Beit Lahia (Arabic: بيت لاهيا) is a city located north of Jabalia, near Beit Hanoun and the 1949 Armistice Line with Israel. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the city had a population of 59,540 in mid-year 2006. Hamas, an Islamist party, took control of it during the 2005 municipal elections, and is still administering the city, together with the entire Gaza Strip.
The word “Lahia” is Syriac and means “desert” or “fatigue”. It is surrounded by sand dunes, some rise to 55 m (180 ft) above sea level. The area is renowned for its many large sycamore fig trees. The city is known for its fresh, sweet water, berries and citrus trees.
Beit Lahia has an ancient hill and nearby lay abandoned village ruins. A mihrab, or mosque alcove indicating the direction of salaah (prayer), is all that remains of an ancient mosque to the west of Beit Lahia dating to the end of the Fatamid period and beginning of the Ayyubid Dynasty of Saladin, and two other mosques dating to the Ottoman period.
On January 4, 2005 seven civilian residents of Beit Lahia, including six members of the same family, were killed, with the incident blamed on an IDF shelling of agricultural area where they were working. On June 9, 2006, eight civilians were killed, while picnicking on the northern Gazan beach in Beit Lahia. The dead included seven members of the Ali Ghaliya family. with evidence eventually pointing to planted Palestinian explosives to repel an Israeli attack. On December 26, 2008, a crude rocket fired by Palestinian militants fell short of its target in Israel, striking a house in Beit Lahia and killing two Palestinian schoolgirls. The town as a frequent target of airstrikes by Israel and a scene of intense battle between in Israel and Hamas. The Ibrahim al-Maqadna mosque was hit by Israeli missiles, resulting in thirteen deaths.
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