139 sq mi
|a.||Used since 1951.|
|b.||Used since 1985, as in Israel replacing the Israeli lira 1967-1979 and the old Israeli shekel 1979-1985.|
The Gaza Strip (//;Arabic: قطاع غزة Qiṭāʿ Ġazzah [qɪˈtˤɑːʕ ˈɣazza]), or simply Gaza, is a pene-exclave region of Palestine on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea that borders Egypt on the southwest for 11 kilometers (6.8 mi) and Israel on the east and north along a 51 km (32 mi) border. Gaza makes up part of the Palestinian territories which includes the West Bank, and in 2012 the United Nations General Assembly "accorded Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations".
In 1994, Israel granted certain rights of civil self-governance to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza through the Oslo Accords. Gaza has been subject to military occupation by Israel since 1967 and prior to that by Egypt (1948–67) (see Occupation of the Gaza Strip by Egypt). Previously, it was ruled by the United Kingdom (1918–48) and Turkey when Gaza was part of the Ottoman Empire. In 2007 Hamas violently overthrew and expelled Fatah and a the Gaza Strip has since been de facto governed by Hamas, a Palestinian group claiming to be the representatives of the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian people. Gaza forms a part of the Palestinian territory defined in the Oslo Agreements and UNSC Resolution 1860.
The territory is still considered to be "occupied" by the United Nations, International human rights organisations, and the majority of governments and legal commentators, despite the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza. After the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, Israel instituted a naval bloackede and closed and then heavily monitored their border crossings to try and stop weapons from being smuggled in and to prevent attacks into Israel. Hamas still refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist and it's charter calls for the destruction of Israel. After Operation Protective Edge, it was estimated that Hamas diverted over 800,000 tons of concrete in order to build underground attack tunnels into Israel. Likewise, Egypt has accused Hamas of contributing to the Sinai Insurgency and regularly closes the Rafah border crossing into Gaza. After a suicide attack against Egyptian soldiers in 2014, Egypt created a 1 km buffer zone on its border with Gaza, and plans to build a trench to thwart tunnel building. Israel continues to maintain direct external control over Gaza and indirect control over life within Gaza through controlling Gaza's air and maritime space, control of six of Gaza's seven land crossings, maintaining a no-go buffer zone within the Gaza territory, and maintaining Gaza's dependence on Israel for trade, water, sewage, electricity, currency, communication networks, issuing IDs, and permits to enter and leave the territory and the Palestinian Population Registry.
Gaza has an annual population growth rate of 2.91% (2014 est.), the 13th highest in the world, and is overcrowded. There is a limited capability to construct new homes and facilities for this growth. The territory is 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, and from 6 to 12 kilometers (3.7 to 7.5 mi) wide, with a total area of 365 square kilometers (141 sq mi). As of 2014, Palestinians of the Gaza Strip numbered around 1.82 million people. Sunni Muslims make up the predominant part of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip acquired its current northern and eastern boundaries at the cessation of fighting in the 1948 war, confirmed by the Israel–Egypt Armistice Agreement on 24 February 1949. Article V of the Agreement declared that the demarcation line was not to be an international border. At first the Gaza Strip was officially administered by the All-Palestine Government, established by the Arab League in September 1948. All-Palestine in the Gaza Strip was managed under the military authority of Egypt, functioning as puppet state, until it officially merged into the United Arab Republic and dissolved in 1959. From the time of the dissolution of the All-Palestine Government until 1967, the Gaza Strip was directly administered by an Egyptian military governor. Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the Six-Day War in 1967. Pursuant to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, the Palestinian Authority became the administrative body that governed Palestinian population centers while Israel maintained control of the airspace, territorial waters and border crossings with the exception of the land border with Egypt. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip under their unilateral disengagement plan. In July 2007, after winning the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Hamas became the elected government. In 2007 Hamas expelled the rival party Fatah from Gaza. This broke the Unity Government between Gaza Strip and the West Bank, creating two separate governments for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In 2014, following reconciliation talks, Hamas and Fatah formed a Palestinian unity government within the State of Palestine. Rami Hamdallah became the coalition's Prime Minister and has planned for elections in Gaza and the West Bank. In July 2014, a set of lethal incidents between Hamas and Israel led to the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict.
