capture of Ibrahim el awal

Ibrahim el-Awal was its fourth but not the last name of the Hunt class destroyer. It was launched in 1940 and christianized as HMS Mendip . During World War II, HMS Mendip escorted convoys in the North Sea and in the Atlantic Ocean and served for 6 years hoisting proudly the Royal Navy ensign. After the war HMS Mendip was sold to nationalist China and named Lin Fu. Before delivery she was seized and sold again to Egypt, named this time as Mohamed Ali el Kebir (Mohamed the Great). In 1951 without any known reason, both Egyptian Hunt class ships exchanged names, and the ship gets her forth name: Ibrahim el-Awal. (Abraham the First)

Ibrahim El Awal served as the Flag ship and was the pride of the Egyptian navy. On October 29th 1956, a plane carrying officers of the supreme command of the Egyptian Army was missing on its way back from Syria and the ship was sent for a Search and Rescue operation. A day later, on October 30st 1956, Lt. Commander Rushdie Tamzin, commanding officer of Ibrahim El Awal was ordered to change course and sail to Haifa bay in order to shell and bombard the oil refineries and the military facilities around the Israeli port and industrial city, Haifa.

 


 
 

HMS Mendip
HMS Mendip, Royal Navy

Ibrahim el Awal
Ibrahim el Awal after the battle

The hostilities begun on October 29th when forces from Great Britain, France and Israel launched the so called "Operation Musketeer". GB and France wished to recapture the Suez Channel which was nationalized by the Egyptian government while Israel objectives were to end the terror attacks that came from Egyptian territory and open the blockade on its southern port, Eilath. Israeli Navy headquarters in Haifa sent a three ships task force to patrol and defend the long coastline of Israel. Two Z class detroyers, INS Yaffo and INS Eilath together with the old frigate, INS Miznak were patrolling the sea about 32 miles south west to Haifa when the Egyptian destroyer sneaked into the bay and at 03:30 begun sheling the city of Haifa. Hundred sixty 4 inches shells were fired during the 20 minutes long raid.

The French destroyer "Crescent" that was patrolling the bay opened fire at Ibrahim El Awal. Although no hits were scored, the Egyptian commander decides to disengage, and turnes his ship out of Haifa Bay, heading North-West. At that time the Israeli task force under the command of Captain Shmuel "Samek" Yanai is informed about the attack and is turning north in order to engage the Egyptian destroyer. The slower frigate Miznak is left behind and out of the chase while the Yaffo under the command of Commander Yohai Ben-Nun and the Eilath with Commander Menahem Cohen in charge are speading in 30 knots to the assumed course of the Egyptian flag ship.


 


 

INS Yaffo
INS Eilath

INS Yaffo
INS Yaffo

At 05:07 the task force's radar locates a single target about 17 miles north east to its position. Ten minutes later, when the two Israeli destroyers close the gap in order to engage the target, the radar locates another 4 unidentified targets approaching from the west. Fearing a trap, Captain Yanai orders to slow down while sending lamp signals toward all the ships around. Soon the four ships group identifies itself as "ships of the US 6th fleet". At the same time, the single target in the north ignores all questions about its identity that were sent in its direction. Since the Egyptian ship does not identify itself the Israeli command decides to attack.Another signal lamp message is flashed towards the US Navy force, informing about the intention of opening fire and attacking the Egyptian ship. The US ships get the message and soon change course and disappear in the west.

 


 
 

At 05:32 the Israelis open fire at the range of 9000 yards. The Israeli force was superior by number of ships, speed and fire power. Captain Yanai is determined to utilize his supremacy and end the battle as soon as possible, before the expected intervention of the Egyptian Air Force. Ibrahim El Awal returns fire but her gunners fail to hit their targets. The Israelis on the other side, firing massive salvos of shells are hitting their target causing the Egyptian destroyer severe damages. Half a hour later, at 06:00 the damaged ship slows from 25 knots to 17 knots and its cannons fire is dull and inefficient.

 


 
 

Dassault Ouragan, French made jet fighters
Dassault Ouragan. Jet fighter of the Israeli Air Force

K-40 INS Eilath
K-40 INS Eilath

At 06:37 the Israeli Air Force joins the party with two Dassault Ouragan, French made jet fighters. The Ouragans rocket the already crippled ship and score few hits, while the Israeli destroyers keep firing and hit the anti-aircraft guns. At 07:00 Ibrahim el Awal stops moving, and the two destroyers close on the ship from both sides, in order to torpedo it. Egyptian sailors are spotted jumping into the sea.

One life-boat is lowered into the water while another seems to be stuck. It looks like an "abandon ship" order has been given. Few minutes later, lookouts on both Israeli destroyers report that the white surrender flag is hoisted upon the mast of the Flag ship of the Egyptian navy. A team of Israeli sailors is sent in order to seize the surrendered ship and avoid any sabotage or sinking attempts. Egyptian sailors that are already in the water are rescued and the injured get first aid.

 


 

ibrahim el awal prisoners
Defeated Egyptian sailors as POW

ins Haifa
Chearing Israeli sailors after the battle

Two tag boats are sent from Haifa and tow the Ibrahim el Awal to her new home port. After repair and renovation at the Israeli shipyard the ship joins the Israeli navy, commissioned and gets her fifth and last name: INS Haifa. Haifa serves under the Israeli naval flag for 11 years and in 1968 it is decommissioned. At the beginning of the 70s it serves as a target ship, and sunk after being hit by the newly Israeli naval missile, Gabriel.


 

INS Haifa
Sails under thr Israeli flag, INS Haifa.

ibrahim el awal
Damaged Ibrahim el Awal is towed to Haifa.

battle of haifa
Israeli MP is counting the prisoners of war

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battle of Haifa 31/10/1956