Hattin: Trapping a Victory
On June 26, 1187, the Muslim Sultan Saladin crossed the river Jordan with 20,000 of his followers - an army consisting of roughly 12,000 light horsemen and a number of footmen to a location south of the Sea of Galilee where he and his men encamped. They had been ravaging the nearby countryside in hopes of provoking a Christian attack, but had been unsuccessful.
The Frankish Christians led by King Guy in Jerusalem had also mobilized their own army and camped at the spring at Saffuriyah . Marshall W. Baldwin says that the Franks too had an army 20,000 strong, but it was different in composition. The "Latins", as they are called, were a cavalry of 1,200 heavily armored knights, 3,500 lightly armored, mounted sergeants, several thousand foot soldiers, as well as a large number of native auxiliaries as mounted bowmen .
Between the two great forces (the largest memorable, Christian gathering in years) lay an arid terrain; the hot summer sun made travel extremely difficult, especially for large numbers. One could easily expect fatigue, dehydration, and low morale when venturing to the east of Saffuriyah until reaching the Sea of Galilee. Strategists of each side knew the consequences of traveling across the region and so, "the waiting game" was played to see who would be the one to be provoked into a trap through the valleys. Although Saladin had unified large sections of the Muslim world, his army was still not a standing one. The crusaders counted on the fact that Saladin would have trouble holding his army together for a long period of time because his soldiers were not full-time warriors. Many were also tradesmen or farmers that easily disbanded when there was no action to get back home .
Saladin knew his situation and continually harassed the area of Tiberias in failed attempts to provoke the Christians into leaving Saffuriyah, until he decided on July, 2 to besiege the city itself. He moved the majority of his troops to the high ground west of Tiberias. From this location, the Muslims could block entrance to the city while still accessing water supplies from the Sea of Galilee through the eastern side of the ridge. Tiberias was poorly fortified and Saladin's well - supplied forces had no trouble entering its walls. Residents of the city took refuge in the citadel, including the wife of Count Raymond of Tripoli who urgently sent west for help.