Following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, the territory has been subjected to a blockade, maintained by Israel and Egypt, with Israel arguing that it is necessary to impede Hamas from rearming and to restrict Palestinian rocket attacks. Critics argue the blockade extends to drastic reductions in basic construction materials, medical supplies, and food stuffs. Under the blockade, Gaza is viewed by some critics as an "open-air prison," though the claim is contested.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Prior to 1923
- 1.2 1923–48 British rule
- 1.3 1948 All-Palestine government
- 1.4 1959–67 Egyptian occupation
- 1.5 1967 Israeli occupation
- 1.6 1994: Gaza under Palestinian Authority
- 1.7 2000 Second Intifada
- 1.8 2005 Israel's unilateral disengagement
- 1.9 Post-2006 elections violence
- 1.10 2007 Hamas takeover
- 1.11 2007 issues
- 1.12 2008 Gaza War
- 1.13 A 2014 unity government with Fatah
- 1.14 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict
- 2 Governance
- 3 Legal status
- 4 Economy
- 5 Geography and climate
- 6 Natural resources
- 7 Demographics
- 8 Religion and culture
- 9 Education
- 10 Health
- 11 Culture and sports
- 12 Transport and communications
- 13 See also
- 14 Notes and references
- 15 Bibliography
- 16 External links
Prior to 1923
1923–48 British rule
The Palestine Mandate was based on the principles contained in Article 22 of the draft Covenant of the League of Nations and the San Remo Resolution of 25 April 1920 by the principal Allied and associated powers after the First World War. The mandate formalized British rule in the southern part of Ottoman Syria from 1923–1948. Immediately afterwards, the mandate for two separate states was rejected by the Palestinians and the surrounding Arab countries invaded with Israel
1948 All-Palestine government
On 22 September 1948, towards the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the All-Palestine Government was proclaimed in the Egyptian-occupied Gaza City by the Arab League. It was conceived partly as an Arab League attempt to limit the influence of Transjordan in Palestine. The All-Palestine Government was quickly recognized by six of the then seven members of the Arab League: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, but not by Transjordan. It was not recognized by any country outside the Arab League.
After the cessation of hostilities, the Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement of 24 February 1949 established the separation line between Egyptian and Israeli forces, and established what became the present boundary between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Both sides declared that the boundary was not an international border. The southern border with Egypt continued to be the international border which had been drawn in 1906 between the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire.
Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or Egypt were issued All-Palestine passports. Egypt did not offer them citizenship. From the end of 1949, they received aid directly from UNRWA. During the Suez Crisis (1956), the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula were occupied by Israeli troops, who withdrew under international pressure. The government was accused of being little more than a façade for Egyptian control, with negligible independent funding or influence. It subsequently moved to Cairo and dissolved in 1959 by decree of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser.
1959–67 Egyptian occupation
After the dissolution of the All-Palestine Government in 1959, under the excuse of pan-Arabism, Egypt continued to occupy the Gaza Strip until 1967. Egypt never annexed the Gaza Strip, but instead treated it as a controlled territory and administered it through a military governor. The influx of over 200,000 refugees from former Mandatory Palestine, roughly a quarter of those who fled or were expelled from their homes during, and in the aftermath of, the 1948 Arab–Israeli War into Gaza resulted in a dramatic decrease in the standard of living. Because the Egyptian government restricted movement to and from the Gaza Strip, its inhabitants could not look elsewhere for gainful employment.
1967 Israeli occupation
In June 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel Defense Forces captured the Gaza Strip.
Subsequent to this military victory, Israel created the first settlement bloc in the Strip, Gush Katif, in the southwest corner of the Strip near Rafah and the Egyptian border on a spot where a small kibbutz had previously existed for 18 months between 1946-48. In total, between 1967 and 2005, Israel settled 21 communities in Gaza, comprising 20% of the total territory.
