Politics of the Gaza Strip: Wikis


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Gaza Strip
قطاع غزة Qiṭāʿ Ġazza
Largest city Gaza
Official language(s) Arabic
 -  Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh
Organized September 13, 1993 Oslo accords 
 -  Signed PA took partial control in May 1994; full control in September 2005; Hamas control since 2007 (Israel retains control of airspace, non-Egyptian land borders and offshore maritime access while Egypt controls its land border portion) 
 -  Total 360 km2 (169th)
139 sq mi 
 -  July 2007 estimate 1,500,202 people (149th1)
 -   census 9, 520 
 -  Density 4,118/km2 (6th1)
10,665/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2009 est estimate
 -  Total $770 million (160th1)
 -  Per capita $3,100 (164th1)
Currency Egyptian Pound (de facto)
Israeli new sheqel (ILS)
Time zone (UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST)  (UTC+3)
Calling code +970

The Gaza Strip (Arabic: قطاع غزةQiṭāʿ Ġazza/Qita' Ghazzah, Arabic pronunciation: [qitˤaːʕ ɣazza]) lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, and between 6 and 12 kilometers (4–7.5 mi) wide, with a total area of 360 square kilometers (139 sq mi). This piece of land is home to about 1.5 million Palestinians. Many of these people lived in other parts of Palestine prior to the 1947 - 49 Israeli War of Independence, when they had to flee. These Palestinians have not been allowed to return to their former villages. The area is recognized internationally as part of the Palestinian territories.[1][2][3][4] Actual control of the area within the Gaza Strip borders are in the hands of Hamas, an organization that won civil parliamentary Palestinian Authority elections in 2006 and took over de facto government in the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority by way of its own political maneuvering and armed militia in July 2007, while consolidating power by violently removing the Palestinian Authority's security forces and civil servants from the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Strip, having previously been a part of the Ottoman Empire and then the British Mandate of Palestine, was occupied by Egypt from 1948–67, and then by Israel following the 1967 war. Pursuant to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in 1993, the Palestinian Authority was set up as an interim administrative body to govern populated Palestinian centers - with Israel maintaining military control of the Gaza Strip's airspace, some of its land borders and its territorial waters - until a final agreement could be reached. As agreement remained elusive, Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in 2005, saying it was no longer the Occupying Power there. The international community, citing Israel's continued effective control over the area, continues to regard it as an Occupying Power.[5]

The territory takes its name from Gaza, its main city. The population speak a Western Egyptian dialect of Arabic and are estimated by some sources at as high as 1.5 million (July 2009).[6] Refugees of the 1948 Palestinian exodus and their descendants made up 85% of the population as of March 2003.[7]

In a letter that Ahmed Jabari sent to Khaled Meshal he warned him that security situation Gaza is getting worse as it was reported by Arabic-language newspaper A-Sharq Al-Awsat. Jabari wrote that Gaza is falling into anarchy[8][9]



Ancient history until the mid-16th century (15th century BC-1517)

The first mention of the city of Gaza was when the people from Caphtor island (known as the Greek island Crete of today) slaughtered the native people named as Avvites and moved in,[10] then later in the 15th century BC, where Joshua, leading the children of Israel captures Gaza, with other territory, establishing the nation in the Holy Land.[11] In the Old Testament, after Samson was delivered into bondage by Delilah, he died while toppling the Temple of the god Dagon there.[12][13]

In the 13th century BC the area was taken over by the Philistines, whose coastal power base of Philistia approximated roughly to the modern Strip. The name Palestine is derived from "Philistia" and "Philistines", via the Greek and Latin languages.[citation needed] The Gaza area changed hands many times over the next 2,000 years. It fell, successively, to the Israelite King David (in 1000 BC), to the Assyrians (in 732 BC), Egyptians, Babylonians (in 586 BC), Persians (in 525 BC), and Greeks. Alexander the Great met stiff resistance there (in 332 BC). After conquering it, he sold its inhabitants into slavery. It was captured by Romans in first century BC. In the decade of 640AD the whole area comprising of Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon became a part of the Islamic state of Medina. Later on different Muslim dynasties ruled here for about 1500 years until the first world war when the British took over control of the area.[13][14][15]

Ottoman and British control (1517–1948)

In 1517 Gaza fell to the Ottoman empire who ruled it from 1517 to 1799. Napoleon captured Gaza City in 1799. Starting in the early 1800s, Gaza was culturally dominated by neighboring Egypt. Muhammad Ali made Gaza a part of Egypt in 1832.[16] Though Gaza was recaptured by the Ottoman Empire, a large number of its residents were Egyptians (and their descendants) who had fled political turmoil.[17]

The region served as a battlefield during the First World War (1914–18), with the British and Ottomans fighting in the Sinai and Palestine. Gaza, which controlled the coastal route, was taken by the British in the Third Battle of Gaza on 7 November 1917. The British government has financially supported the maintenance of a cemetery for fallen British soldiers from WWI.[18]

Following World War I, Gaza became part of the British Mandate of Palestine under the authority of the League of Nations,[19] which required Britain to implement the Balfour Declaration establishing in Palestine a "national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine."[20] Jews were present in Gaza from antiquity until the 1929 Palestine riots, when Arabs forced the Jews to leave Gaza. After that the British prohibited Jews from living in the area, though some Jews returned and, in 1946, re-established kibbutz Kfar Darom in central Gaza which had been destroyed in the 1936-39 Arab revolt in Palestine.[21]

British rule of Palestine ended with the expiration of the British Mandate and the Israeli Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948.

Egyptian control (1948–67)

According to the terms of the 1947 United Nations partition plan, the Gaza area was to become part of a new Arab state. However, the Arabs rejected the UN plan. When, following the dissolution of the British Mandate of Palestine and 1947-1948 Civil War in Palestine, Israel declared its independence in May 1948, the Egyptian army invaded the area from the south, triggering the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[19]

The Gaza Strip as it is known today was the product of the subsequent 1949 Armistice Agreements between Egypt and Israel, often referred to as the Green Line. Egypt then occupied the Strip from 1949 (except for four months of Israeli occupation during the 1956 Suez Crisis) until 1967. The Strip's population was greatly augmented by an influx of Palestinian Arab refugees who fled from Israel during the fighting.

Towards the end of the war, the All-Palestine Government (حكومة عموم فلسطين hukumat 'umum Filastin) was proclaimed in Gaza City on 22 September 1948 by the Arab League. It was conceived partly as an Arab League attempt to limit the influence of Transjordan over the Palestinian issue. The government was not recognized by Transjordan or any non-Arab country. It was little more than a façade under Egyptian control, had negligible influence or funding, and subsequently moved to Cairo. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or Egypt were issued All-Palestine passports until 1959, when Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt, annulled the All-Palestine government by decree.

Egypt never annexed the Gaza Strip, but instead treated it as a controlled territory and administered it through a military governor.[22] Arab refugees from the 1948 Arab–Israeli War were never offered Egyptian citizenship.

During the Sinai campaign of November 1956, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula were occupied by Israeli troops. International pressure led Israel to withdraw.

Israeli control (1967–94)

Israel controlled the Gaza Strip again beginning in June 1967, after the Six-Day War. During the period of Israeli control, Israel created a settlement bloc, Gush Katif, in the southwest corner of the Strip near Rafah and the Egyptian border. In total Israel created 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip, comprising 20% of the total territory. Besides ideological reasons for being there, these settlements also served Israel's security concerns. The Gaza Strip remained under Israeli military occupation until 1994. During that period the military occupation was also responsible for the maintenance of civil facilities and services.

In March 1979 Israel and Egypt signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. 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 final status of the Gaza Strip, and other relations between Israel and Palestinians, was not dealt with in the treaty. The treaty did settle the international border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Egypt renounced all territorial claims to the region beyond the international border.

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 the Strip. 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. The agreement also established an elected 88-member Palestinian National Council, which held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996.

The PA rule of the Gaza Strip and West Bank under leadership of Arafat suffered from serious mismanagement and corruption. Exorbitant bribes were demanded for allowing goods to pass in and out of the Gaza Strip, while heads of the Preventive Security Service apparatus profited from their involvement in the gravel import and cement and construction industries, such as the Great Arab Company for Investment and Development, the al-Motawaset Company, and the al-Sheik Zayid construction project.[23]

The Second Intifada broke out in September 2000 with its waves of protest, civil unrest and bombings against Israeli military and civilians, many of them perpetrated by suicide bombers, and the beginning of rockets and bombings of Israeli border localities by Palestinian guerrillas from Gaza Strip, especially from Hamas and Jihad Islami movements. In February 2005, the Israeli government voted to implement a unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip. The plan began to be implemented on 15 August 2005, and was completed on 12 September 2005. Under the plan, all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip (and four in the West Bank) and the joint Israeli-Palestinian Erez Industrial Zone were dismantled with the removal of all 9,000 Israeli settlers (most of them in the Gush Katif settlement area in the Strip's southwest) and military bases. On 12 September 2005 the Israeli cabinet formally declared an end to Israeli military rule in the Gaza Strip. To avoid any allegation that it was still in occupation of any part of the Gaza Strip, Israel also withdrew from the Philadelphi Route, which is a narrow strip adjacent to the Strip's border with Egypt, after Egypt's agreement to secure its side of the border. Under the Oslo Accords the Philadelphi Route was to remain under Israeli control to prevent the smuggling of materials (such as ammunition) and people across the border with Egypt. With Egypt agreeing to patrol its side of the border, it was hoped that the objective would be achieved. However, Israel maintained its control over the crossings in and out of Gaza. The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza was monitored by the Israeli army through special surveillance cameras. Official documents such as passports, I.D. cards, export and import papers, and many others had to be approved by the Israeli army.[citation needed]

Israel-Gaza Strip barrier

The Israeli Gaza Strip barrier is a separation barrier first constructed under the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to improve security and counter-terrorism protection. It was completed in 1996, but was largely torn down by Palestinians at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.[24]. Between December 2000 and June 2001, the part of the barrier separating the Gaza Strip from Israel was reconstructed. Completely encircling the Gaza Strip,[25] the barrier is made up of wire fencing with posts, sensors, high technology observation posts and buffer zones on lands bordering Israel, and concrete and steel walls on lands bordering Egypt. A concrete wall over eight metres high equipped with electronic sensors and underground concrete barriers to prevent tunnelling was constructed in 2005, adding to the already existent steel wall running the length of the border with Egypt.[26] Israel established a 200–300 meter buffer zone known as the "Philadelphi Route" or Philadelphi corridor.[27][28] There are three main crossing points in the barrier: the northern Erez Crossing into Israel, the southern Rafah Crossing into Egypt, and the eastern Karni Crossing used only for cargo.[29]

Dispute over occupation status

Under international law there are certain laws of war governing military occupation, including the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention.[30] Israel states that Gaza is no longer occupied, inasmuch as Israel does not exercise effective control or authority over any land or institutions in the Gaza Strip.[31][32] Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel Tzipi Livni stated in January, 2008: “Israel got out of Gaza. It dismantled its settlements there. No Israeli soldiers were left there after the disengagement.”[33]

However, this has been disputed because Gaza does not belong to any sovereign state and because of Israel’s effective control of the borders of Gaza, including its long sea border. Immediately after Israel withdrew in 2005, Palestine Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stated, "the legal status of the areas slated for evacuation has not changed."[31] Soon after Palestinian American attorney Gregory Khalil said “Israel still controls every person, every good, literally every drop of water to enter or leave the Gaza Strip. Its troops may not be there … but it still restricts the ability for the Palestinian authority to exercise control.”[34] Human Rights Watch also contested that this ended the occupation.[35][36]

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs maintains an office on “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which concerns itself with the Gaza Strip.[37] A July 2004 opinion of the International Court of Justice treated Gaza as part of the occupied territories.[38] In his statement on the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories" wrote that international humanitarian law applied to Israel "in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war."[39] In a 2009 interview on Democracy Now Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) contends that Israel is an occupying power . However, Meagan Buren, Senior Adviser to the Israel Project, a Pro-Israel media group contests that characterization.[40] Others are saying that the strip status has changed, stressing that Gaza has a border with Egypt, and saying that the fact that Israel is controlling the other borders of the Gaza Strip doesn't mean the strip is occupied under international law.

