Location in Syria
|Coordinates: 36°35′10″N 37°2′40″E / 36.58611°N 37.04444°E|
|Elevation||560 m (1,840 ft)|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|• Summer (DST)||+3 (UTC)|
Azaz (Arabic: أعزاز A‘zāz, Hurrian: Azazuwa, Neo-Assyrian: Ḫazazu, Old Aramaic: Ḥzz) is a city in northwestern Syria, roughly 20 miles (32 kilometres) north-northwest of Aleppo. According to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Azaz had a population of 31,623 in the 2004 census. As of 2015, its inhabitants were almost entirely Sunni Muslims, mostly Arabs but also Kurds and Turkmen.
It is historically significant as the site of the Battle of Azaz between the Crusader States and the Seljuk Turks on June 11, 1125. It is notable for its proximity to a Syrian–Turkish border crossing, which enters Turkey at Oncupinar, south of the city of Kilis.
Early Islamic period
In excavations of the site of Tell Azaz, considerable quantities of ceramics from the early and middle Islamic periods were found. Despite the importance of Azaz as indicated by archaeological finds, the settlement was rarely mentioned in Islamic texts prior to the 12th century. However, a visit to the town by the Muslim musician Ishaq al-Mawsili (767–850) gives some indication of Azaz's importance during Abbasid rule. Azaz became the scene of a humiliating defeat of the Byzantine emperor Romanos III at the hands of the Mirdasids in August 1030, but was soon after captured by the Byzantines under Niketas of Mistheia.
On 11 June 1125 (or June 13), forces of the Crusader States commanded by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem defeated Aq-Sunqur il-Bursuqi's army of Seljuk Turks and raised the siege of the town. Joscelin I of Edessa had captured the city from the atabeg of Aleppo in 1118. The next year the Crusaders under Roger of Salerno were severely defeated at the Battle of Ager Sanguinis, and King Baldwin II of Jerusalem was captured while patrolling in Edessa in 1123. In 1124 Baldwin II was released, and almost immediately he laid siege to Aleppo on October 8, 1124. This caught the attention of il-Bursuqi, the Seljuk atabeg of Mosul. Il-Bursuqi marched south to relieve the siege of Aleppo, which was nearing the point of surrender in January 1125 after a three-month siege. In spite of the city being "the greatest prize the war could offer," Baldwin cautiously withdrew without a fight.
Later, al-Bursuqi besieged the town of Azaz, to the north of Aleppo in territory belonging to the County of Edessa. Baldwin II, Joscelin I, and Pons of Tripoli, with a force of 1100 knights from their respective territories (including knights from Antioch, where Baldwin was regent), as well as 2000 other foot soldiers, met il-Bursuqi outside Azaz, where the Seljuk atabeg had gathered his much larger force. Baldwin pretended to retreat, thereby drawing the Seljuks away from Azaz into the open where they were surrounded. After a long and bloody battle, the Seljuks were defeated and their camp captured by Baldwin, who took enough loot to ransom the prisoners taken by the Seljuks (including the future Joscelin II of Edessa).
Apart from relieving Azaz, this victory allowed the Crusaders to regain much of the influence they had lost after their defeat at Ager Sanguinis in 1119. Baldwin planned to attack Aleppo as well, but Antioch, which passed to Bohemund II when he came of age in 1126, began to fight with Edessa and the plan fell through. Aleppo and Mosul were united under the much stronger ruler Zengi in 1128, and Crusader control of northern Syria began to dwindle. During Ayyubid rule, in 1226, the local historian Yaqut al-Hamawi, described Azaz as a "fine town", referring to the settlement as "Dayr Tell Azaz". It was the center of a district bearing its name that also included the market towns or forts of Kafr Latha, Mannagh, Yabrin, Arfad, Tubbal and Innib.
Syrian Civil War
On 19 July 2012, during the Syrian civil war, rebels opposed to the Syrian government succeeded in capturing the town. The town is highly valued as a logistical supply route close to the Turkish–Syrian border.
ISIL took control of Azaz in October 2013, but withdrew from the city in February 2014 having been cut off from the rest of its territory.
Following the departure of ISIL, Azaz was left under the control of Northern Storm, a brigade under the authority of the Islamic Front, nominally a part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) at that time. A Sharia Committee is responsible for the administration of Sharia law, and is policed by the Northern Storm brigade. A Civil Council governs the field of public services.
As of January 2015, al-Nusra Front has a limited presence in the town and controls one mosque. By October 2015, the control of the town was shared between Nusra and a brigade of the FSA.
Anonymous soldiers described as Turkmen arrived in Azaz in November 2015 as part of a US-Turkish action against ISIS. They came from and were trained in Turkey.
Fearing YPG intentions for the area, Turkey declared Azaz to be a "red line" which Kurdish forces must not cross.
|Climate data for Azaz|
|Average high °C (°F)|| 9.2
|Daily mean °C (°F)|| 5.3
|Average low °C (°F)|| 1.5
|Average precipitation mm (inches)|| 90
|Average snowy days||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||4|
- General Census of Population and Housing 2004. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Aleppo Governorate. (Arabic)
- Selin Girit (18 February 2016). "Syria conflict: Why Azaz is so important for Turkey and the Kurds". BBC News. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
- Eger, p. 88.
- Smail, p 182
- Smail, p 30
- "Syrian TV shows images of Assad as battles rage on for control of Damascus", Al-Arabiya News
- Holmes, Oliver (28 February 2014). "Al Qaeda splinter group withdraws from Syrian town near Turkey". Reuters. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
- Chulov, Martin. "Azaz: the border town that is ground zero in Syria's civil war". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
- Dick, Marlin (17 December 2013). "FSA alliance pushes back against Islamic Front". Daily Star. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
- "Special Report: Northern Storm and the Situation in Azaz (Syria)". MERIA Journal. 7 January 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
- Syrian Kurdish leader: Moscow wants to work with us Al Monitor, 8 October 2015
- Banco, Erin (8 November 2015). "Turkey, US, Syrian ISIS-Free Safe Zone: Turkmen Brigades Move Into Syria, Al-Nusra Moves Out, Soldiers Say". International Business Times. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
- Deniz Serinci (25 February 2016). "Rebels claim Kurdish force will 'change 'demographic balance' in Syria's Azaz region". Rudaw Media Network. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
- Smail, R. C. Crusading Warfare 1097-1193. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, (1956) 1995. ISBN 1-56619-769-4