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, to the 1906 international border. The Egyptians agreed to keep the Sinai Peninsula demilitarized. The final status of the Gaza Strip, and other relations between Israel and Palestinians, was not dealt with in the treaty. Egypt renounced all territorial claims to territory north of the international border. The Gaza Strip remained under Israeli military administration until 1994. During that time, the military was responsible for the maintenance of civil facilities and services.
1994: Gaza under Palestinian Authority
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 those areas. 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.
Palestinian Authority rule under the leadership of Arafat suffered from serious mismanagement and corruption scandals. For example, 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.
Between 1994 and 1996, Israel built the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier to improve security in Israel due to attacks. The barrier was largely torn down by Palestinians at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000.
2000 Second Intifada
The Second Intifada broke out in September 2000 with waves of protest, civil unrest and bombings against Israeli military and civilians, many of them perpetrated by suicide bombers. The Second Intifada also marked the beginning of rocket attacks and bombings of Israeli border localities by Palestinian guerrillas from Gaza Strip, especially by the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad movements.
Between December 2000 and June 2001, the barrier between Gaza and Israel was reconstructed. A barrier on the Gaza Strip-Egypt border was constructed starting in 2004. The main crossing points are the northern Erez Crossing into Israel and the southern Rafah Crossing into Egypt. The eastern Karni Crossing used for cargo, closed down in 2011. Israel controls the Gaza Strip's northern borders, as well as its territorial waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza Strip's southern border, under an agreement between it and Gaza. Neither Israel or Egypt permits free travel from Gaza as both borders are heavily militarily fortified. Egypt and Israel have stated that this is in response to suicide attacks, rocket fire, smuggling, and militants. "Egypt maintains a strict blockade on Gaza in order to isolate Hamas from Islamist insurgents in the Sinai."
2005 Israel's unilateral disengagement
In February 2005, the Knesset approved a unilateral disengagement plan and began removing Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005. All Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and the joint Israeli-Palestinian Erez Industrial Zone were dismantled, and 9,000 Israelis, most living in Gush Katif, were forcibly evicted.
On 12 September 2005, the Israeli cabinet formally declared an end to Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip.
"The Oslo Agreements gave Israel full control over Gaza's airspace, but established that the Palestinians could build an airport in the area..." and the disengagement plan states that: "Israel will hold sole control of Gaza airspace and will continue to carry out military activity in the waters of the Gaza Strip." "Therefore, Israel continues to maintain exclusive control of Gaza's airspace and some of the territorial waters, just as it has since it occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967." Human Rights Watch has advised the UN Human Rights Council that it considers Israel to be the occupying power of the Gaza Strip because Israel controls Gaza Strip's airspace, territorial waters and controls the movement of people or goods in or out of Gaza by air or sea. The naval blockade of Gaza which Israel claims is necessary to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, was determined to be legal by the United Nations Palmer Report in 2010. Israel also withdrew from the Philadelphi Route, a narrow strip of land adjacent to the border with Egypt, after Egypt agreed 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 weapons and people across the Egyptian border, but Egypt (under EU supervision) committed itself to patrolling the area and preventing such incidents.
The Israel Defense Forces left the Gaza Strip on 1 September 2005 as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan and all Israeli citizens were evicted from the area. In November 2005, an "Agreement on Movement and Access" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was brokered by then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to improve Palestinian freedom of movement and economic activity in the Gaza Strip. Under its terms, the Rafah crossing with Egypt was to be reopened, with transits monitored by the Palestinian National Authority and the European Union. Only people with Palestinian ID, or foreign nationals, by exception, in certain categories, subject to Israeli oversight, were permitted to cross in and out. All goods, vehicles and trucks to and from Egypt passed through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, under full Israeli supervision. Goods were also permitted transit at the Karni crossing in the north.
After the Israeli withdrawal in 2005 the Oslo Accords give the Palestinian Authority administrative authority in the Gaza Strip. The Rafah Border Crossing has been supervised by EU Border Assistance Mission Rafah under an agreement finalized in November 2005. The Oslo Accord permits Israel to control the airspace and sea space.
Post-2006 elections violence
In the Palestinian parliamentary elections held on 25 January 2006, Hamas won a plurality of 42.9% of the total vote and 74 out of 132 total seats (56%). When Hamas assumed power the next month, Israel, the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations demanded that Hamas accept all previous agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist, and renounce violence; when Hamas refused, they cut off aid to 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. The resulting political disorder and economic stagnation led to many Palestinians emigrating from the Gaza Strip.