Palestinian Authority control (1994–2007)

In accordance with the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority took over the administrative authority of the Gaza Strip (other than the settlement blocs and military areas) in 1994. After the complete Israeli withdrawal of Israeli settlers and military from the Gaza Strip on 12 September 2005, the Palestinian Authority had complete administrative authority in the Gaza Strip. Since the Israeli withdrawal the Rafah Border Crossing had been supervised by EU Border Assistance Mission Rafah under an Agreement finalised in November 2005.[41]

Violence in the wake of 2006 election

In the Palestinian parliamentary elections held on January 25, 2006, Hamas won a plurality of 42.9% of the total vote and 74 out of 132 total seats (56%).[42][43] When Hamas assumed power the next month, the Israeli government and the key players of the international community, the United States and the EU refused to recognize its right to govern the Palestinian Authority. Direct aid to the Palestinian government there was cut off, although some of that money was redirected to humanitarian organizations not affiliated with the government.[44] The resulting political disorder and economic stagnation led to many Palestinians emigrating from the Gaza Strip.[45]

In January 2007, fighting erupted between Hamas and Fatah. The deadliest clashes occurred in the northern Gaza Strip, where General Muhammed Gharib, a senior commander of the Fatah-dominated Preventative Security Force, died when a rocket hit his home. Gharib's two daughters and two bodyguards were also killed in the attack, which was carried out by Hamas gunmen.[46]

At the end of January 2007, a truce was negotiated between Fatah and Hamas.[47] However, after a few days, new fighting broke out.[48] Fatah fighters stormed a Hamas-affiliated university in the Gaza Strip. Officers from Abbas' presidential guard battled Hamas gunmen guarding the Hamas-led Interior Ministry.[49]

In May 2007, new fighting broke out between the factions.[50] Interior Minister Hani Qawasmi, who had been considered a moderate civil servant acceptable to both factions, resigned due to what he termed harmful behavior by both sides.[51]

Fighting spread in the Gaza Strip with both factions attacking vehicles and facilities of the other side. In response to constant attacks by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel launched an air strike which destroyed a building used by Hamas. Ongoing violence prompted fear that it could bring the end of the Fatah-Hamas coalition government, and possibly the end of the Palestinian authority.[52]

Hamas spokeman Moussa Abu Marzouk placed the blame for the worsening situation in the Strip upon Israel, stating that the constant pressure of economic sanctions upon Gaza resulted in the "real explosion."[53] Expressions of concerns were received from many Arab leaders, with many offering to try to help by doing some diplomatic work between the two factions.[54] One journalist wrote an eyewitness account stating:

Today I have seen people shot before my eyes, I heard the screams of terrified women and children in a burning building, and I argued with gunmen who wanted to take over my home. I have seen a lot in my years as a journalist in Gaza, but this is the worst it's been.[55]

Hamas control (2007–present)

Hamas take-over of the Strip

In June 2007, the Palestinian Civil War between Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) and Fatah (Palestine Liberation Movement) intensified. Hamas routed Fatah after winning the democratic election, and by 14 June 2007 controlled the Gaza strip. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded by declaring a state of emergency, dissolving the unity government and forming a new government without Hamas participation. PNA security forces in the West Bank arrested a number of Hamas members.

Abbas's government won widespread international support. In late June 2008 Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia said that the West Bank-based Cabinet formed by Abbas was the sole legitimate Palestinian government, and Egypt moved its embassy from Gaza to the West Bank.[56] The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip faces international, diplomatic, and economic isolation.

However, both Saudi Arabia and Egypt supported reconciliation and the forming of a new unity government, and pressed Abbas to start serious talks with Hamas. Abbas had always conditioned this on Hamas returning control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas has been invited to and has visited a number of countries, including Russia, and in the EU countries, opposition parties and politicians called for a dialogue with Hamas and an end to the economic sanctions.

After the takeover, Israel and Egypt closed its border crossings with Gaza. Palestinian sources reported that European Union monitors fled the Rafah Border Crossing, on the Gaza-Israel border for fear of being kidnapped or harmed.[57] Arab foreign ministers and Palestinian officials presented a united front against control of the border by Hamas.[58]

Meanwhile, Israeli and Egyptian security reports said that Hamas continued smuggling in large quantities of explosives and arms from Egypt through tunnels. Egyptian security forces uncovered 60 tunnels in 2007.[59]

Conditions after the Hamas take-over

After Hamas' June victory, it started ousting Fatah-linked officials from positions of power and authority in the Strip (such as government positions, security services, universities, newspapers, etc.) and strove to enforce law in the Strip by progressively removing guns from the hands of peripheral militias, clans, and criminal groups, and gaining control of supply tunnels. According to Amnesty International, under Hamas rule, newspapers have been closed down and journalists have been harassed.[60] Fatah demonstrations have been forbidden or suppressed, as in the case of a large demonstration on the anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death, which resulted in the deaths of seven people, after protesters hurled stones at Hamas security forces.[61]

Christians were also threatened and assaulted in the Gaza Strip. The owner of a Christian bookshop was abducted and murdered,[62] and on 15 February 2008, the Christian Youth Organization's library in Gaza City was bombed.[63] Hamas has used hospitals and other public buildings as staging grounds for attacks and retaliation,[64] which has resulted in Fatah responding in kind.[65]

Hamas and other Gazan militant groups continued to fire home made Qassam rockets from the Strip across the border into Israel. According to Israel, between the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the end of January 2008, 697 rockets and 822 mortar bombs were fired at Israeli towns.[66] In response, Israel targeted home made Qassam launchers and military targets and on 19 September 2007, declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity. In January 2008 the situation escalated; Israel curtailed travel from Gaza, the entry of goods, and cut fuel supplies to the Strip on 19 January 2008, resulting in power shortages. This brought charges that Israel was inflicting collective punishment on the Gaza population, leading to international condemnation. Despite multiple reports from within the Strip that food and other essentials were in extremely short supply, [67] Israel countered that Gaza had enough food and energy supplies for weeks.[68] In early March 2008, air strikes and ground incursions into the Strip by the IDF led to the deaths of over 110 Palestinians and extensive damage to Jabalia.[69] The Egyptian border continues to remain closed with no significant international pressure to open it.[70]

Barrier breach

On 23 January 2008, after months of preparation during which the steel reinforcement of the border barrier was weakened,[71] Hamas destroyed several parts of the wall dividing Gaza and Egypt in the town of Rafah. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans crossed the border into Egypt seeking food and supplies. Due to the crisis, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered his troops to allow the Palestinians in but to verify that they did not bring weapons back across the border.[72] Egypt arrested and later released several armed Hamas militants in the Sinai who presumably wanted to infiltrate into Israel. At the same time, Israel increased its state of alert along the length of the Israel-Egypt Sinai border, and warned its citizens to leave Sinai "without delay."

The EU Border Monitors indicated their readiness to return to monitor the border, should Hamas guarantee their safety; while the Palestinian Authority demanded that Egypt deal only with the Authority in negotiations relating to borders. Israel eased up some influx of goods and medical supplies to the strip, but it curtailed electricity by 5% in one of its ten lines, while Hamas and Egypt shored up some of the gaping holes between the two areas.[73] The first attempts by Egypt to reclose the border were met by violent clashes with Gaza gunmen, but after 12 days the borders were sealed again.[citation needed]

By mid-February the Rafah crossing remained closed.[74] In February 2008 a Haaretz poll indicated that 64% of Israelis favour their government holding direct talks with Hamas in Gaza about a cease-fire and to secure the release of Gilad Shalit,[75] an Israeli soldier who was captured in a cross border raid by Hamas militants on 25 June 2006 and has been held hostage since.[76][77][78]

Conflict continues

In February 2008, Israeli-Palestinian fighting intensified with rockets launched at Israeli cities and Israel attacking Palestinian gunmen. Military aggression by Hamas led to a heavy Israeli military action on 1 March 2008, resulting in over 110 Palestinians being killed according to BBC News, as well as 2 Israeli soldiers. Israeli human rights group B'Tselem estimated that 45 of those killed were not involved in hostilities, and 15 were minors.[79]

After a round of tit-for-tat arrests between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, the Hilles clan from Gaza were relocated to Jericho on 4 August 2008.[80]

Retiring Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on 11 November 2008, "The question is not whether there will be a confrontation, but when it will take place, under what circumstances, and who will control these circumstances, who will dictate them, and who will know to exploit the time from the beginning of the ceasefire until the moment of confrontation in the best possible way.”

On 14 November 2008, Gaza was blockaded by Israel in response to the rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas and other militant groups operating inside Gaza,[81] however food, power and water can still enter from Egypt if the Egyptian authorities allow it.

