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Gaza Strip

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Gaza Strip
قطاع غزة
Flag of the Gaza Strip
Location of the Gaza Strip
and largest city
Gaza City
31°31′N 34°27′E / 31.517°N 34.450°E / 31.517; 34.450
Official languagesArabic
Ethnic groups
• Total
365 km2 (141 sq mi)
• 2020 estimate
• Density
5,046/km2 (13,069.1/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+2 (Palestine Standard Time)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+3 (Palestine Summer Time)
Calling code+970
ISO 3166 codePS
  1. The State of Palestine is recognized by 138 members of the United Nations as well as the Holy See.
  2. Used since 1986; as in Israel, replaced the old Israeli shekel (1980–1985) and the Israeli pound (1967–1980).

The Gaza Strip (/ˈɡɑːzə/;[3] Arabic: قِطَاعُ غَزَّةَ Qiṭāʿ Ġazzah [qɪˈtˤɑːʕ ˈɣaz.za], Hebrew: רצועת עזה, retsu'at azah), or simply Gaza, is a Palestinian exclave on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.[4] The smaller of the two Palestinian territories,[5] it borders Egypt on the southwest for 11 kilometers (6.8 mi) and Israel on the east and north along a 51 km (32 mi) border. Together, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank make up the State of Palestine, while being under Israeli military occupation since 1967.[6]

The territories of Gaza and the West Bank are separated from each other by Israeli territory. Both fell under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority,[7] but the Strip is governed by Hamas, a militant, fundamentalist Islamic organization,[8] which came to power in the last-held elections in 2006. Since then, Gaza has been under a full Israeli-led land, sea and air blockade. This prevents people and goods from freely entering or leaving the territory.[9]

The Strip is 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, from 6 to 12 kilometers (3.7 to 7.5 mi) wide, and has a total area of 365 square kilometers (141 sq mi).[10][11] With around 2 million Palestinians[12] on some 365 square kilometers, Gaza, if considered a top-level political unit, ranks as the 3rd most densely populated in the world.[13][14] Sunni Muslims make up the predominant part of the population in the Gaza Strip. Gaza has an annual population growth rate of 2.91% (2014 est.), the 13th highest in the world, and is often referred to as overcrowded.[11][15] Gaza suffers from shortages of water, electricity and medicines. The United Nations, as well as at least 19 human rights organizations, have urged Israel to lift its siege on Gaza,[16][17] while a report by UNCTAD, prepared for the UN General Assembly and released on 25 November 2020, said that Gaza's economy was on the verge of collapse and that it was essential to lift the blockade.[18][19]

When Hamas won a majority in the

Despite the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza,[26] the United Nations, international human rights organisations, and the majority of governments and legal commentators consider the territory to be still occupied by Israel, supported by additional restrictions placed on Gaza by Egypt. Israel maintains direct external control over Gaza and indirect control over life within Gaza: it controls Gaza's air and maritime space, as well as six of Gaza's seven land crossings. It reserves the right to enter Gaza at will with its military and maintains a no-go buffer zone within the Gaza territory. Gaza is dependent on Israel for water, electricity, telecommunications, and other utilities.[26] An extensive Israeli buffer zone within the Strip renders much land off-limits to Gaza's Palestinians.[27] The system of control imposed by Israel was described in the Fall 2012 edition of International Security as an "indirect occupation".[28]


Gaza was part of the Ottoman Empire, before it was occupied by the United Kingdom (1918–1948), Egypt (1948–1967), and then Israel, which in 1993 granted the Palestinian Authority in Gaza limited self-governance through the Oslo Accords. Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been de facto governed by Hamas, which claims to represent the State of Palestine and the Palestinian people.

The territory is still considered to be occupied by Israel by the United Nations, international human rights organisations, and the majority of governments and legal commentators, despite the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza.[26] Israel maintains direct external control over Gaza and indirect control over life within Gaza: it controls Gaza's air and maritime space, and six of Gaza's seven land crossings. It reserves the right to enter Gaza at will with its military and maintains a no-go buffer zone within the Gaza territory. Gaza is dependent on Israel for its water, electricity, telecommunications, and other utilities.[26]

The Gaza Strip acquired its current northern and eastern boundaries at the cessation of fighting in the 1948 war, confirmed by the Israel–Egypt Armistice Agreement on 24 February 1949.[29] Article V of the Agreement declared that the demarcation line was not to be an international border. At first the Gaza Strip was officially administered by the All-Palestine Government, established by the Arab League in September 1948. All-Palestine in the Gaza Strip was managed under the military authority of Egypt, functioning as a puppet state, until it officially merged into the United Arab Republic and dissolved in 1959. From the time of the dissolution of the All-Palestine Government until 1967, the Gaza Strip was directly administered by an Egyptian military governor.

Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the Six-Day War in 1967. Pursuant to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, the Palestinian Authority became the administrative body that governed Palestinian population centers while Israel maintained control of the airspace, territorial waters and border crossings with the exception of the land border with Egypt which is controlled by Egypt. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip under their unilateral disengagement plan.

