The Battle of the Trench was a 27 – day long siege of Yathrib (now Medina) by Arab and Jewish tribes. The strength of the confederate armies is estimated around 10,000 men with six hundred horses and some camels, while the Medinan defenders numbered 3,000. The battle coincided with harsh winter weather of January/February 627.
The largely outnumbered defenders of Medina, mainly Muslims led by Islamic prophet Muhammad, dug a trench, which together with Medina’s natural fortifications, rendered the confederate cavalry (consisting of horses and camels) useless, locking the two sides in a stalemate. Hoping to make several attacks at once, the confederates persuaded the Muslim-allied Medinian Jews, Banu Qurayza, to attack the city from the south. However, Muhammad’s diplomacy derailed the negotiations, and broke up the confederacy against him. The well-organized defenders, the sinking of confederate morale, and poor weather conditions caused the siege to end in a fiasco.
The siege was a “battle of wits”, in which the Muslims tactically overcame their opponents while suffering very few casualties. Efforts to defeat the Muslims failed, and Islam became influential in the region. As a consequence, the Muslim army besieged the area of the Banu Qurayza tribe, leading to their surrender and the execution of all their men.
The defeat caused the Meccans to lose their trade and much of their prestige.