After a 24-hour period in which not a single Qassam rocket or mortar was fired into Israel, on 24 November 2008 the IDF facilitated the transfer of over 30 truckloads of food, basic supplies and medicine into the Gaza Strip, and it also transferred fuel to the main power plant of the area.[82] On 25 November 2008 Israel closed its cargo crossing with Gaza due to two rockets being shot at Israel.[83]

Gaza war

Combined Monthly rocket & Mortar hits in Israel in 2008
Israelis killed by Palestinians in Israel (blue) and Palestinians killed by Israelis in Gaza(red)

On 27 December 2008,[84] Israeli F-16 strike fighters launched a series of air strikes against targets in Gaza. Struck were police stations, schools, hospitals, UN warehouses, a mosque, various Hamas government buildings, a science building in the Islamic University, and a U.N.-operated elementary school in a Palestinian refugee camp.[85] Israel said that the attack was a response to Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel, which totaled over 3,000 in 2008, and which intensified during the few weeks preceding the operation. Palestinian medical staff said at least 434 Palestinians were killed, and at least 2,800 wounded, made up mostly civilians and some Hamas members, in the first five days of Israeli strikes on Gaza. Israel began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on 3 January 2009.[86] Israel rebuffed many cease-fire calls and both sides declared unilateral cease-fires.[87][88]

In total 13 Israelis and approximately 1400 Palestinians were killed in the 22-day war.[89]

After 22 days of fighting, Israel decided to stop fighting, while insisting on holding its positions, while Hamas has vowed to fight on if Israeli forces do not leave the Strip.[90]

5,000 homes, 16 government buildings, and 20 mosques were destroyed. 25,000 homes were damaged.[91]

Gaza blockade continues

The 2-year old blockade of the Gaza strip continued after the end of the war, although Israel allowed in limited quantities of medical humanitarian aid.

The Red Cross has released a report that argues that Israel's continued blockade is making it impossible for Gaza to recover from the war. The Red Cross says that the blockade is "strangling" the Gazan economy and also notes that the blockade has caused a shortage of basic medicines and equipment such as painkillers and x-ray film.[92]

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister’s office, has said that the program is of sanctions and not a blockade, but attorney Sharhabeel al-Zaeem, a legal consultant in Gaza for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), has said that the blockade is "an action outside of international law”.[93]

As of September 2009 it was reported that according to the Arab League, Israel is waging a financial war.[94]

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strictly controls travel within the area of the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and has essentially sealed the border. The security environment within Gaza and along its borders, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and can change at any time.[95]

Government and politics

Israel disengaged from the coastal strip in 2005. Hamas assumed administrative control of Gaza following the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and its 2007 military victory over Fatah, the secular Palestinian nationalist party.


Flag of Palestine
Gaza Strip
Palestinian territories
Principal geographical features of Israel and south-eastern Mediterranean region

The Gaza Strip is located in the Middle East (at 31°25′N 34°20′E / 31.417°N 34.333°E / 31.417; 34.333Coordinates: 31°25′N 34°20′E / 31.417°N 34.333°E / 31.417; 34.333). It has a 51 kilometers (32 mi) border with Israel, and an 11 km border with Egypt, near the city of Rafah. Khan Yunis is located 7 kilometers (4 mi) northeast of Rafah, and several towns around Deir el-Balah are located along the coast between it and Gaza City. Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun are located to the north and northeast of Gaza City, respectively. The Gush Katif bloc of Israeli localities used to exist on the sand dunes adjacent to Rafah and Khan Yunis, along the southwestern edge of the 40 kilometers (25 mi) Mediterranean coastline.

Gaza strip has a temperate climate, with mild winters, and dry, hot summers subject to drought. The terrain is flat or rolling, with dunes near the coast. The highest point is Abu 'Awdah (Joz Abu 'Auda), at 105 meters (344 ft) above sea level. Natural resources include arable land (about a third of the strip is irrigated), and recently discovered natural gas. Environmental issues include desertification; salination of fresh water; sewage treatment; water-borne disease; soil degradation; and depletion and contamination of underground water resources.

The Strip currently holds the oldest known remains of a man-made bonfire, and some of the world's oldest dated human skeletons. It occupies territory similar to that of ancient Philistia, and is occasionally known by that name.


In 2007 approximately 1.4 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, of whom almost 1.0 million are UN-registered refugees.[96] The majority of the Palestinians are descendants of refugees who were driven from or left their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[citation needed] The Strip's population has continued to increase since that time, one of the main reasons being a total fertility rate of more than 5 children per woman. In a ranking by total fertility rate, this places Gaza 30th of 222 regions[6] and above all non-African countries except Afghanistan and Yemen.

The vast majority of the population are Sunni Muslims, with an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Christians.[97] In December 2007, Israel permitted 400 Gaza Christians to travel through Israel to Bethlehem for Christmas. Even though they were restricted by travel permits, many Christian families took the opportunity to settle in the West Bank, despite the illegality.[citation needed]

One of the largest foreign communities in the Gaza Strip was the approximately 500 women from the former Soviet Union. During the Soviet era, the Communist Party subsidized university studies for thousands of students from Yemen, Egypt, Syria and the territories. Some of them got married during their studies and brought their Russian and Ukrainian spouses back home. However, over half of them were able to leave the Strip via the Erez crossing to Amman within days of Hamas's takeover. From there they have flown back to Eastern Europe.[98]


The economy of the Gaza Strip is severely limited by high population density, limited land access, strict internal and external security controls, the effects of Israeli military destruction of capital, and restrictions on labour and trade access across the border. Per capita income was estimated at US$ 3,100 in 2009, a position of 164th in the world.[6] Eighty percent of the population is below the poverty line according to a 2007 estimate.[6] Gaza Strip industries are generally small family businesses that produce textiles, soap, olive-wood carvings, and mother-of-pearl souvenirs; the Israelis have established some small-scale modern industries in an industrial center. Israel supplies the Gaza Strip with electricity. The main agricultural products are olives, citrus, vegetables, Halal beef, and dairy products. Primary exports are citrus and cut flowers, while primary imports are food, consumer goods, and construction materials. The main trade partners of the Gaza Strip are Israel, Egypt, and the West Bank.[6]

Economic output in the Gaza Strip declined by about one-third between 1992 and 1996. This downturn has been variously attributed to corruption and mismanagement by Yasser Arafat, and to Israeli closure policies. An important hindrance to economic development is the lack of a sea harbour. A harbour was planned to be built in Gaza city with help from France and the Netherlands, but the project was bombed by Israel in 2001. Israel said that the Israeli settlement was being shot from the construction site at the harbour.[99][100] As a result, any international transports (both trade and aid) have to go through Israel, which are hindered by the imposition of generalized border closures. These also disrupted previously established labor and commodity market relationships between Israel and the Strip. A serious negative social effect of this downturn was the emergence of high unemployment.

Israel's use of comprehensive closures decreased during the next few years and, in 1998, Israel implemented new policies to reduce the impact of closures and other security procedures on the movement of Palestinian goods and labor into Israel. These changes fueled an almost three-year-long economic recovery in the Gaza Strip. Recovery ended with the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in the last quarter of 2000 that lasted until 2004. The al-Aqsa Intifada triggered tight IDF closures of the border with Israel, as well as frequent curbs on traffic in Palestinian self-rule areas, severely disrupting trade and labor movements. In 2001, and even more severely in early 2002, internal turmoil and Israeli military measures in Palestinian Authority areas resulted in the destruction of capital plant and administrative structure, widespread business closures, and a sharp drop in GDP. During the Intifada, a lot of infrastructure had been destroyed by Israel such as the Palestine airport.[100] Another major factor has been the decline of income earned due to reduction in the number of Gazans permitted entry to work in Israel. After the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the flow of a limited number of workers into Israel again resumed, although Israel has stated its intention to reduce or end such permits due to the victory of Hamas in the 2006 parliamentary elections.

The Israeli settlers of Gush Katif built greenhouses and experimented with new forms of agriculture. These greenhouses also provided employment for many hundred Gazan Palestinians. When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in the Summer of 2005, some of the greenhouses were purchased with money raised by former World Bank president James Wolfensohn, and given to the Palestinian people to jump-start their economy, while others were demolished by the departing Israeli settlers.[101] However, the effort faltered due to limited water supply, Palestinian looting, inability to export produce due to Israeli border restrictions, and corruption in the Palestinian Authority. Many Palestinian companies have been repairing greenhouses damaged and looted in the process of Israeli withdrawal.[102]

Before the second Palestinian uprising broke out in September 2000, around 25,000 workers from the Gaza Strip (about 2% of the population) used to work in Israel every day.[103]

Israel, the United States, Canada, and the European Union have frozen all funds to the Palestinian government after the formation of a Hamas-controlled government after its victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election. They view the group as a terrorist organization, and have pressured Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence, and agree to past agreements. Since Israel's withdrawal and its subsequent blockade, the gross domestic product of the Gaza Strip has been crippled. The enterprise and industry of the former Jewish villages has been impaired, and the previously established work relationships between Israel and the Gaza Strip have been disrupted. Job opportunities in Israel for Gaza Palestinians have been largely lost. Prior to disengagement, 120,000 Palestinians from Gaza were employed in Israel or in joint projects. Only about 20,000 have been able to keep these jobs.[citation needed]

After the 2006 elections, fighting broke out between Fatah and Hamas, which Hamas won in the Gaza Strip on 14 June 2007. After that, all contact between the outside world and the Strip has been severed by Israel. The only goods permitted into the Strip through the land crossings are goods of a humanitarian nature.


A study carried out by Johns Hopkins University (U.S.) and Al-Quds University (in Abu Dis) for CARE International in late 2002 revealed very high levels of dietary deficiency among the Palestinian population. The study found that 17.5% of children aged 6–59 months suffered from chronic malnutrition. 53% of women of reproductive age and 44% of children were found to be anemic. In the aftermath of the Israeli withdrawal of August and September 2005, the health care system in Gaza continues to face severe challenges.[104] After the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip the health conditions in Gaza Strip faces new challenges. World Health Organization (WHO) expressed its concerns about the consequences of the Palestinian internal political fragmentation; the socioeconomic decline; military actions; and the physical, psychological and economic isolation on the health of the population in Gaza.[105]

Gazans who desire medical care in Israeli hospitals must apply for a medical visa permit. In 2007, State of Israel granted 7,176 permits and denied 1,627.[106]


The Gaza Strip has been home to a significant branch of the contemporary Palestinian art movement since the mid 20th century. Prominent artists include painters Fayez Sersawi, Abdul Rahman al Muzayan and Ismail Shammout (who lived in exile much of his adult life) and new media artists Taysir Batniji (who lives in France) and Laila al Shawa (who lives in London). An emerging generation of artists is also active in nonprofit art organizations such as Windows From Gaza and Eltiqa Group, which regularly host exhibitions and events open to the public.[107]


Adherents of Islam makes up 99.3 percent of the population and 0.7 percent of the population are Christian.[6]

Transport and communication

The Gaza Strip has a small, poorly developed road network. It also had a single standard gauge railway line running the entire length of the Strip from north to south along its center; however, it is abandoned, in disrepair, and little trackage remains. The line once connected to the Egyptian railway system to the south, as well as the Israeli system to the north.

The strip's one port was never completed after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada. Its airport, the Gaza International Airport, opened on 24 November 1998, as part of agreements stipulated in the Oslo II Accord and the 23 October 1998 Wye River Memorandum. The airport was closed in October 2000 by Israeli orders, and its runway was destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces in December 2001. It has since been renamed Yasser Arafat International Airport.

