The Battle of Belvoir Castle
In the campaign and Battle of Belvoir Castle (Kaukab al-Hawa), a Crusader force led by King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem sparred inconclusively with an Ayyubid army from Egypt commanded by Saladin.
Saladin had seized control of Egypt in 1169 and established the Ayyubid Sultanate soon after. He began extending his dominion over Muslim emirates in Syria formerly held by Nur al-Din.
In 1177, Saladin mounted a major invasion of the Kingdom of Jerusalem from Egypt and was defeated by King Baldwin IV (the "Leper King" of Jerusalem) at the Battle of Montgisard.Two years later in 1179, Saladin defeated Baldwin at the Battle of Marj Ayyun.
In 1180, Saladin arranged a truce between himself and two Christian leaders, King Baldwin and Raymond III of Tripoli. Two years later, the lord of the Transjordan fief of Kerak, Reynald of Châtillon, attacked Muslim caravans passing through his lands. Resenting this violation of the truce, Saladin immediately assembled his army and prepared to strike.
On May 11, 1182, Saladin left Egypt and led his army north toward Damascus via Aila on the Red Sea.. At a council of war, the Crusader princes pondered their reponse. They could move across the Jordan River to protect the exposed fiefs. Raymond of Tripoli argued against this strategy, saying that would leave too few soldiers to protect the kingdom. The aggressive Baldwin overruled Raymond and the Crusader army moved to Petra in the Transjordan, defending the exposed fiefs.
Saladin's nephew, Farrukh Shah, led a force from Damascus to ravage the now-undefended Latin Principality of Galilee. In this destructive raid, the emirs of Bosra, Baalbek and Homs and their followers joined Farrukh. Before returning to Damascus.
Out in the Transjordan, the main armies faced each other. A Frankish plan was proposed to occupy the water points, thus forcing Saladin into the desert, but the Crusaders were unable to carry this out. The Saladin moved north and reached Damascus on June 22. The Crusaders recrossed the Jordan into Galilee and concentrated their army at Sephoria, six miles northwest of Nazareth.
After a three weeks, Saladin marched out of the Damascus on July 11 and advanced to Al-Quhwana on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee. From there he sent forces to raid the Jordan valley, Jenin and the district of St Jean d'Acre. One raiding column attacked Baisan but was driven off.
Saladin took his main army, crossed to the west side of the Jordan and moved south along the high ground. As soon as reconnaissance patrols revealed the Muslim leader's manoeuvre, the Frankish leaders determined to move their field army into close contact. After adding reinforcements by stripping nearby castles of most of their garrisons, the Crusader army marched to Tiberias then turned south. In the vicinity of Belvoir castle, Baldwin's men spent the night in their closely guarded camp.
The next morning, the Ayyubid army confronted the Crusaders.
The Franks advanced in their usual formation when in contact with their enemies. The infantry marched in close order, with the spearmen guarding against direct attack and archers keeping the Saracens at a distance. Shielded by the footmen, the cavalry conformed to the pace of the infantry, ready to drive back their enemies with controlled charges. The Crusaders had successfully used this tactic in the Battles of Shaizar (1111) and Bosra (1147).
Saladin's soldiers tried to disrupt the Crusader formation by raining arrows from their horse archers, by partial attacks and by feigned retreats. The Franks could neither be tempted into fighting a pitched battle nor stopped. Unable to make an impression on the Latin host, Saladin broke off the running battle and returned to Damascus.
Saladin had arranged for an Egyptian fleet to attack Beirut. As soon as his scouts had spotted the fleet from the Lebanese mountains, Saladin left Damascus, marched through the Munaitra Pass and laid siege to Beirut. At the same time, a force from Egypt raided the southern part of the kingdom, doing further local damage. Baldwin recalled his army to Sephoria then marched to Tyre. From there he appropriated shipping and organized an attempt to relieve the port of Beirut by both land and sea. When Saladin heard of these efforts, he raised the siege and ended his campaign in August 1182.
Saladin spent the next twelve months campaigning in Syria and Mesopotamia, adding Aleppo and a number of other cities to his growing empire. He would invade the Kingdom of Jerusalem again in September 1183. Free of his adversary, in October 1182 Baldwin recovered Habis Jaldak in the Transjordan. In December, Raymond of Tripoli launched a raid in the same area and Baldwin took a mounted force within a few miles of Damascus. But these were pinpricks. Not long afterward, Baldwin became incapacitated by leprosy and was forced to appoint his sister Sibylla's husband Guy of Lusignan as regent.
The Crusaders kept their enemies from capturing any strongholds and retained their field army intact, so they succeeded in their strategic purpose. But Saladin's raiders managed to inflict great damage on the countryside. Frankish overlords depended on the rents of their tenants, and these could not be collected if the crops were ruined. Without money, the lords could not pay their soldiers. Constant devastations would ultimately reduce the Frankish kingdom to helplessness.