|• Arabic||بيت لاهيا|
|• Also spelled||Bayt Lahiya (official)|
|• Head of Municipality||Izz al-Din al-Dahnoun|
|Name meaning||"House of Lahi"|
Beit Lahia (Arabic: بيت لاهيا) is a city located in the Gaza Strip 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. According to Edward Henry Palmer, “Lahia” was from "Lahi", a personal name.
Beit Lahia has an ancient hill and nearby lay abandoned village ruins. It has been suggested that it was Bethelia, home town of Sozomen, where there was a temple. Ceramics from the Byzantine period have been found. 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.
A marble slab, deposited in the maqam of Salim Abu Musallam in Beit Lahia is inscribed in late Mamluk naskhi letters. It is an epitaph over four sons of the Governor of Gaza, Aqbay al-Ashrafi, who all died in the month of Rajab 897 (=29 April-9 May 1492 CE). It is assumed that the children died of the plague, described by Mujir al-Din, which ravaged Palestine in 1491-2.
In 1517, the village was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire with the rest of Palestine, and in 1596, Beit Lahia appeared in Ottoman tax registers as being in nahiya (subdistrict) of Gaza under the liwa' (district) of Gaza. It had a population of 70 Muslim households and paid taxes on wheat, barley, summer crops, vineyards, fruit trees, goats and/or beehives.
During the late Ottoman period, in May 1863, the French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village. He described it as "peopled by 250 inhabitants, it occupies an oblong valley, well cultivated, and surrounded by high sand-dunes, which cause a great heat. It is a little oasis, incessantly menaced by moving sand-hills, which surround it on every side, and would engulf it were it not for the continued struggle of man to arrest their progress". In 1883 the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described it as a "small village with fine gardens and groves of large and ancient olives in the middle of the sand. It has a well to the south [..] There is a small mosque in the village."
British Mandate of Palestine
In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Bait Lahia had a population of 871, all Muslims, increasing by the 1931 census to 1133, still all Muslim, in 223 houses. In 1945 the population of Beit Lahiya consisted of 1700 Arabs and the land area was 38,376 dunams, according to an official land and population survey. Of this, 134 dunams were designated for citrus and bananas, 1,765 for plantations and irrigable land, 15,185 for cereals, while 18 dunams were built-up areas.
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 by IDF shells, while picnicking on the northern Gazan beach in Beit Lahia. The dead included seven members of the Ali Ghaliya family. The IDF disputed it was responsible. 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.
- Palmer, 1881, p. 358
- Projected Mid -Year Population for North Gaza Governorate by Locality 2004- 2006 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
- Beit Lahaia Municipality of Gaza.
- Conder and Kitchener, 1883, p. 233-234
- Dauphin, 1998, p. 881
- Sharon, 1999, p. 149-151
- Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 144
- Guérin, 1869, p. 176, as translated by Conder and Kitchener, 1883, p. 234
- J. B. Barron, ed. (1923). Palestine: Report and General Abstracts of the Census of 1922. Government of Palestine. Table V, Sub-district of Gaza, p. 8.
- Mills, 1932, p. 2
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p. 45
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p. 86
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in S. Hadawi, Village Statistics, 1945. PLO Research Center, 1970, p. 136
- The Guardian: Death on the beach: seven Palestinians killed as Israeli shells hit family picnic, June 10, 2006
- Haaretz: IDF probe: Gaza beach blast not caused by wayward army shell
- Conder, Claude Reignier; Kitchener, H. H. (1883). The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology 3. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Dauphin, Claudine (1998). La Palestine byzantine, Peuplement et Populations, Vol. III : Catalogue. BAR International Series 726. Oxford: Archeopress.
- Guérin, Victor (1869). Description Géographique, Historique et Archéologique de la Palestine. Vol 1 Judee; pt 2.
- Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter; Abdulfattah, Kamal (1977). Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft.
- Hadawi, Sami (1970), Village Statistics of 1945: A Classification of Land and Area ownership in Palestine, Palestine Liberation Organization Research Center
- Mills, E., ed. (1932). Census of Palestine 1931. Population of Villages, Towns and Administrative Areas. Jerusalem: Government of Palestine.
- Palmer, E. H. (1881). The Survey of Western Palestine: Arabic and English Name Lists Collected During the Survey by Lieutenants Conder and Kitchener, R. E. Transliterated and Explained by E.H. Palmer. Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Sharon, Moshe (1999), Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, Vol. II, B-C, BRILL, ISBN 9004110836