The Gaza Strip has rudimentary land line telephone service provided by an open-wire system, as well as extensive mobile telephone services provided by PalTel (Jawwal), or Israeli providers such as Cellcom. Gaza is serviced by four internet service providers that now compete for ADSL and dial-up customers. Most Gaza households have a radio and a TV (70%+), and approximately 20% have a personal computer. People living in Gaza have access to FTA satellite programs, broadcast TV from the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and the Second Israeli Broadcasting Authority.[108]

See also




  • Cobham, David P.; Kanafani, Noman (2004), The economics of Palestine: economic policy and institutional reform for a viable Palestinian state (Illustrated ed.), Routledge, ISBN 041532761X, 9780415327619 


  1. ^ "Palestinian Territories". U.S. Department of State. http://www.state.gov/p/nea/ci/pt/index.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  2. ^ "Occupied Palestinian Territory". European Commission. http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/occupied_palestinian_territory/index_en.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  3. ^ "Israel, the occupied territories and the autonomous territories - ICRC maps". ICRC. http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/map_israel!OpenDocument. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  4. ^ "Country profile: Israel and Palestinian territories". BBC. 15 December 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/country_profiles/803257.stm. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  5. ^ Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (September 15, 2009). "HUMAN RIGHTS IN PALESTINE AND OTHER OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES" (PDF). The Guardian. http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2009/09/15/UNFFMGCReport.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "CIA - The World Factbook - Gaza Strip". CIA. 2009. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gz.html. Retrieved 19 February 2010. 
  7. ^ Cobham and Kanafani, 2004, p. 179.
  8. ^ "Hamas admits losing control in Gaza". haaretz.com. March 6, 2009. http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1154428.html. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  9. ^ [www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=170335 "Hamas losing control over Strip"]. Jerusalem Post. www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=170335. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  10. ^ Deuteronomy 2:23
  11. ^ Joshua 10:41 & Joshua 15:47
  12. ^ This story is also told in the New Testament as well. [1]
  13. ^ a b Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  14. ^ Baptist Press - Mideast turmoil: More complex than the Ishmael-Isaac rift - News with a Christian Perspective
  15. ^ Abbas to inaugurate Gaza exhibition in Switzerland
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  18. ^ CWGC :: Cemetery Details
  19. ^ a b "Encarta". Encarta. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761579828_2/Gaza_Strip.html. 
  20. ^ Palestine Mandate
  21. ^ Jewish Virtual Library [2] Paying the Price for Peace
  22. ^ The History Channel
  23. ^ The Atlantic
  24. ^ Almog, Major General Doron (2004-12-23), Lessons of the Gaza Security Fence for the West Bank, 4 (12 ed.), Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, http://www.jcpa.org/brief/brief004-12.htm 
  25. ^ Barnard, Anne (2006-10-22). "Life in Gaza Steadily Worsens". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2006/10/22/life_in_gaza_steadily_worsens/. 
  26. ^ "Israel Changes Anti-Smuggling Tactics". Associated Press. USA Today. 2005-03-22. http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-03-02-mideast-weapons_x.htm. 
  27. ^ Abrahams, Fred; Garlasco, Marc; and Li, Darryl (2004-10-18) (PDF). Razing Rafah: Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip. Human Rights Watch. http://www.reliefweb.int/library/documents/2004/hrw-opt-18oct.pdf. 
  28. ^ Rubin, Andrew (2005-07-07). "We Are No Longer Able to See the Sun". Al Ahram Weekly. http://www.globalpolicy.org/intljustice/icj/2005/0707israel.htm. 
  29. ^ Myre, Greg (2006-03-04). "Gaza Crossing:Choked Passages to Frustration". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/04/international/middleeast/04gaza.html?ex=1299128400&en=5ce2d89055b684dc&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss. 
  30. ^ Occupation and international humanitarian law: questions and answers, International Committee of the Red Cross, 2004.
  31. ^ a b Dore Gold, JCPA Legal Acrobatics: The Palestinian Claim that Gaza is Still "Occupied" Even After Israel Withdraws, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Vol. 5, No. 3, August 26, 2005.
  32. ^ International Law and Gaza: The Assault on Israel's Right to Self-Defense, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Vol. 7, No. 29 28 January 2008.
  33. ^ Israeli MFA Address by Israeli Foreign Minister Livni to the 8th Herzliya Conference, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Israel), January 22, 2008.
  34. ^ Panelists Disagree Over Gaza’s Occupation Status, University of Virginia School of Law, November 17, 2005.
  35. ^ "Israel: 'Disengagement' Will Not End Gaza Occupation" Human Rights Watch. October 29, 2004
  36. ^ "Human Rights Council Special Session on the Occupied Palestinian Territories" July 6, 2006"
  37. ^ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs office on Occupied Palestinian Territory web site.
  38. ^ Summary of the Advisory Opinion: Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, International Court of Justice, July 9, 2004.
  39. ^ Richard Falk, Statement by Prof. Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, United Nations Human Rights Council, December 27, 2008.
  40. ^ [http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/5/a_debate_on_israels_invasion_of A Debate on Israel’s Invasion of Gaza: UNRWA's Christopher Gunness v. Israel Project’s Meagan Buren Democracy Now, January 5, 2009.
  41. ^ EU Border Assistance Mission for Rafah Crossing Point (EU BAM Rafah), United nations : European union, 25 November 2005, http://www.europa-eu-un.org/articles/en/article_5366_en.htm 
  42. ^ Counting underway in Palestinian elections, International Herald Tribune, 25 January 2006.
  43. ^ Election officials reduce Hamas seats by two, ABC News Online, 30 January 2006.
  44. ^ U.S. and Europe Halt Aid to Palestinian Government, 4/8/2006
  45. ^ More Palestinians flee homelands, Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press, December 9, 2006.
  46. ^ Hamas, Fatah continue clashes; 8 killed, jpost.com, 3 January 2007.
  47. ^ Palestinian Cease-Fire Holds on 1st Day, Ibrahim Barzak, 31 January 2007, Associated Press; Cease-Fire Starts Taking Hold in Gaza Ibrahim Barzak, 30 January 2007, Associated Press.
  48. ^ Hamas attacks convoy Associated Press, 1 February 2007.
  49. ^ Gaza erupts in fatal clashes after truce, Associated Press, 2 February 2007.
  50. ^ Hamas kills 8 in Gaza border clash, By Ibrahim Barzak, Associated Press Writer, 15 May 2007.
  51. ^ Top Palestinian security official quits By Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press, 14 May 2007; Resignation deepens Gaza crisis, BBC, 14 May 2007.
  52. ^ Israel attacks in Gaza amid factional violence, by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Associated Press, 16 May 2007.
  53. ^ Hamas Blames World, Associated Press, 16 May 2007.
  54. ^ Gaza bloodshed alarms West's Arab allies by Hala Boncompagni, Associated Press, 16 May 2007.
  55. ^ Eyewitness: Carnage in Gaza, By Ibrahim Barzak, Asoociated Press, (via Jpost website), 16 May 2007.
  56. ^ Ha'aretz
  57. ^ EU monitors flee Rafah border crossing | Israel | Jerusalem Post
  58. ^ Al Jazeera English - Middle East - Abbas wins Egypt backing on border
  59. ^ Egypt finds 60 Gaza tunnels in 10 months | Middle East
  60. ^ "Torn apart by factional strife". Amnesty International. 24 October 2007. http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE210202007. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  61. ^ Hamas kills seven at Arafat rally in Gaza , AFP, (via SBS World News Australia), 13 November 2007.
  62. ^ Gaza's Christian bookseller killed - Middle East, World - The Independent
  63. ^ [3]
  64. ^ http://news.aol.com/article/hezbollah-like-tactic-used-by-hamas/291104
  65. ^ Gaza hospital medics walk out to protest abduction, shooting of doctor - Haaretz - Israel News
  66. ^ Israeli MFA
  67. ^ : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5122404.stm
  68. ^ Ynet news
  69. ^ Dozens die in Israel-Gaza clashes BBC News. 2 March 2008.
  70. ^ Israel mulls truce offer on Day 4 of Gaza assault - Washington Times
  71. ^ Ha'aretz
  72. ^ {{Cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7205668.stm|title=Egypt 'won't force Gazans back'|publisher=BBC News|date=23 January 2008|accessdate=2008-01-23}}
  73. ^ Abu Toameh, Khaled (January 29, 2008). "Fatah, Hamas fight for border control". Jerusalem Post. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?c=JPArticle&cid=1201523779483&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  74. ^ Maan news
  75. ^ Yossi Verter (2008-02-27). "Poll: Most Israelis back direct talks with Hamas on Shalit". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/958473.html. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  76. ^ 'Israelis threaten a broader action' by Ian Fisher and Steven Erlanger, International Herald Tribune
  77. ^ Gilad Shalit's birthday marked
  78. ^ 'Militants issue Israel hostage demands'(CNN)
  79. ^ Israeli Gaza operation 'not over'
  80. ^ Jerusalem Post 4 August 2008 IDF: Hilles clan won't boost terrorism by Yaacov Katz And Khaled Abu Toameh
  81. ^ Blockade leaves Gazans in the dark - Los Angeles Times
  82. ^ Ministries at odds over journalists' entry into Gaza | Israel | Jerusalem Post
  83. ^ Israel closes Gaza crossings | Israel | Jerusalem Post
  84. ^ Israelis Say Strikes Against Hamas Will Continue - NYTimes.com
  85. ^ Haaretz, January 7, 2009, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1053233.html
  86. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2009/01/03/world/international-palestinians-israel.html
  87. ^ McClatchy Newspapers, January 5, 2009, "Israel Rebuffs Cease-Fire Calls as Gaza Casualties Rise" http://www.mcclatchydc.com/world/story/58981.html
  88. ^ Hamas Rejects Cease-Fire With Israel in Gaza - Mideast Watch (usnews.com)
  89. ^ BBC News - Slow recovery from wounds of Gaza conflict
  90. ^ Israel Declares Cease-Fire; Hamas Says It Will Fight On - NYTimes.com
  91. ^ http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/2009/01/20/israelis-destroyed-25-000-homes-in-gaza-palestinians-say-86908-21054944/
  92. ^ "Red Cross: Israel trapping 1.5m Gazans in despair". Haaretz. 2009-06-29. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1096443.html. 
  93. ^ ISRAEL-OPT: UN report details grim effects of Israeli blockade on Gaza
  94. ^ Arab League : Israel waging a financial war
  95. ^ Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Travel Warning
  96. ^ UNRWA: palestine refugees
  97. ^ Middle East Christians: Gaza pastor BBC News, 21 December 2005
  98. ^ Jpost
  99. ^ http://cgi.omroep.nl/legacy/babel?/ceres/vara/rest/2009/VARA_101199822/bb.20090310.asf
  100. ^ a b Afleveringen: ZEMBLA
  101. ^ Israeli Settlers Demolish Greenhouses and Gaza Jobs New York Times, 15 July 2005
  102. ^ Looters strip Gaza greenhouses
  103. ^ AFP
  104. ^ http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm//lf_nm/mideast_gaza_health_dc
  105. ^ WHO | WHO statement on the situation in the Gaza Strip
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  107. ^ Farhat, Maymanah. Under the Voices of Fire: Artists in Gaza
  108. ^ Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics - 2004 Survey of Computer, Internet and Mobile Phone Ownership

External links

Live Webcam

Skyline of Gaza, 2007
Coat of arms of Gaza


Arabic غزة
Governorate Gaza
Government City (from 1994[1])
Also spelled Ghazzah (officially)

Gaza City (unofficially)

Coordinates 31°31′N 34°27′E / 31.517°N 34.45°E / 31.517; 34.45Coordinates: 31°31′N 34°27′E / 31.517°N 34.45°E / 31.517; 34.45
Population 449,221[2] (2009)

45,000  dunams (45[3] km²)

Founded in 15th Century BCE
Head of Municipality Rafiq Tawfiq al-Makki

Gaza (Arabic: غزةGhazza, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈɣazːa]; also referred to as Gaza City) is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 410,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.

Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC, Gaza has been dominated by several different people and empires throughout its history. The Philistines made it a part of their pentapolis after the Ancient Egyptians had ruled it for nearly 350 years. Under the Romans and later the Byzantines, Gaza experienced relative peace and its port flourished. In 635 AD, it became the first city in Palestine to be conquered by the Rashidun army and quickly developed into a center of Islamic law. However, by the time the Crusaders invaded the city, it was in ruins. In later centuries, Gaza experienced several hardships—from Mongol raids to floods and locusts, reducing it to a village by the 16th century when it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. During the first half of Ottoman rule, the Ridwan dynasty controlled Gaza and under them the city went through an age of great commerce and peace.

Gaza fell to British forces during World War I, becoming a part of the British Mandate of Palestine. As a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egypt administered the newly formed Gaza Strip territory and several improvements were undertaken in the city. Gaza was captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967, but in 1993, the city was transferred to the Palestinian National Authority. Following the 2006 election, conflict broke out as the Fatah party seemed unwilling to transfer power to Hamas, resulting in Hamas taking power in Gaza by force. Since then Gaza has been under a blockade by Israel and Egypt.

The primary economic activities of Gaza are small-scale industries, agriculture and labor. However, the economy has been devastated by the blockade and recurring conflicts. Most of Gaza's inhabitants adhere to Islam, although there exists a Christian minority. Gaza has a very young population with roughly 75% being under the age of 25, and today the city has one of the highest population densities in the world—refugees make up over half of the residents.



According to Zev Vilnay, the name "Gaza," from the Arabic "Ġazza", originally derives from the Canaanite/Hebrew root for "strong" (ʕZZ), and was introduced to Arabic by way of the Hebrew, "ʕazzā", i.e. "the strong one (f.)"; cpr. English stronghold.[4] According to Mariam Shahin, the Canaanites gave Gaza its name, the Ancient Egyptians called it "Ghazzat" ("prized city"), and the Arabs often refer to it as "Ghazzat Hashim", in honor of Hashim, the great-grandfather of Muhammad, who is buried in the city, according to Islamic lore.[5]


Gaza's history of habitation dates back 5,000 years, making it one of the oldest cities in the world.[6] Located on the Mediterranean coastal route between North Africa and the Levant, for most of its history it served as a key entrepot of southern Palestine and an important stopover on the spice trade route traversing the Red Sea.[6][7]

Bronze Age

Settlement in the region of Gaza dates back to Tell as-Sakan, an Ancient Egyptian fortress built in Canaanite territory to the south of present-day Gaza. The site went into decline throughout the Early Bronze Age II as its trade with Egypt sharply decreased.[8] Another urban center known as Tell al-Ajjul began to grow along the Wadi Ghazza riverbed. During the Middle Bronze Age, a revived Tell es-Sakan became the southernmost locality in Palestine, serving as a fort. In 1650 BCE, when the Canaanite Hyksos occupied Egypt, a second city developed on the ruins of the first Tell as-Sakan. However, it was abandoned by the 14th century BCE, at the end of the Bronze Age.[8]

Ancient period

Gaza later served as Egypt’s administrative capital in Canaan.[9] During the reign of Tuthmosis III, the city became a stop on the Syrian-Egyptian caravan route and was mentioned in the Amarna letters as "Azzati".

Gaza remained under Egyptian control for 350 years until it was conquered by the Philistines in the 12th century BCE, becoming a part of their "pentapolis".[10] According to the Book of Judges, Gaza was the place where Samson was imprisoned by the Philistines and met his death.[11]

After being ruled by the Israelites, Assyrians, and then the Egyptians, Gaza achieved relative independence and prosperity under the Persian Empire. Alexander the Great besieged Gaza, the last city to resist his conquest on his path to Egypt, for five months before finally capturing it 332 BCE;[10] the inhabitants were either killed or taken captive. Alexander brought in local Bedouins to populate Gaza and organized the city into a polis (or "city-state"). Greek culture consequently took root and Gaza earned a reputation as a flourishing center of Hellenic learning and philosophy.[12] Gaza experienced another siege in 96 BCE by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus who "utterly overthrew" the city, killing 500 senators who had fled into the temple of Apollo for safety.[13] Josephus notes that Gaza was resettled under the rule of Antipas, who cultivated friendly relations with Gazans, Ascalonites and neighboring Arabs after being appointed governor of Idumea by Jannaeus.[14] Rebuilt after it was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 63 BCE under the command of Pompey Magnus, Gaza was temporarily ruled by Herod the Great before becoming a part of the Roman province of Syria.[10] It was targeted by the Jews during their rebellion against Roman rule in 66 and was partially destroyed.[15] It nevertheless remained an important city, even more so after the destruction of Jerusalem.[16]

Throughout the Roman period, Gaza was a prosperous city and received grants and attention from several emperors.[10] A 500-member senate governed Gaza, and a diverse variety of Philistines, Greeks, Romans, Canaanites, Phoenicians, Jews, Egyptians, Persians, and Bedouin populated the city. Gaza's mint issued coins adorned with the busts of gods and emperors.[17] During his visit in 130 CE,[18] Emperor Hadrian personally inaugurated wrestling, boxing, and oratorical competitions in Gaza's new stadium, which became known from Alexandria to Damascus. The city was adorned with many pagan temples; the main cult being that of Marnas. Other temples were dedicated to Zeus, Helios, Aphrodite, Apollo, Athene and the local Tyche.[10] Christianity began to spread throughout Gaza in 250 CE, last in the port of Maiuma.[19][20][21][22] Conversion to Christianity in Gaza was accelerated under Saint Porphyrius between 396 and 420. In 402, he ordered all eight of the city's pagan temples destroyed,[10] and four years later Empress Aelia Eudocia commissioned the construction of a church atop the ruins of the Temple of Marnas.[23]

Islamic era

Following the division of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century BCE, Gaza remained under control of the Eastern Roman Empire that in turn became the Byzantine Empire. The City prospered and was na important center for the southern Palestine. In 634 CE, contrary to the popular mythology, the Byzantine city of Gaza was besieged by the Arabs Rashidun Caliphate under 'Amr b. al As following the famous battle of Dathin in her vicinity and the Battle of Ajnadayn in central Palestine . Yet she only surrendered in 637 C.E. (after Byzantine province of Egypt surrendered without fighting), and under the terms of surrender dictated by 'Amr b. al As the civilian population was spared while the Byzantine soldiers were taken to Egypt and killed there( Walter E. Keagi, Byzantium and the early Islamic conquests, p. 95). Believed to be the site where Muhammad's great grandfather Hashim ibn Abd Manaf was buried, the city was not destroyed by the victorious Rashidun army in spite of the stiff and lengthy resistance. The arrival of the Muslim Arabs brought drastic changes to Gaza; at first some of her churches were transformed into mosques, including the present Great Mosque of Gaza (the oldest in the city), the population slowly adopted Islam but Christian element remained strong (until recently, 1960s) and Arabic became the official language, while other local languages still persisted.[24] In 767, Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi'i was born in Gaza and lived his early childhood there; al-Shafi'i founded a prominent Sunni Muslim legal philosophy (or fiqh) called Shafi'i, in his honor.[25] In 796, Gaza was destroyed during a civil war between the Arab tribes of the area.[26] However, by the 10th century CE the city had been rebuilt by a third Arab caliphate ruled by the Abbasids; Arab geographer al-Muqaddasi described Gaza as "a large town lying on the highroad to Egypt on the border of the desert."[27] In 977 CE, a fourth Arab caliphate ruled by the Fatimids established an agreement with the competing Seljuk Turks, whereby the Fatimids would control Gaza and the land south of it, including Egypt.[28]

European Crusaders conquered Gaza from the Fatimids in 1100 and King Baldwin III built a castle there in 1149. After the castle's construction, Baldwin granted it and the surrounding region to the Knights Templar.[23] He also had the Great Mosque converted into the Cathedral of Saint John.[18] In 1154, Arab traveler al-Idrisi wrote Gaza "is today very populous and in the hands of the Crusaders."[29] In 1170, King Amalric I of Jerusalem withdrew Gaza's Templars to assist him against an Islamic Ayyubid force led by Saladin at the nearby city of Deir al-Balah; however, Saladin evaded the Crusader force and assaulted Gaza instead, destroying the town built outside the castle. Seven years later, the Templars prepared for another defense of Gaza against Saladin, but this time the Islamic forces attacked Ascalon. In 1187, Saladin captured Gaza and ordered the destruction of the city's fortifications in 1191. Richard the Lionheart apparently refortified the city in 1192, but the walls were dismantled again as a result of the Treaty of Ramla agreed upon months later in 1193.[23] The Ayyubid period of rule ended in 1260, after the Mongols under Hulagu Khan completely destroyed Gaza, which became his southernmost conquest.[24]

Following Gaza's destruction by the Mongols, Muslim slave-soldiers based in Egypt known as the Mamluks began to administer the area in 1277. The Mamluks made Gaza the capital of the province that bore its name, Mamlakat Ghazzah ("the Governorship of Gaza"). This district extended along the coastal plain from Rafah in the south to just north of Caesarea, and to the east as far as the Samaria highlands and the Hebron Hills. Other major towns in the province included Qaqun, Ludd, and Ramla.[24][30] In 1294, an earthquake devastated Gaza, and five years later the Mongols again destroyed all that had been restored by the Mamluks.[24] However, circa 1300, Syrian geographer al-Dimashqi described Gaza as a "city so rich in trees it looks like a cloth of brocade spread out upon the land."[17] In 1348, the Bubonic Plague infested the city, killing the majority of its inhabitants and in 1352, Gaza suffered from a destructive flood, which was rare in that arid part of Palestine.[31] However, when Arab traveler and writer Ibn Batutta visited the city in 1355, he noted that it was "large and populous, and has many mosques."[32] The Mamluks contributed to Gazan architecture by building mosques, Islamic schools, hospitals, caravansaries, and public baths.[8]