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 Preventive Security Force, died when a rocket hit his home.
On 30 January 2007, a truce was negotiated between Fatah and Hamas. However, after a few days, new fighting broke out. On 1 February, Hamas killed 6 people in an ambush on a Gaza convoy which delivered equipment for Abbas' Palestinian Presidential Guard, according to diplomats, meant to counter smuggling of more powerful weapons into Gaza by Hamas for its fast-growing "Executive Force". According to Hamas, the deliveries to the Presidential Guard were intended to instigate sedition (against Hamas), while withholding money and assistance from the Palestinian people. 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.
In May 2007, new fighting broke out between the factions. 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.
Fighting spread in the Gaza Strip, with both factions attacking vehicles and facilities of the other side. Following a breakdown in an Egyptian-brokered truce, 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.
Hamas spokesman Moussa Abu Marzouk blamed the conflict between Hamas and Fatah on Israel, stating that the constant pressure of economic sanctions resulted in the "real explosion." Associated Press reporter Ibrahim Barzak 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."
From 2006-2007 more than 600 Palestinians were killed in fighting between Hamas and Fatah. In the aftermath of the Gaza War, a series of violent acts killed 54 Palestinians, while hundreds have claimed they were tortured. 349 Palestinians were killed in fighting between factions in 2007. 160 Palestinians killed each other in June alone.
2007 Hamas takeover
Following the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Hamas and Fatah formed the Palestinian authority national unity government headed by Ismail Haniya. Shortly after, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in the course of the Battle of Gaza, seizing government institutions and replacing Fatah and other government officials with its own. By 14 June, Hamas fully 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.
In late June 2008, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan declared the West Bank-based cabinet formed by Abbas as "the sole legitimate Palestinian government". Egypt moved its embassy from Gaza to the West Bank.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt supported reconciliation and a new unity government and pressed Abbas to start talks with Hamas. Abbas had always conditioned this on Hamas returning control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas visited a number of countries, including Russia, and the EU member states. Opposition parties and politicians called for a dialogue with Hamas as well as an end to the economic sanctions.
After the takeover, Israel and Egypt closed their border crossings with Gaza. Palestinian sources reported that European Union monitors fled the Rafah Border Crossing, on the Gaza–Egypt border for fear of being kidnapped or harmed. Arab foreign ministers and Palestinian officials presented a united front against control of the border by Hamas.
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.
After Hamas' June win, it ousted Fatah-linked officials from positions of power and authority (such as government positions, security services, universities, newspapers, etc.) and strove to enforce law 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 were closed down and journalists were harassed. Fatah demonstrations were 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.
Hamas and other militant groups continued to fire Qassam rockets across the border into Israel. According to Israel, between the Hamas takeover and the end of January 2008, 697 rockets and 822 mortar bombs were fired at Israeli towns. In response, Israel targeted Qassam launchers and military targets and declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity. In January 2008, Israel curtailed travel from Gaza, the entry of goods, and cut fuel supplies, 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 short supply, Israel said that Gaza had enough food and energy supplies for weeks.
The Israeli government uses economic means to pressure Hamas. Among other things, it caused Israeli commercial enterprises like banks and fuel companies to stop doing business with the Gaza Strip. The role of private corporations in the relationship between Israel and the Gaza Strip is an issue that has not been extensively studied.
Violence against Christians was recorded. The owner of a Christian bookshop was abducted and murdered and, on 15 February 2008, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) library in Gaza City was bombed.
Egyptian border barrier breach
On 23 January 2008, after months of preparation during which the steel reinforcement of the border barrier was weakened, 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. 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 initially monitored the border because Hamas guaranteed their safety, but they later fled. The Palestinian Authority demanded that Egypt deal only with the Authority in negotiations relating to borders. Israel eased restrictions on the delivery of goods and medical supplies but curtailed electricity by 5% in one of its ten lines. The Rafah crossing remained closed into mid-February.
