Gush Katif

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Homes alongside a sand dune in Neve Dekalim.

Gush Katif (Hebrew: גוש קטיף‎, lit. Harvest Bloc) was a bloc of 17 Israeli settlements in the southern Gaza strip. In August 2005, the Israeli army moved the 8,600 residents of Gush Katif to Israel. They were evicted from the area and their homes demolished as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip portion of the Palestinian Territories.

Geography[edit]

Map of the Gaza Strip in May 2005, a few months prior to the Israeli withdrawal from Gush Katif. The Gush Katif settlement bloc was the blue-shaded region in the southwest of this map.

Gush Katif was located on the southwestern edge of the Gaza Strip, bordered on the southwest by Rafah and the Egyptian border, on the east by Khan Yunis, on the northeast by Deir el-Balah, and on the west and northwest by the Mediterranean Sea. A narrow one kilometer strip of land populated by Bedouin Palestinians known as al-Mawasi lay along the Mediterranean coast. Most of Gush Katif was situated on the sand dunes that separate the coastal plain from the sea along much of the southeastern Mediterranean.

Two roads served the residents of Gush Katif: Road 230, which runs from the southwest along the sea from the Egyptian border at Rafiah Yam through Kfar Yam to Tel Katifa on the bloc's northern border, where it entered Palestinian-controlled territory, and Road 240, which also runs parallel to the sea approximately one kilometre inland, and upon which the majority of the settlements and traffic were located. Road 240's southern end turned south to reach Morag and continued to Sufah and the Shalom bloc of villages south of the Gaza Strip, while its northern end turned east to the Kissufim junction, and served as the main route into Gush Katif. These roads were forbidden to Palestinian Arab drivers.

While Kfar Darom and Netzarim were originally accessed along the main road to Gaza (known as "Tencher Road"), Israeli and Palestinian traffic was separated after the Oslo Accords, and Netzarim was isolated as an enclave accessed only through the Karni crossing and the Sa'ad junction. In 2002, a bridge was built for Road 240 over the Tencher road so as to physically separate the two arteries and allow unobstructed travel for both Palestinian and Israeli traffic.

Demographics[edit]

Neve Dekalim was Gush Katif's urban center and home to the greatest population.

About 8,600 residents lived in Gush Katif,[1] many of them Orthodox Religious Zionist Jews, though many non-observant and secular Jews also called it home. The area also included several hundred Muslim families, mostly of the al-Mawasi Bedouin community, who while technically Palestinian residents, were able to enjoy freedom of movement within the Israeli areas due to their peaceful relations.

History[edit]

A historic Jewish community existed in Gaza City prior to its expulsion following deadly riots in 1929 by the city's Arabs. Land for the village of Kfar Darom was purchased in the 1930s and settled in 1946. It was evacuated following an Egyptian siege in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

Gush Katif began in earnest in 1968, when Yigal Allon presented an initiative for the founding of two Nahal settlements in the center of the Gaza Strip. He viewed the breaking of the continuity between the northern and southern Arab settlements as vital to Israel's security in the area, which had been captured the previous year in the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1970, Kfar Darom was reestablished as the first of many Israeli agricultural villages in the area. Allon's idea was ultimately designed with five key areas (or 'fingers,' thus being called by some the "five-finger print") slated for Israeli presence along the length of the Gaza Strip. After the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty and the dismantling of the fifth 'finger' (Yamit bloc) south of Rafah, the fourth (Morag) and third (Kfar Darom) strips were united into one bloc that would become known as Gush Katif. The second finger, Netzarim, was very much connected to Gush Katif until the arrangements following the Oslo Accords, while the bloc on the dunes north of Gaza, which straddled the Green Line, was more a part of the Ashkelon area communities.[5]

Throughout the 1980s new communities were established, especially with the influx of former residents of the Sinai. Most of the bloc's communities were established as agricultural cooperatives called moshavs, where the residents from each town would work in clusters of greenhouses just outside the residential areas.

Economy[edit]

Greenhouses, like these in Morag, were the center of the bloc's industry.

In the Katif Bloc’s unique greenhouses, a uniquely developed advanced technology was used to grow bug-free leafy vegetables and herbs answering to the strictest health, aesthetic and religious requirements.[citation needed] Most of the organic agricultural products were exported to Europe. In addition, the community of Atzmona had Israel’s largest plant nursery, and with 800 cows, the Katif dairy was the second largest in the country. Telesales and Printing were other notable industries.

