Messe takes the bait and seizes El Alamein, moving on to Alexandria without stopping. He is easily held back by the well-prepared troops under Auckinleck's command.
Now is the time to strike! With 19 Italian and German units being held back at Alexandria and the horrible condition of the infrastructure in El Alamein, attacks are ordered to retake El Alamein and continue toward Fuka and Gerawla, hoping to Fuka the Axis forces and force them to surrender.
High Command's plan fails miserably. Although El Alamein is retaken, the Commonwealth troops do not have the organization or morale to push on. Another general retreat back to Alexandria is ordered.
This action, at least, has left the enemy confused.
Weeks later, Axis forces once again take El Alamein. Auchinleck rejoices, as he has yet another elaborate scheme to destroy his enemies! He realizes the folly of trying to take Fuka and Gerawla at the same time, thereby splitting his forces. His new plan calls for an attack in force to surround the Axis forces at Gerawla. The attack is launched immediately.
...and called off 24 hours later.