Al-Ahram WeeklySpecial pages commemorating
50 years of Arab dispossession
since the creation of the
State of Israel
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

50 Years


'He died a hero'

On 15 May 1948, the Akhbar Al-Yom correspondent in Palestine filed a lengthy report on the performance of the "young men at the helm". Topping a long list of these young fighters' names was that of Lieutenant Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, whose talent for leadership and outstanding performance in battle seemed to suggest an illustrious military career ahead. Abdel-Aziz was only 41 when he was named chief commander of the Egyptian volunteers.

Abdel-Aziz was certainly no stranger to army life. Born in July 1907 into a family which embraced the military career -- both his father, Brigadier Mohamed Bey Abdel-Aziz, and his brother, Captain Salaheddin Sherif, held high ranks in the military -- he naturally followed in their footsteps.

Ahmed Abdel-Aziz In 1928, he entered the Military Academy and later the Cavalry Division (today the Armoured Corps). Shortly afterwards, he was promoted to head of the military operations division. He also lectured in military history at the Royal Military Academy.

Events took a new twist when he decided to resign from the army and lead a volunteer battalion into Palestine. The victories he won during the first few days prompted King Farouk to name him commander-in-chief of the volunteer troops that went to fight in Palestine in 1948. The troops fought battles in Birsheeba, Al-Khalil and Bethlehem.

According to Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, who covered some of Abdel-Aziz's battles in Palestine, the irregular forces he led were charged with distracting the enemy and preventing the Arab soldiers from engaging in heavy fighting, which their military capabilities would not have withstood.

A few days before he died, Abdel-Aziz was moving with his forces toward Jerusalem. According to the account published in Al-Ahram on 24 August 1948, he managed to raise the Egyptian flag over the municipality of Jerusalem. Following a conference in the city, where the terms of the truce between the Arab forces and the Zionist forces were to be ratified, he was mistakenly shot dead by Egyptian soldiers, who had taken him for an enemy. Back home, the news of Abdel-Aziz's death left the nation numb with grief over "the loss of a great commander", as Abdel-Rahman Azzam Pasha put it.

The hand of fate
Salah Salem was at the wheel that dark night -- the night Ahmed Abdel-Aziz was tragically struck down by "friendly fire". In 1953, he wrote his recollection of the hero's death in Al-Tahrir magazine

So many prophets
The last entry in Ahmed Abdel-Aziz's diary

A legacy of remembrance
Remembering little, but aware of his father's legendary status, the son of Palestine war hero Ahmed Abdel-Aziz talks to Amira Howeidy about his father's legacy

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