In February 2008, 2008 Israel-Gaza conflict intensified, with rockets launched at Israeli cities. Aggression by Hamas led to 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.
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. 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, Israel blockaded its border with Gaza after a five-month ceasefire broke down. In 2013 Israel and Qatar brought Gaza’s lone power plant back to life for the first time in seven weeks, bringing relief to the Palestinian coastal enclave where a lack of cheap fuel has contributed to the overflow of raw sewage, 21-hour blackouts and flooding after a ferocious winter storm. "Palestinian officials said that a $10 million grant from Qatar was covering the cost of two weeks’ worth of industrial diesel that started entering Gaza by truckload from Israel."
On 25 November 2008, Israel closed its cargo crossing with Gaza after Qassam rockets were fired into its territory. On 28 November, after a 24-hour period of quiet, the IDF facilitated the transfer of over thirty truckloads of food, basic supplies and medicine into Gaza and transferred fuel to the area's main power plant.
2008 Gaza War
On 27 December 2008, Israeli F-16 fighters launched a series of air strikes against targets in Gaza following the breakdown of a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas. Israeli defense sources said that Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the IDF to prepare for the operation six months before it began, using long-term planning and intelligence-gathering.
Various sites that Israel claimed were being used as weapons depots were struck: police stations, schools, hospitals, UN warehouses, mosques, various Hamas government buildings and other buildings. 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. Israel advised people near military targets to leave before the attacks. Palestinian medical staff claimed at least 434 Palestinians were killed, and at least 2,800 wounded, consisting of many civilians and an unknown number of Hamas members, in the first five days of Israeli strikes on Gaza. The IDF denied that the majority of the dead were civilian. Israel began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on 3 January 2009. Israel rebuffed many cease-fire calls but later declared a cease fire although Hamas vowed to fight on.
The conflict damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes, 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals and 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities, 800 water wells, 186 greenhouses, and nearly all of its 10,000 family farms; leaving 50,000 homeless, 400,000-500,000 without running water, one million without electricity, and resulting in acute food shortages. The people of Gaza still suffer from the loss of these facilities and homes, especially since they have great challenges to rebuild them.
By February 2009, food availability returned to pre-war levels but a shortage of fresh produce was forecast due to damage sustained by the agricultural sector.
The blockade of the Gaza Strip by Egypt and Israel continued after the war, although Israel allowed in limited quantities of medical humanitarian aid. The Red Cross claimed that the blockade harmed the economy and caused a shortage of basic medicines and equipment such as painkillers and x-ray film. Israel claims the blockade is necessary to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, for example in 2014 a Panamanian flagged ship claiming to be carrying construction materials ship was boarded by the IDF and was found to contain Syrian produced rockets.
Director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Yuval Diskin did not oppose easing trade restrictions but said that smuggling tunnels in Sinai and an open seaport in the Gaza Strip endangered Israel's security. According to Diskin, Hamas and Islamic Jihad had smuggled over "5,000 rockets with ranges up to 40 km (25 mi)." Some of the rockets could reach as far as the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area.
An inquiry by the UN completed in 2011 determined the naval blockade to be legal according to international law.
In July 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that "humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp." In response, the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said "The people of Gaza are the prisoners of the terrorist organization Hamas. The situation in Gaza is the direct result of Hamas' rule and priorities."
The Arab League accused Israel of waging a financial war. The IDF strictly controlled travel within the area of the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and sealed its border with Gaza. U.S. government travel guides warned tourists that the region was dangerous. Egypt controls the southern border crossing into Gaza.
Facing mounting international pressure, Egypt and Israel lessened the restrictions starting in June 2010, when the Rafah border crossing from Egypt to Gaza was partially opened by Egypt. Egypt’s foreign ministry said that the crossing would remain open mainly for people, but not for supplies. Israel announced that it would allow the passage of civilian goods but not weapons and items that could be used for dual purposes.
In January and February 2011, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) assessed measures taken to ease the blockade and concluded that they were helpful but not sufficient to improve the lives of the local inhabitants. UNOCHA called on Israel to reduce restrictions on exports and the import of construction materials, and to lift the general ban on movement between Gaza and the West Bank via Israel. After Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak resigned on 28 May 2011, Egypt permanently opened its border with the Gaza Strip to students, medical patients, and foreign passport holders.