Ottoman rule

File:Gaza (1881-1884) (A).jpg
Muslims studying the Qur'an with Gaza in the background, painting by Harry Fenn
File:Gaza painting - David
Painting of Gaza by David Roberts, 1839

In 1516, Gaza—by now a small town with an inactive port, ruined buildings and reduced trade—was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.[31] The Ottoman army quickly and efficiently crushed a small-scale uprising,[33] and the local population generally welcomed them as fellow Sunni Muslims.[31] The city was then made the capital of Sanjak Gaza, part of the larger Province of Damascus.[34] The Ridwan family, named after governor Ridwan Pasha, was the first dynasty to govern Gaza and would continue to rule the city for over a century.[35]

Although no explanation is provided in the biographies of the Ridwan family, they chose Gaza as their home and the location of their castle, Qasr al-Basha.[35] Husayn Pasha, a member of the Ridwan family, inherited the impoverished governorship of Gaza in the 17th century. His period in office was peaceful and prosperous for Gaza and he gained a good reputation for considerably reducing the strife between the nearby Bedouins and the settled population. In 1660, Gaza was designated the capital of Palestine, indicating the city's rapid recovery. The Great Mosque was restored, and six other mosques constructed, while Turkish baths and market stalls proliferated.[31] Anonymous petitions sent to Istanbul complaining about Husayn's failure to protect the Hajj caravan, however, served as an excuse for the Ottoman government to depose him. After the death of Husayn's successor, Ottomans officials were appointed to govern in place of the Ridwans. The Ridwan period was Gaza's last golden age during Ottoman rule. After the family was removed from office, the city itself went into gradual decline.[36]

Gaza was briefly occupied by the French Army under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799, but they abandoned the city after the failed siege of Acre that same year.[31] Starting in the early 19th century, Gaza was culturally dominated by neighboring Egypt; Muhammad Ali of Egypt conquered Gaza and most of Palestine in 1832.[18] American scholar Edward Robinson visited Gaza in 1838, describing it as a "thickly populated" town larger than Jerusalem, with its Old City lying upon a hilltop, while its suburbs laid on the nearby plain.[37] Gaza's port was inactive in the mid-19th century, however, the city benefited from trade and commerce because of its position on the caravan route between Egypt and Syria as well as from producing soap and cotton for trade with the Bedouin.[38] Robinson noted that virtually all of Gaza's vestiges of ancient history and antiquity had disappeared due to constant conflict and occupation.[39] The Bubonic Plague struck again in 1839 and the city, lacking political and economic stability, went into a state of stagnation. In 1840, Egyptian and Ottoman troops battled outside of Gaza. The Ottomans won control of the territory, effectively ending Egyptian rule over Palestine. However, the battles brought about more death and destruction in Gaza whilst the city was still recovering from the effects of the plague.[31]

Modern era

File:Gaza after
Gaza after surrender to British forces, 1918

While leading the Allied Forces during World War I, the British won control of the city during the Third Battle of Gaza in 1917.[31] After the war, Gaza was included in the British Mandate of Palestine.[40] In the 1930s and 1940s, Gaza underwent major expansion. New neighborhoods were built along the coast and the southern and eastern plains. International organizations and missionary groups funded most of this construction.[41] In the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan, Gaza was assigned to an Arab state but was later occupied by Egypt following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Gaza's growing population was augmented by an influx of refugees fleeing nearby cities, towns and villages that were captured by Israel. In 1957, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser made a number of reforms in Gaza, which included expanding educational opportunities and the civil services, providing housing, and establishing local security forces.[42]

Gaza was occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War following the defeat of the Egyptian Army. Frequent conflicts have erupted between Palestinians and the Israeli authorities in the city since the 1970s. The tensions lead to the First Intifada in 1987. Gaza was a center of confrontation during this uprising,[31] and economic conditions in the city worsened.[43] In September 1993, leaders of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo Accords. The agreement called for Palestinian administration of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, which was implemented in May 1994. Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza, leaving a new Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to administer and police the city.[12] The PNA, led by Yasser Arafat, chose Gaza as its first provincial headquarters. The newly established Palestinian National Council held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996.[41]

File:Day 18 of War on
Palestinians in a Gaza neighborhood during the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza Conflict (Source: Al Jazeera English)

Since the Palestinian organization Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian elections of 2006, it has been engaged in a violent power struggle with its rival Palestinian organization Fatah. In 2007, Hamas overthrew Fatah forces in the Gaza Strip and Hamas members were dismissed from the PNA government in the West Bank in response. Currently, Hamas has de facto control of the city and Strip.[44]

In March 2008, a coalition of human rights groups charged that the Israeli blockade of the city had caused the humanitarian situation in Gaza to have reached its worst point since Israel occupied the territory in the 1967 Six-Day War,[45] and that Israeli air strikes targeting militants in the densely populated areas have often killed bystanders as well.[46] In 2008, Israel commenced an assault against Gaza.[47] Israel stated the strikes were in response to repetitive rocket and mortar attacks from the Gaza Strip into Israel since 2005, while the Palestinians stated that they were responding to Israel's military excursions and blockade of the Gaza Strip. In January 2009, Palestinian sources stated that at least 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the conflict.[48]


Beach in Gaza City

Central Gaza is situated on a low-lying and round hill with an elevation of 45 feet (14 m) above sea level.[49] Much of the modern city is built along the plain below the hill, especially to the north and east, forming Gaza's suburbs. The beach and the port of Gaza are located 3 kilometers (2 mi) west of the city's nucleus and the space in between is entirely built up on low-lying hills.[37]

Gaza is 78 kilometers (48 mi) southwest of Jerusalem, 71 kilometers (44 mi) south of Tel Aviv,[50] and 30 kilometers (19 mi) north of Rafah.[51] Surrounding localities include Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, and Jabalia to the north, and the village of Abu Middein, the refugee camp of Bureij, and the city of Deir al-Balah to the south.[52]

The municipal jurisdiction of the city today constitutes about 45 square kilometers (17.4 sq mi).[3] In the British Mandate era, Gaza's urban or "built-up" area consisted of 7,960 square kilometers (3,073.4 sq mi), while its rural area was 143,063 square kilometers (55,236.9 sq mi).[53] Irrigated land made up 24,040 square kilometers (9,281.9 sq mi) and lands planted with cereals made up 117,899 square kilometers (45,521.1 sq mi).[54]

The population of Gaza depends on groundwater as the only source for drinking, agricultural use, and domestic supply. The nearest stream is Wadi Ghazza to the south, sourced from Abu Middein along the coastline. It bears a small amount of water during the winter and virtually no water during the summer.[55] Most of its water supply is diverted into Israel.[56] The Gaza Aquifer along the coast is the main aquifer in the Gaza Strip and it consists mostly of Pleistocene sandstones. Like most of the Gaza Strip, Gaza is covered by quaternary soil; clay minerals in the soil absorb many organic and inorganic chemicals which has partially alleviated the extent of groundwater contamination.[55]

A well-known hill southeast of Gaza, known as Tell al-Muntar, has an elevation of 270 feet (82 m) above sea level. For centuries it has been claimed as the place to which Samson brought the city gates of the Philistines. The hill is crowned by a Muslim shrine (maqam) dedicated to Ali al-Muntar ("Ali of the Watchtower"). There are old Muslim graves around the surrounding trees,[57] and the lintel of the doorway of the maqam has two medieval Arabic scriptures.[10]

Old City and districts

The Old City forms the main part of Gaza's nucleus. It is roughly divided into two quarters; the northern Daraj Quarter (also known as the Muslim Quarter) and the southern Zaytoun Quarter (also known as the Christian Quarter). Most of the structures date from the Mamluk or Ottoman era ans some are built atop earlier structures. The ancient part of the Old City is about 1.6 square kilometers (0.6 sq mi).[41]

There are seven historic gates to the Old City: Bab Asqalan (Gate of Ashkelon), Bab al-Darum (Gate of Deir al-Balah), Bab al-Bahr (Gate of the Sea), Bab Marnas (Gate of Marnas), Bab al-Baladiyah (Gate of the Town), Bab al-Khalil (Gate of Hebron), and Bab al-Muntar (Gate of Tell al-Muntar).[58] Some of the older buildings use the ablaq style of decoration which features red and white masonry, prevalent in the Mamluk era. A few of Gaza's main markets, such as the Gold Market as well as its oldest mosque, the Great Mosque of Gaza, are located here.[59] In the Zaytoun Quarter is the Church of Saint Porphyrius, the Welayat Mosque, and Hamam as-Sammara ("the Samaritan's Bathhouse").[60]

Gaza is composed of eleven districts (hai) outside of the Old City.[61][62] The first extension of Gaza beyond the city center was the district of Shuja'iyya, built on an eastern hill during the Ayyubid period of rule.[63] In the 1930s and 1940s, a new spacial residential district, Rimal, was constructed on the sand dunes west of the city center, and the district of Zeitoun was built along Gaza's southern and southwestern borders, while Shuja'iyya expanded into the east to form the al-Judeide ("the New") and al-Turukman districts.[41][64]

The areas between Rimal and the Old City became the districts of al-Sabra and al-Daraj.[62] To the northwest is the district of al-Nasser, built in the early 1950s and named in honor of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.[65] To the northeast is the district of Tuffah,[62] which is roughly divided into eastern and western halves.[59] The district of Sheikh Radwan is 3 kilometers (2 mi) to the north of the Old City and is named after Sheikh Radwan—the tomb of whom is located within the district.[62][66] Gaza has absorbed the village of al-Qubbah near the border with Israel, as well as the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Shati along the coast,[52] although the latter is not under the city's municipal jurisdiction. In the late 1990s, the PNA founded the more affluent neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa along the southern edge of Rimal.[67] Along the southern coast of the city is the neighborhood of Sheikh Ijlin.[61]


Gaza has a relatively temperate Mediterranean climate with mild winters and dry, warm to hot summers.[49] Spring arrives around March-April and the hottest months are July and August, with the average high being Template:Convert/°C. The coldest month is January with temperatures usually at Template:Convert/°C. Rain is scarce and generally falls between November and March, with annual precipitation rates approximately at 4.57 inches (116 mm).[68]

Climate data for Gaza
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 17
Average low °C (°F) 7
Precipitation cm (inches) 3.51
Source: MSN Weather[68]



Year Population
1596 6,000[69]
1838 15,000-16,000[38]
1882 16,000[70]
1897 36,000[70]
1906 40,000[70]
1914 42,000[71]
1922 17,426[72]
1945 32,250[53]
1982 100,272[73]
1997 306,113[74]
2004 (Projected) 342,247[75]
2006 (Projected) 395,680[75]
2009 449,221[2]