The total sum of exports from the greenhouses of Gush Katif, which were owned by 200 farmers, came to $200,000,000 per year and made up 15% of the agricultural exports of the State of Israel.[citation needed]

The combined assets in Gush Katif were estimated at $23 billion.[citation needed]

Of Israel’s total exports abroad, Gush Katif exported:

  • 95% of bug-free lettuce and greens
  • 70% of organic vegetables
  • 60% of cherry tomatoes
  • 60% of geraniums to Europe.[citation needed]

The Economic Cooperation Foundation, which is funded by the European Union, agreed to purchase the greenhouses for $14 million and transfer ownership to the Palestinian Authority, so that the 4,000 Palestinians employed to work in them could keep their jobs. Former head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, contributed $500,000 of his own money to the project.[2]

When the IDF left Gaza, thousands of Palestinians looted the area, and 800 of the 4,000 greenhouses were left unusable.[3][4]

Palestinian attacks[edit]

Sand dunes near the sea

Although the Gush Katif settlements and the roads leading to it were guarded by the Israeli Army's Gaza Division, settlers were still vulnerable to attacks.

During the First Intifada (1987–1990), which broke out in nearby Gaza, the residents of Gush Katif were on the forefront of the violence and were subject to frequent stoning of traffic, among other incidents.

Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada (2000), Gush Katif settlements were the target of thousands of violent attacks by Palestinian militants. More than 6000 mortar bombs and Qassam rockets were launched into Gush Katif, causing mostly property and psychological damage with few fatalities, but heavy shock and fear.[5][6] Most of the ground attacks were infiltrations and shootings. There were also attempts to infiltrate by sea. Victims include Itamar Yefet (18), who was shot and killed by a Palestinian sniper in November 2000.[7] Arik Krogliak, Tal Kurtzweil, Asher Marcus, Eran Picard, and Ariel Zana, all teenagers, were fatally shot in March 2002.[7]

Palestinian attacks on Israeli vehicles traveling on the Kissufim road were very common. In one of these attacks, in May 2004, Palestinian militants ambushed and killed Tali Hatuel, who was eight months pregnant, and her four daughters: Hila (11), Hadar (9), Roni (7), Merav (2).[8][9][10] Ahuva Amergi (30) was killed when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on her car, along with two soldiers who came to her assistance in February 2002.[7] In another, a school bus was bombed on 20 November 2000,[11] leaving Miriam Amitai (35) and Gavriel Biton (34) dead and several maimed children. Three children from the Cohen family lost their legs in the attack.[12] Many of the ground attacks on Gush Katif were thwarted by the Israeli military.

In January 2002, Oded Sharon (36) was killed in a suicide bombing.[7]

Controversy[edit]

A Gush Katif beach

Gush Katif's location within the greater Gaza Strip was for many a source of controversy.

Its location was initially the main reason for its founding, as an Israeli civilian presence was important for cementing control of the area so as to prevent any future invasion from Egypt or its use as a staging area for fedayeen attacks, and indeed this rationale was echoed following the 1967 Six Day War by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.[13]

Evacuation[edit]

The Evacuation of Morag

On August 13, 2005, the Gush Katif region was closed to non-residents, in keeping with the plan to evacuate the Katif bloc. Though effectively violating the Disengagement law, which most residents viewed as highly immoral and illegitimate,[14] most settlers did not voluntarily leave their homes or even pack in preparation for the eviction. On August 15, 2005, the forcible evacuation of the Gush Katif settlements began. On August 22, 2005, the residents of the last settlement, Netzarim, were evicted. In essence, many residents returned to pack the contents of their homes and the Israeli government began the destruction of all residential buildings. On September 12, 2005, the Israeli Army withdrew from each settlement up to the Green Line. All public buildings (schools, libraries, community centres, office buildings) as well as industrial buildings, factories and greenhouses which could not be taken apart were left intact.

Originally, the Israeli cabinet had planned to destroy synagogues in the settlement, but the government caved in to pressure from religious Jewish organizations and reversed its decision.[15][16] However, most of the synagogues were destroyed by Palestinian mobs immediately after the evacuation. Abu Abir, a member of the Popular Resistance Committees terrorist organization, commented that "The looting and burning of the synagogues was a great joy...It was in an unplanned expression of happiness that these synagogues were destroyed." Later, in 2007, it was reported that "The ruins of two large synagogues in Gush Katif, the evacuated Jewish communities of the Gaza Strip, have been transformed into a military base used by Palestinian groups to fire rockets at Israeli cities and train for attacks against the Jewish state, according to a senior terror leader in Gaza."[17]

Settlements in Gush Katif[edit]

The Gush Katif settlements were concentrated in one block on the southwest edge of the Gaza Strip and were surrounded by fencing.

In addition to Gush Katif, there were three Israeli settlements on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip (Elei Sinai, Dugit and Nisanit), and another near its center (Netzarim).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°21′17″N 34°16′29″E / 31.35481°N 34.27460°E / 31.35481; 34.27460