The Siege of Jaffa was fought from 3 to 7 March 1799 between France and the Ottoman Empire. The French were led by Napoleon Bonaparte, and they captured the city. Jaffa was surrounded by high walls, flanked by towers. Ahmed al-Jazzar entrusted its defence to his elite troops, including 1,200 artillerymen. Napoleon had to win Jaffa before he could advance any further, and the whole expedition's success depended on its capture—the town was one of Syria's main mercantile centres, and had a harbour which would provide vital shelter for his fleet. All the exterior works could be besieged and a breach was feasible; when Bonaparte sent a Turk to the city's commander to order its surrender, the commander decapitated the Turk and ordered a sortie. He was pushed back and as early as the evening of the same day; the weight of the besiegers caused one of the towers to collapse and so, despite courageous resistance by its defenders, Jaffa was taken.
According to some sources, the French messengers who brusquely told the city of Napoleon's ultimatum had been arrested, tortured, castrated and decapitated, and their heads impaled on the city walls. This harsh treatment led Napoleon, when the city fell, to allow his soldiers two days and nights of slaughter and rape. He also executed the Turkish governor Abdallah Bey. Bonaparte no longer wished to honour the promises of his adopted son Eugène de Beauharnais that prisoners' lives would be spared and ordered that a large part of the Ottoman prisoners (according to some sources around 2,440, according to others 4,100), many of them Albanians, be shot or stabbed to death with bayonets. Napoleon's eulogists later wrote of this decision: "For, to keep in submission so considerable a number of prisoners, it would have been necessary to detach guards for them, which would have severely diminished his army's numbers; and if he had allowed them to leave free men, it was reasonable to fear that they might swell the ranks of Ahmed al-Jazzar's troops."
Napoleon also allowed hundreds of Egyptians to leave, hoping that the news they would carry of Jaffa's fall would intimidate the defenders of the other cities in Syria. This backfired, since their news instead made these defenders fight all the more fiercely. Meanwhile, a plague epidemic caused by poor hygiene in the French headquarters in Ramla decimated the local population and the French army alike. As he had also suggested during the siege of Acre, on the eve of the retreat from Syria-Palestine Napoleon suggested to his army doctors (led by Desgenettes), that the seriously ill troops who could not be evacuated should be given a fatal dose of laudanum, but they forced him to give up the idea. Overcome in the north of the country by the Turks, Napoleon abandoned Palestine. After his departure the British, allied to the Turks and commanded by William Sidney Smith, rebuilt Jaffa's city walls. In the years 1800 to 1814, after a new nine-month siege, Jaffa was again taken over by Napoleon's former opponent, Ahmed al-Jazzar, Acre's governor, a Bosnian.- YouTube
Indiana Hoenlein & the Lost Napoleon battle of Jaffa. @elalusa Report w/Malcolm Hoenlein @conf_of_pres. @thadmccotter
On March 3, the French army reached the fortified hilltop city of Jaffa. The Ottoman fortress with its 1.3-meter thick walls constituted a formidable challenge.
French military buttons found in Jaffa from Napoleon conquest Moshe Hartal, Israel Antiquities Authority.
As the French and Turks struggled, the Turks collected the heads of fallen French infantry soldiers, and placed the severed heads on poles above the walls. On March 7, Bonaparte sent an officer bearing a flag of truce to negotiate Jaffa's surrender. The Turks opened the city gates and let the officer through. Minutes later his head was raised on a pole.
A Napoleon coin, minted in 1858, found in debris taken from Temple Mount, Jerusalem Olivier Fitoussi.
The furious Napoleon ordered a general assault. He remained outside the city, where he was told that 3,000 Ottoman soldiers were willing to surrender if their lives would be spared.
But further outraging the emperor, among the captives were soldiers who had been caught in Al Arish, Gaza and Ramla, and who had promised never to take up arms against the French again.
Again, the French were having difficulty provisioning their own troops, let alone prisoners of war. Also, Napoleon didn't want to stretch his already outnumbered soldiers by making them guard the captives. But he didn't want them rejoining the enemy ranks.
Years later, exiled on the island of Saint Helena, Napoleon wrote: "to have acted otherwise than as I did, would probably have caused the destruction of my whole army…I therefore… ordered that the prisoners taken at El Arish, who in defiance of their capitulation, had been found bearing arms against me, should be selected out and shot. The rest, amounting to a considerable number, were spared."
We do not know if Napoleon slaughtered all 3,000 Turkish prisoners at Jaffa or only men who resumed fighting him after their release, as he tells us. There is no archaeological evidence to support the mass slaughter described in the memoirs of Napoleon´s secretary, Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, who never missed an opportunity to stain the Corsican's reputation.
The booty the French found in Jaffa included small vessels anchored in its harbor, and also cannons, that would shortly prove useful.
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/1.790107
History of Jaffa