Under a long-term blockade, the Gaza Strip is often described by observers ranging from Roger Cohen and Lawrence Weschler to NGOs like B'tselem and politicians and diplomats like David Cameron, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, David Shoebridge and Sir John Holmes as a "prison-camp or open air prison for its collective denizens." Others compare it to a concentration camp. An Israel analyst has called it "Israel's Alcatraz". Mark LeVine in Al Jazeera considers that comparisons with the Warsaw Ghetto and the wartime uprising there are not uncommon. The analogy was made by an IDF officer in 2000, and it was reported to be widespread in the IDF. For Robert S. Wistrich, and Philip Mendes, such analogies are designed to offend Jews, while Philip Seib dismisses the comparison as absurd, and claims that it arises from sources like Al Jazeera and statements by Arab leaders.
Israel and the United Nations maintain that the blockade is legal and necessary to limit Palestinian rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on its cities and to prevent Hamas from obtaining other weapons.
A 2014 unity government with Fatah
On 5 June 2014 Fatah signed a unity agreement with Hamas political party.
2014 Israel–Gaza conflict
Connections to Sinai insurgency
Egypt's Sinai Peninsula borders the Gaza Strip and Israel. Its vast and desolate terrain has transformed it into a hotbed of illicit and militant activity. Although most of the area's inhabitants are tribal Bedouins, there has been a recent increase in al-Qaeda inspired global jihadi militant groups operating in the region. Out of the approximately 15 main militant groups operating in the Sinai desert, the most dominant and active militant groups have close relations with the Gaza Strip.
According to Egyptian authorities, the Army of Islam, a U.S. designated "terrorist organization" based in the Gaza Strip, is responsible for training and supplying many militant organizations and jihadist members in Sinai. Mohammed Dormosh, the Army of Islam's leader, is known for his close relationships to the Hamas leadership. Army of Islam smuggles members into the Gaza Strip for training, then returns them to the Sinai Peninsula to engage in militant and jihadist activities.
The Hamas government of 2012 was the second Palestinian Hamas-dominated government, ruling over the Gaza Strip, since the split of the Palestinian National Authority in 2007. The second Hamas government was announced on early September 2012. The reshuffle of the previous government was approved by Gaza-based Hamas MPs from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) or parliament. Seven new ministers were appointed to the new government. Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh said the new government's priorities would be "ending the siege and easing the problems of citizens, especially with regard to electricity and water."
Other political and militant groups in Gaza
The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, also known as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is a Palestinian militant organization operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The group has been labelled as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Australia and Israel. Iran is a major financial supporter of the PIJ. Islamic Jihad is the second largest militant Islamic group in Gaza with 8,000 fighters present in the Gaza strip. In June 2013, the Islamic Jihad broke ties with Hamas leaders after Hamas police fatally shot the commander of Islamic Jihad's military wing.
Deal with Fatah
On September 25, 2014, Hamas agreed to let the Palestinian Authority resume control over the Gaza Strip and its border crossings with Egypt and Israel.
After the Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty 1979, a 100-meter-wide buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt known as the Philadelphi Route was established. The international border along the Philadelphi corridor between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is 7 miles (11 km) long. With the Agreement on Movement and Access, known as the Rafah Agreement, in 2005, Israel ended its presence in the Philadelphi Route and transferred responsibility for security arrangements to Egypt and the PA under the supervision of the EU. The Egyptian army has since destroyed some Gaza Strip smuggling tunnels "in order to fight any element of terrorism", according to an Egyptian security official. The Gaza border crossing into Egypt remains under the full control of Egypt. Egypt has alternately restricted or allowed goods and people to cross that terrestrial border.
In as much as it does not exercise effective control or authority over any land or institutions in the Gaza Strip, Israel states that the Gaza Strip is no longer subject to the former military occupation. 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." After Israel withdrew in 2005, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared that the legal status of the areas slated for evacuation had not changed, and this lack of clarity continued after Operation Cast Lead to stop rocket fire into Israel and weapons smuggling into the Gaza strip. Israel has alternately restricted or allowed goods and people to cross the terrestrial border and handles vicariously the movement of goods in or out of Gaza by air or sea. Israel largely provides for Gaza's water supply, electricity and communications infrastructure.
