|• 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 political party is still administering the city, together with the entire Gaza Strip, after winning the 2005 municipal elections.
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". An Ottoman village list from about 1870 showed that Beit Lahia had a population of 394, with a total of 118 houses, though the population count included men only.
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."
In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Bait Lahia had a population of 871 inhabitants, all Muslims, increasing by the 1931 census to 1,133, still all Muslim, in 223 houses.
In 1945 the population of Beit Lahiya consisted of 1,700 Muslims 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 shelling by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of the 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 they were responsible. The town is a frequent target of airstrikes by Israel and has been a battlefield between Israel and Hamas.[when?] The Ibrahim al-Maqadna mosque was hit by Israeli missiles in 2009, resulting in 13 deaths.
- Palmer, 1881, p. 358
- Projected Mid -Year Population for North Gaza Governorate by Locality 2004- 2006 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
- Beit Lahaia Archived 2013-08-23 at the Wayback Machine. Municipality of Gaza.
- Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, pp. 233-234
- Dauphin, 1998, p. 881
- le Strange, 1890, p. 414
- Sharon, 1999, pp. 149-151
- Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 144
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- Socin, 1879, p. 146
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- Barron, 1923, Table V, Sub-district of Gaza, p. 8
- Mills, 1932, p. 2
- Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 31
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- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 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
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