In July 2007, after winning the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Hamas became the elected government.[30][31] In 2007, Hamas expelled the rival party Fatah from Gaza.[32] This broke the Unity Government between Gaza Strip and the West Bank, creating two separate governments for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In 2014, following reconciliation talks, Hamas and Fatah formed a Palestinian unity government within the West Bank and Gaza. Rami Hamdallah became the coalition's Prime Minister and has planned for elections in Gaza and the West Bank.[33] In July 2014, a set of lethal incidents between Hamas and Israel led to the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict. The Unity Government dissolved on 17 June 2015 after President Abbas said it was unable to operate in the Gaza Strip.

Following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, the territory has been subjected to a blockade, maintained by Israel and Egypt.[34] Israel maintains that this is necessary: to impede Hamas from rearming and to restrict Palestinian rocket attacks; Egypt maintains that it prevents Gaza residents from entering Egypt. The blockades by Israel and Egypt extended to drastic reductions in the availability of necessary construction materials, medical supplies, and foodstuffs following intensive airstrikes on Gaza City in December 2008. A leaked UN report in 2009 warned that the blockade was "devastating livelihoods" and causing gradual "de-development". It pointed out that glass was prohibited by the blockade.[35][36][37][38][39] Under the blockade, Gaza is viewed by some critics as an "open-air prison",[40] although the claim is contested.[41] In a report submitted to the UN in 2013, the chairperson of Al Athar Global Consulting in Gaza, Reham el Wehaidy, encouraged the repair of basic infrastructure by 2020, in the light of projected demographic increase of 500,000 by 2020 and intensified housing problems.[42]

Prior to 1923

The earliest major settlements in the area was at Tell El Sakan and Tell al-Ajjul, two Bronze Age settlements that served as administrative outposts for Ancient Egyptian governance. The city of City already existed under the Philistines, and the early city was captured by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE during his Egyptian campaign. Following the death of Alexander, Gaza, along with Egypt, fell under the administration of the Ptolemaic dynasty, before passing to the Seleucid dynasty after about 200 BCE. The city of Gaza was destroyed by the Hasmonean king and Jewish high priest Alexander Jannaeus in 96 BCE, and re-established under Roman administration during the 1st century CE. The region that today forms the Gaza Strip was moved between different Roman provinces over time, from Judea to Syria Palaestina to Palaestina Prima. During the 7th century CE, the territory was passed back and forth between the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Persian (Sasanian) Empires, before the Rashidun Caliphate was established during the great Islamic expansions of the 7th century.[citation needed]

During the Crusades, the city of Gaza was reported to be mostly abandoned and in ruins; the region was placed under the direct administration of the Knights Templar during the time of the Kingdom of Jerusalem; it changed hands back and forth several times between Christian and Muslim rule during the 12th century, before the Crusader-founded kingdom lost control permanently over it and the land became part of Egypt's Ayyubid dynasty's lands for a century, until the Mongol ruler Hulagu Khan destroyed the city. In the wake of the Mongols, the Mamluk Sultanate established control over Egypt and the eastern Levant, and would control Gaza until the 16th century, when the Ottoman Empire absorbed the Mamluk territories. Ottoman rule continued until the years following World War I, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Gaza formed part of the League of Nations British Mandate of Palestine.[citation needed]

1923–1948 British Mandate

The British Mandate for Palestine was based on the principles contained in Article 22 of the draft Covenant of the League of Nations and the San Remo Resolution of 25 April 1920 by the principal Allied and associated powers after the First World War.[43] The mandate formalized British rule in the southern part of Ottoman Syria from 1923–1948.

1948 All-Palestine government

On 22 September 1948, towards the end of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the All-Palestine Government was proclaimed in the Egyptian-occupied Gaza City by the Arab League. It was conceived partly as an Arab League attempt to limit the influence of Transjordan in Palestine. The All-Palestine Government was quickly recognized by six of the then seven members of the Arab League: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, but not by Transjordan.[44] It was not recognized by any country outside the Arab League.

After the cessation of hostilities, the Israel–Egypt Armistice Agreement of 24 February 1949 established the separation line between Egyptian and Israeli forces, and set what became the present boundary between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Both sides declared that the boundary was not an international border. The southern border with Egypt continued to be the international border drawn in 1906 between the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire.[45]

Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or Egypt were issued All-Palestine passports. Egypt did not offer them citizenship. From the end of 1949, they received aid directly from UNRWA. During the Suez Crisis (1956), the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula were occupied by Israeli troops, who withdrew under international pressure. The government was accused of being little more than a façade for Egyptian control, with negligible independent funding or influence. It subsequently moved to Cairo and dissolved in 1959 by decree of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser.

