was overthrown and then executed in 1979 by his political opponents.

Sharia law instituted in Iran – 1979 – Under the new government of the Ayatollah Iran made Islamic law (Sharia law) the law of the land, effectively creating a theocracy that still stands in Iran.

Battle of Hattin – July 4th, 1187 – Forces of Saladin, the ruler of Egypt, and the Crusader States of present-day Israel and Lebanon fought one of the most historically important medieval battles in the Middle East.  Saladin was decisively victorious which meant an end to the Crusader States in the Levant and therefore the end of European intervention in the area until World War I.

Operation Entebbe – July 4th, 1976 – A daring raid conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces to recover a plane hi-jacked a week earlier by Palestinian militants of the PLO containing 248 passengers.  The IDF soldiers traveled secretly from Israel all the way to Uganda where the plane was given asylum by Idi Amin.  The raid was a complete success and 102 of the 106 remaining hostages were rescued in one of the most spectacular military operations of the twentieth century.

Births –

Gazi Yasargil – A Turkish born scientist who became one of the most innovative neurosurgeons of the twentieth century while pioneering techniques for treating epilepsy and other ailments of the brain.  He invented the field of microneurosurgery through his use of tools that he made himself.

Nursultan Nazarbayev – A native Kazakh who has served as Kazakhstan’s only president since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.  His reign has been marked by allegations of extreme corruption and rigged elections. However, he has also been instrumental in removing Soviet era nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan and allowing women to be involved in politics.

Georgios Grivas – The leader of the EOKA guerillas who strove to obtain independence for Cyprus from the British Empire after World War II.  Grivas became one of the most sought after guerilla fighters in the world and published many influential treatises on how to beat numerically superior armies with guerilla tactics during his years of fighting in Greece and Cyprus.

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