According to Ottoman tax records in 1557, Gaza had 2,477 male tax payers.[76] The statistics from 1596 show that from the Muslims there 456 household heads, 115 bachelors, 59 religious persons, and 19 disabled persons. In addition to the Muslim figure were 141 Jundiyan or soldiers in the Ottoman army. Of the Christians there 294 household heads and 7 bachelors and there were 73 Jewish household heads 8 Samaritan household heads. In total, an estimated 6,000 people lived in Gaza, making the third largest city in Palestine after Jerusalem and Safad.[69]

In 1838, there were roughly 4,000 Muslim tax payers and 100 Christian ones, implying a population of about 15,000 or 16,000—making it larger than Jerusalem at the time. The total number of Christian families was 57.[38] Before the outbreak of World War I, the population of Gaza had reached 42,000; however, the fierce battles between Allied Forces and those of the Ottomans and the Germans in 1917 in Gaza resulted in a massive population decrease.[71]

According to a 1997 census by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), Gaza and the adjacent al-Shati camp had a population of 353,115 inhabitants, of which 50.9% were males and 49.1% females. Gaza has an overwhelmingly young population with more than half being between the ages of infancy to 19 (60.8%). About 28.8% were between the ages of 20 to 44, 7.7% between 45 and 64, and 3.9% were over the age of 64.[74]

A significant number of Gaza's pre-1948 residents were Egyptians or their descendants who had fled political turmoil in Muhammad Ali's Egypt.[77] A massive influx of Palestinian refugees swelled Gaza's population after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. By 1967, the population had grown to about six times its 1948 size.[41] In 1997, 51.8% of Gaza's inhabitants were refugees or their descendants.[78] The city's population has continued to increase since that time to 449,221 in 2009, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories.[2][75] Gaza has one of the highest overall growth rates and population densities in the world: 9,982.69/km² (26,424.76/mi²).[41][79] Poverty, unemployment and poor living conditions are widespread and many residents rely on United Nations food aid to survive.[41][80]

File:Natives of Gaza.
Natives of Gaza


The population of Gaza is overwhelmingly composed of Arabic-speaking Muslims, who mostly follow Sunni Islam.[41] While held by the Fatimids, Shia Islam was dominant in Gaza, but after Saladin conquered the city, he promoted a strictly Sunni religious and educational policy, which at the time was instrumental in uniting his Arab and Turkish soldiers.[8]

There exists a small minority of about 3,500 Arab Christians in the city.[81] The majority of Gaza's Christians live in the Zaytoun Quarter of the Old City and belong to the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Baptist denominations.[82] In 1906, there were only 750 Christians, of which 700 were Greek Orthodox and 50 were Roman Catholic.[70]

Gaza's Jewish community was roughly 3,000 years old,[41] and in 1481 there were sixty Jewish households.[83] Most of them left Gaza after the 1929 Palestine riots, when they consisted of fifty families.[41] In Sami Hadawi's land and population survey, Gaza had a population of 34,250, including 80 Jews in 1945.[53] Most of them left the city after the 1948 War, due to mutual distrust between them and the Arab majority.[84]


Nineteenth century

Gaza was among six soap-producing cities in Palestine, overshadowed by Nablus. Gaza's factories purchased qilw from merchants from Nablus and Salt, Jordan.[85] Gaza's port was eclipsed by the ports of Jaffa and Haifa, however, it retained its fishing fleet.[41] Although its port was inactive, commerce thrived because of its strategic location. Most caravans and travelers coming from Egypt stopped in Gaza for supplies, likewise Bedouins from Ma'an, east of the Wadi Araba, bought up all sorts of provisions from the city to sell to Muslim pilgrims coming from Mecca. The bazaars of Gaza were well-supplied and were noted by Edward Robinson as "far better" than those of Jerusalem.[86] Its principal commercial crop was cotton which was sold to the government and local Arab tribes.[37]

Contemporary economy

[[File:|thumb|Backyard industry]] Following the Six-Day War, Israel closed down Gaza's port and consequently, the city lost its fishing income.[citation needed] There were previous Palestinian and international attempts to construct a major port in Gaza for the benefit of the planned State of Palestine, but objections from Israel prevented such attempts.[citation needed] The major agricultural products are strawberries, citrus, dates, olives, flowers, and various vegetables. Pollution and massive population pressure on water have reduced the productive capacity of the surrounding farms, however.[41]

Small-scale industries in the city include the production of plastics, construction materials, textiles, furniture, pottery, tiles, copperware, and carpets. Following the Oslo Accords, thousands of residents were employed in the various government ministries and security services, while others were employed by the UNRWA and other international organizations that support development of the city.[41] Gaza contains some minor industries, including textiles and food processing. A variety of wares are sold in Gaza's street bazaars, including carpets, pottery, wicker furniture, and cotton clothing; the modern Gaza Mall opened in July 2010.[87][88]

There are a number of hotels in Gaza, including the Palestine, Adam, al-Amal, al-Quds, Cliff, Al Deira and Marna House. All, except the Palestine Hotel, are located along the coast.[citation needed] The United Nations (UN) has a beach club on the same street. Gaza is not a frequent destination for tourists, and most foreigners who stay in hotels are journalists, aid workers, UN and Red Cross personnel. Upmarket hotels include the Al-Quds and the Al Deira Hotel.[89]

Many Gazans worked in the Israeli service industry when the border was open, but part of Israel's 2005 disengagement stipulated that Gazans will no longer be able to work in Israel and few Gazans are presently allowed to enter Israel.[citation needed] Gaza has serious deficiencies in housing, educational facilities, health facilities, infrastructure, and an inadequate sewage system, all of which have contributed to serious hygiene and public health problems.[90]

According to a recent report by OXFAM, unemployment in Gaza is close to 40% and is set to rise to 50%. The private sector which generates 53% of all jobs in Gaza has been devastated, businesses have been bankrupted and 75,000 out of 110,000 workers are now without a jobs. In 2008, 95% of Gaza's industrial operations were suspended due to lack of access inputs for production and the inability to export what is produced. In June 2005, there were 3,900 factories in Gaza employing 35,000 people, but by December 2007, there were just 195 remaining, employing only 1,700 people. The construction industry was paralyzed with tens of thousands of laborers out of work. The agriculture sector has also been damaged severely and nearly 40,000 workers who depend on cash crops now have no income.[90]

Gaza's economic conditions have been stagnant in the long-term and most development indicators are in decline. Food prices have risen during the blockade, with wheat flour going up 34%, rice up 21%, and baby powder up 30%. The number of Gazans who live in absolute poverty has increased sharply, with 80% relying on humanitarian aid in 2008 compared to 63% in 2006. In 2007, households spent an average of 62% of their total income on food, compared to 37% in 2004. In less than a decade, the number of families depending on UNRWA food aid has increased tenfold.[90]


Skyline of Gaza

Cultural centers and museums

The Rashad Shawa Cultural Center, located in Rimal, was completed in 1988 and named after its founder, former mayor Rashad al-Shawa.[91] A two-story building with a triangular plan, the cultural centers performs three main functions: a meeting place for large gatherings during annual festivals, a place to stage exhibitions, and a library.[92] The French Cultural Center is a symbol of French partnership and cooperation in Gaza. It holds art exhibits, concerts, film screenings, and other activities. Whenever possible, French artists are invited to display their artwork, and more frequently, Palestinian artists from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are invited to participate in art competitions.[93]

Established in 1998, the Arts and Crafts Village is a children's cultural center with the objectives of promoting comprehensive, regular and periodic documentation of creative art in all of its forms. It interacted on a large scale with a class of artists from different nationalities and organized around 100 exhibitions for creative art, ceramics, graphics, carvings and others. Nearly 10,000 children from throughout the Gaza Strip have benefited from the Arts and Crafts Village.[94]

Gaza has one film theater, the Gaza Theater, which opened in 2004 using donated equipment and movies from Norway.[95] The theater is not properly equipped and does not receive much funding from the PNA, depending mostly on donations from foreign aid agencies. The Qattan Foundation, a Palestinian arts charity, runs several workshops throughout Gaza that helps the local youth find artistic skills and give teachers basic drama skills. In 2005, the Gaza Theater Festival was held, playing in makeshift venues, although no foreign theater companies attended, as well as any company from the West Bank or Israel's Arab community.[96]

The Gaza Museum of Archaeology, founded by Jawdat N. Khoudary, was opened in the summer of 2008. The exhibition is in a hall made partly of stones from old houses, discarded wood ties of a former railroad, and bronze lamps and marble columns uncovered by Gazan fishermen and construction workers. The museum collection features thousands of items, but some will not go on display, including a statue of a full-breasted Aphrodite in a diaphanous gown, images of other ancient deities and oil lamps featuring menorahs.[97]

The Crazy Water Park was built in 2010.


Gaza's cuisine is characterized by its generous use of spices and chillies. Other major flavors and ingredients include dill, chard, garlic, cumin, lentils, chickpeas, pomegranates, sour plums and tamarind. Many of the traditional dishes rely on clay-pot cooking, which preserves the flavor and texture of the vegetables and results in fork-tender meat. Traditionally, most Gazan dishes are seasonal and rely on ingredients indigenous to the area and its surrounding villages. Poverty has also played an important role in determining many of the city's simple meatless dishes and stews, such as saliq wa adas ("chard and lentils") and bisara (skinless fava beans mashed with dried mulukhiya leaves and chilies).[98]

Seafood is a key aspect of Gaza life and a local staple,[99] but in recent years, due to Israeli restrictions on Palestinian fishing zones off Gaza’s coast, the industry has been in decline, and seafood prices have skyrocketed. Some well-known seafood dishes include zibdiyit gambari, literally, "shrimps in a clay pot", and shatta which are crabs stuffed with red hot chili pepper dip, then baked in the oven. Fish is either fried or grilled after being stuffed with cilantro, garlic, chillies and cumin, and marinated with various spices. It is also a key ingredient in sayyadiya, rice cooked with caramelized onions, a generous amount of whole garlic cloves, large chunks of well-marinated fried fish, and spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin.[98]

Many of the 1948-era refugees were fellahin ("peasants") who would rely on eating seasonally, based on what they grew and these refugees highly influenced the basic cuisine of Gaza. Due to its geographic isolation from the rest of Palestine, as a result of decades of occupation, many of its dishes have not been heard of outside of Gaza. One of the most popular dishes is called sumaghiyyeh.[98]

Gaza has several restaurants, most of the well-known located in the posh Rimal district. Al-Andalus, which specializes in fish and seafood, is particularly popular with tourists, as are al-Sammak and the upscale Roots Club. Throughout the Old City there are street stalls that sell cooked beans, hummus, roasted sweet potatoes, falafel, and kebabs. Coffeehouses (qahwa) regularly accommodate locals with hookah (sheesha), Arabic coffee, and tea. Gaza's well-known sweet shops, Saqqala and Arafat, sell common Arab sweet products and are located off Wehda Street. Alcohol is a rarity, found only in the United Nations Beach Club.[100]

Costumes and embroidery

Gauze is reputed to have originated in Gaza. Cloth for the Gaza thob was often woven at nearby Majdal (Ascalon). Black or blue cottons or striped pink and green fabric that had been made in Majdal continued to be woven throughout the Gaza Strip by refugees from the coastal plain villages until the 1960s. Thobs here had narrow, tight, straight sleeves. Embroidery was much less dense than that applied in Hebron. The most popular motifs included: scissors (muqass), combs (mushut) and triangles (hijab) often arranged in clusters of fives, sevens and threes, as the use of odd numbers is considered in Arab folklore to be effective against the evil eye.[101]

In recent decades, Hamas and other Islamic movements sought to increase the use of the hijab ("headscarf") among Gazan women, especially urban and educated women, and the hijab styles since introduced have varied according to class and group identity.[102]


Palestine Stadium, the Palestinian national stadium, is located in Gaza and has a capacity for 10,000 people. It serves as the home of the Palestine national football team, but after an Israeli air strike that severely damaged the stadium's field, home games have been played in Doha, Qatar.[103] Gaza has several local football teams that participate in the Gaza Strip League. They include Khidmat al-Shatia (al-Shati Camp), Ittihad al-Shuja'iyya (Shuja'iyya neighborhood), Gaza Sports Club, and al-Zeitoun (Zeitoun neighborhood).[104]


Today, Gaza serves as the administrative capital of the Gaza Governorate.[105] It contains the Palestinian Legislative Council building, as well as the headquarters of most of the Palestinian Authority ministries.