1959–1967 Egyptian occupation

Che Guevara visiting Gaza in 1959

After the dissolution of the All-Palestine Government in 1959, under the excuse of pan-Arabism, Egypt continued to occupy the Gaza Strip until 1967. Egypt never annexed the Gaza Strip, but instead treated it as a controlled territory and administered it through a military governor.[46] The influx of over 200,000 refugees from former Mandatory Palestine, roughly a quarter of those who fled or were expelled from their homes during, and in the aftermath of, the 1948 Arab–Israeli War into Gaza[47] resulted in a dramatic decrease in the standard of living. Because the Egyptian government restricted movement to and from the Gaza Strip, its inhabitants could not look elsewhere for gainful employment.[48]

1967 Israeli occupation

In June 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel Defense Forces captured the Gaza Strip.

According to Tom Segev, moving the Palestinians out of the country had been a persistent element of Zionist thinking from early times.[49] In December 1967, during a meeting at which the Security Cabinet brainstormed about what to do with the Arab population of the newly occupied territories, one of the suggestions Prime Minister Levi Eshkol proffered regarding Gaza was that the people might leave if Israel restricted their access to water supplies, stating: "Perhaps if we don't give them enough water they won't have a choice."[50][51][undue weight? ] A number of measures, including financial incentives, were taken shortly afterwards to begin to encourage Gazans to emigrate elsewhere.[49][52]

Subsequent to this military victory, Israel created the first settlement bloc in the Strip, Gush Katif, in the southwest corner near Rafah and the Egyptian border on a spot where a small kibbutz had previously existed for 18 months between 1946–48.[54] In total, between 1967 and 2005, Israel established 21 settlements in Gaza, comprising 20% of the total territory.

The economic growth rate from 1967 to 1982 averaged roughly 9.7 percent per annum, due in good part to expanded income from work opportunities inside Israel, which had a major utility for the latter by supplying the country with a large unskilled and semi-skilled workforce. Gaza's agricultural sector was adversely affected as one-third of the Strip was appropriated by Israel, competition for scarce water resources stiffened, and the lucrative cultivation of citrus declined with the advent of Israeli policies, such as prohibitions on planting new trees and taxation that gave breaks to Israeli producers, factors which militated against growth. Gaza's direct exports of these products to Western markets, as opposed to Arab markets, was prohibited except through Israeli marketing vehicles, in order to assist Israeli citrus exports to the same markets. The overall result was that large numbers of farmers were forced out of the agricultural sector. Israel placed quotas on all goods exported from Gaza, while abolishing restrictions on the flow of Israeli goods into the Strip. Sara Roy characterised the pattern as one of structural de-development.[55]

1979 Egypt–Israel peace treaty

On 26 March 1979, Israel and Egypt signed the Egypt–Israel peace treaty.[56] Among other things, the treaty provided for the withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War. The Egyptians agreed to keep the Sinai Peninsula demilitarized. The final status of the Gaza Strip, and other relations between Israel and Palestinians, was not dealt with in the treaty. Egypt renounced all territorial claims to territory north of the international border. The Gaza Strip remained under Israeli military administration. The Israeli military became responsible for the maintenance of civil facilities and services.

After the Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty 1979, a 100-meter-wide buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt known as the Philadelphi Route was established. The international border along the Philadelphi corridor between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is 7 miles (11 km) long.

1994: Gaza under Palestinian Authority

In September 1992, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told a delegation from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy "I would like Gaza to sink into the sea, but that won't happen, and a solution must be found."[57]

In May 1994, following the Palestinian-Israeli agreements known as the Oslo Accords, a phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians took place. Much of the Strip (except for the settlement blocs and military areas) came under Palestinian control. The Israeli forces left Gaza City and other urban areas, leaving the new Palestinian Authority to administer and police those areas. The Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat, chose Gaza City as its first provincial headquarters. In September 1995, Israel and the PLO signed a second peace agreement, extending the Palestinian Authority to most West Bank towns.

Between 1994 and 1996, Israel built the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier to improve security in Israel. The barrier was largely torn down by Palestinians at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000.[58]

2000 Second Intifada

The Second Intifada broke out in September 2000 with waves of protest, civil unrest and bombings against Israeli military and civilians, many of them perpetrated by suicide bombers. The Second Intifada also marked the beginning of rocket attacks and bombings of Israeli border localities by Palestinian guerrillas from the Gaza Strip, especially by the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad movements.

Between December 2000 and June 2001, the barrier between Gaza and Israel was reconstructed. A barrier on the Gaza Strip-Egypt border was constructed starting in 2004.[59] The main crossing points are the northern Erez Crossing into Israel and the southern Rafah Crossing into Egypt. The eastern Karni Crossing used for cargo, closed down in 2011.[60] Israel controls the Gaza Strip's northern borders, as well as its territorial waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza Strip's southern border, under an agreement between it and Israel.[61] Neither Israel or Egypt permits free travel from Gaza as both borders are heavily militarily fortified. "Egypt maintains a strict blockade on Gaza in order to isolate Hamas from Islamist insurgents in the Sinai."[62]

2005 Israel's unilateral disengagement

In February 2005, the