The first municipal council of Gaza was formed in 1893 under the chairmanship of Ali Khalil Shawa. Modern mayorship, however, began in 1906 with his son Said al-Shawa, who was appointed mayor by the Ottoman Authorities.[106] Al-Shawa oversaw the construction of Gaza's first hospital, several new mosques and schools, the restoration of the Great Mosque, and the introduction of the modern plow to the city.[107]

On July 24, 1994, the PNA proclaimed Gaza the first city council in the Palestinian territories.[1] The 2005 Palestinian municipal elections were not held in Gaza, nor in Khan Yunis or Rafah. Instead, Fatah party officials selected the smaller cities, towns, and villages to hold elections, assuming they would do better in less urban areas. The rival Hamas party, however, won the majority of seats in seven of the ten municipalities selected for the first round with voter turnout being around 80%.[108] 2007 saw violent clashes between the two parties that left over 100 dead, ultimately resulting in Hamas taking over the city.[109] Normally, Palestinian municipalities with populations over 20,000 and that serve as administrative centers have municipal councils consisting of fifteen members, including the mayor. The current municipal council of Gaza, however, consists of fourteen members, including the mayor, Rafiq al-Makki.[110]


  • Said al-Shawa (1906–1916)
  • Mahmoud Abu Khadra (1918–1924)
  • Omar Sourani (1924–1928)
  • Fahmi al-Husseini (1928–1939)
  • Rushdi al-Shawa (1939–1952)
  • Omar Suwan (1952–1955)
  • Munir al-Rayyes (1955–1965)

  • Ragheb al-Alami (1965)
  • Rashad al-Shawa (1971–1982)
  • Hamza al-Turkmani (1982–1994)
  • Aoun al-Shawa (1994–2001)
  • Nasri Khayal (2001–2005)[106]
  • Majed Abu Ramadan (2005–2008)
  • Rafiq al-Makki (2008–present)[111]


File:Conference hall
The main conference hall of the Islamic University of Gaza

According to the PCBS, in 1997, approximately over 90% of Gaza's population over the age of 10 was literate. Of the city's population, 140,848 were enrolled in schools (39.8% in elementary school, 33.8% in secondary school, and 26.4% in high school). About 11,134 people received bachelor diplomas or higher diplomas.[112]

In 2006, there were 210 schools in Gaza; 151 were run by the Education Ministry of the Palestinian National Authority, 46 were run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and 13 were private schools. A total of 154,251 students were enrolled and 5,877 teachers were employed.[113] The currently downtrodden economy has affected education in the Gaza Strip severely. In September 2007, a UNRWA survey in the Gaza Strip revealed that there was a nearly 80% failure rate in schools grades four to nine, with up to 90% failure rates in mathematics. In January 2008, the United Nations Children's Fund reported that schools in Gaza had been canceling classes that were high on energy consumption, such as information technology, science labs and extra curricular activities.[90]

Gaza has four universities: al-Azhar University - Gaza, al-Quds Open University, al-Aqsa University and the Islamic University of Gaza. The Islamic University, consisting of ten facilities, was founded by Ahmed Yassin and a group of businessmen in 1978, making it the first institution of higher education in Gaza. In 2006-07, it had an enrollment of 20,021 students.[114] Al-Azhar is generally secular and was founded in 1992. Al-Aqsa University was established in 1991. Al-Quds Open University established its Gaza Educational Region campus in 1992 in a rented building in the center of the city originally with 730 students. Because of the rapid increase of the number of students, it constructed the first university owned building in the Nasser District. In 2006-07, it had an enrollment of 3,778 students.[115]

The Public Library of Gaza is located off al-Wahda Street and has a collection of nearly 10,000 books in Arabic, English and French. A total area of about 1,410 square metres (15,200 sq ft), the building consists of two floors and a basement. The library was opened in 1999 after cooperation dating from 1996 by Gaza under mayor Aoun Shawa, the municipality of Dunkerque, and the World Bank. The library's primary objectives are to provide sources of information that meets the needs of beneficiaries, provide necessary facilities for access to available information sources, and organizing various cultural programs such as, cultural events, seminars, lectures, film presentations, videos, art and book exhibitions.[116]

Local infrastructure


Landmarks in Gaza include the Great Mosque in the Old City. Originally a pagan temple, it was consecrated a Greek Orthodox church by the Byzantines,[117] then a mosque in the 8th century by the Arabs. The Crusaders transformed it into a church, but it was reestablished as a mosque soon after Gaza's reconquest by the Muslims.[59] It is the oldest and largest in the Gaza Strip and was identified as the "only structure of historical importance" in the city by some 19th century Western travelers.[118]

Other mosques in the Old City include the Mamluk-era Sayed Hashem Mosque that believed to house the tomb of Hashem ibn Abd al-Manaf in its dome.[119] There is also the nearby Welayat Mosque that dates back to 1334. In Shuja'iyya, the Ibn Uthman Mosque was built by Nablus native Ahmad ibn Uthman in 1402 and the Ibn Marwan Mosque, housing the tomb of a holy man, was built in 1324.[64]

File:Gaza War Cemetery
Gaza War Cemetery

The Soldier's Square, located in Rimal, is a monument dedicated to an unknown Palestinian fighter who died in the 1948 War. In 1967, the monument was torn down by Israeli forces and remained a patch of sand,[120] until a public garden was built there with funding from Norway. Qasr al-Basha, originally a Mamluk-era villa that was used by Napoleon during his brief sojourn in Gaza, is located in the Old City and is today a girl's school. The Commonwealth Gaza War Cemetery, often referred to as the British War Cemetery, that contains the graves of fallen Allied soldiers in World War I is in the Tuffah neighborhood.[59][121]


According to the 1997 census by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 98.1% of Gaza's residents were connected to the public water supply while the remainder used a private system.[122] About 87.6% were connected to a public sewage system and 11.8% used a cesspit.[123]

The blockade on Gaza has severely restricted the water supply to the city and its sewage system. The six main wells for drinking water no longer function, and roughly 50% of the population is without access to water on a regular basis. The municipality claims it is forced to pump water to the citizens through "salty wells" because of the unavailability of electricity in some of the wells fails to meet the needs of the citizens. Most sewage plants struggle to work, and more than 75% of the untended sewage in the city, has periodically led to a rash of waste water to the homes of residents. About 20 million liters of raw sewage and 40 million liters of partially treated water per day leak to the Mediterranean Sea due to the lack of electricity, fuel and spare parts at Gaza's treatment plants. The municipality claims that accumulation of garbage in the streets, roads, wells, and sewage overflow cause the risk of disease outbreaks and insect epidemics, as well as mice and in residential areas.[124]

Health care

One of the first hospitals in Gaza was al-Shifa ("the Cure") founded in the Rimal District by the British Mandate government in the 1940s. Housed in an army barracks, it originally provided quarantine and treatment for febrile diseases. When Egypt administered Gaza, this original department was relocated and al-Shifa became the city's central hospital.[125] When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip after occupying it in the 1956 Suez Crisis, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser had al-Shifa hospital expanded and improved. He also ordered the establishment of a second hospital in the Nasser District with the same name. In 1957, the quarantine and febrile disease hospital was rebuilt and named Nasser Hospital.[65] Today, al-Shifa remains Gaza's largest medical complex.[126]

Throughout the late 1950s, a new health administration, Bandar Gaza ("Gaza Region"), was established and headed by Haidar Abdel-Shafi. Bandar Gaza rented several rooms throughout the city to set up government clinics, but they were fairly basic, just providing essential curative care.[65]

The Ahli Arab Hospital, originally founded in 1907 by the Church Missionary Society (CMS), was destroyed in World War I.[127] It was rebuilt as the Southern Baptist Hospital in the 1950s.[128] In 1982, the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem took leadership and the original name was restored.[127] Al-Quds Hospital, located in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood and managed by the Palestine Red Crescent Society, is the second largest hospital in Gaza.[129]

As a result of fuel and electricity restrictions, hospitals currently experience power cuts lasting for 8–12 hours daily. There is currently a 60-70 percent shortage reported in the diesel required for power generators. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the proportion of patients given permits to exit Gaza for medical care decreased from 89.3% in January 2007 to 64.3% in December 2007, an unprecedented low.[90]


File:Gaza airport
The Yasser Arafat International Airport, located in the southern corner of the Gaza Strip, is currently inoperable

The Rasheed Coastal Road runs along Gaza's coastline and connects it with the rest of Gaza Strip's coastline north and south. The main road of the Gaza Strip, Salah ad-Din Street (the modern Via Maris) runs through the middle of Gaza City, connecting it with Deir al-Balah, Khan Yunis, and Rafah in the south and Jabalia and Beit Hanoun in the north.[59] The northern crossing of Salah ad-Din Street into Israel is the Erez Crossing and the crossing into Egypt is the Rafah Crossing. The crossings have been closed by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

Omar Mukhtar Street is the main road in the city of Gaza running north-south, branching off Salah ad-Din Street, stretching from the Rimal coastline and the Old City where it ends at the Gold Market.[59] Prior to the Blockade of the Gaza Strip, there existed regular lines of collective taxis to Ramallah and Hebron in the West Bank.[130]

The Yasser Arafat International Airport near Rafah opened in 1998 and is 40 kilometers (25 mi) south of Gaza. Its runways and facilities became significantly damaged during the Second Intifada. The Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel is located roughly 75 kilometers (47 mi) northeast of the city.[130]

International relations

Twin towns and sister cities

Gaza is twinned with:

See also


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