A "military occupation occurs when a belligerent state invades the territory of another state with the intention of holding the territory at least temporarily. While hostilities continue, the occupying state is prohibited by International Law from annexing the territory or creating another state out of it, but the occupying state may establish some form of military administration over the territory and the population. Under the Martial Law imposed by this regime, residents are required to obey the occupying authorities and may be punished for not doing so. Civilians may also be compelled to perform a variety of nonmilitary tasks for the occupying authorities, such as the repair of roads and buildings, provided such work does not contribute directly to the enemy war effort."
Human Rights Watch has advised the UN Human Rights Council that it views Israel as a de facto occupying power in the Gaza Strip, even though Israel has no military or other presence, because the Oslo Accord authorizes Israel to control the airspace and the territorial sea. Other NGOs and other pro-Israel entities have been reported to contest that specific view.
In his statement on the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur 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." In a 2009 interview on Democracy Now Christopher Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) called Israel an occupying power.
The economy of the Gaza Strip is severely hampered by Egypt and Israel's almost total blockade, the high population density, limited land access, strict internal and external security controls, the effects of Israeli military operations, and restrictions on labor and trade access across the border. Per capita income (PPP) was estimated at US$3,100 in 2009, a position of 164th in the world. Seventy percent of the population is below the poverty line according to a 2009 estimate. 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 and Egypt.
The EU described the Gaza economy as follows: "Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 and following the closure imposed by Israel, the situation in the Strip has been one of chronic need, de-development and donor dependency, despite a temporary relaxation on restrictions in movement of people and goods after the Gaza flotilla raid in 2010. The closure has effectively cut off access for exports to traditional markets in Israel, transfers to the West Bank and has severely restricted imports. Exports are now down to 2% of 2007 levels."
After Oslo (1994-2007)
Economic output in the Gaza Strip declined by about one-third between 1992 and 1996. This downturn was attributed to Israeli closure policies and to a lesser extent, corruption and mismanagement by Yasser Arafat. Economic development has been hindered by Israel refusing to allow the operation 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 excused its actions by claiming that Israeli settlements were being shot from the construction site at the harbour. As a result, international transports (both trade and aid) had to go through Israel, which was 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 over the next few years. In 1998, Israel implemented new policies to ease security procedures and allow somewhat freer movement of Gazan goods and labor into Israel. These changes led to three years of economic recovery in the Gaza Strip, disrupted by the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in the last quarter of 2000. Before the second Palestinian uprising in September 2000, around 25,000 workers from the Gaza Strip (about 2% of the population) used to work in Israel on daily basis.
The Second Intifada led to a steep decline in the economy of Gaza, which was heavily reliant upon external markets. The population became largely dependent on humanitarian assistance, primarily from UN agencies.
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 so in early 2002, internal turmoil and Israeli military measures led to widespread business closures and a sharp drop in GDP. Civilian infrastructure, such as the Palestine airport, was destroyed by Israel. Another major factor was a drop in income 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 resumed, although Israel said it would 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 provided employment for hundreds of Gazans. 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 Palestinians to jump-start their economy, many were demolished by the departing settlers. The effort faltered due to limited water supply, Palestinian looting, restrictions on exports and corruption in the Palestinian Authority. Many Palestinian companies repaired the greenhouses damaged and looted in the process of Israeli withdrawal.
In 2005, after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Gaza businessmen envisaged a "magnificent future." $1.1 million was invested in an upscale restaurant, Roots, and plans were made to turn one of the Israeli settlements into a family resort.
Following Hamas takeover (2007-present)
The European Union states: "Gaza has experienced continuous economic decline since the imposition of a closure policy by Israel in 2007. This has had serious social and humanitarian consequences for many of its 1.7 million inhabitants. The situation has deteriorated further in recent months as a result of the geo-political changes which took place in the region in the course of 2013, particularly in Egypt and its closure of the majority of smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza as well as increased restrictions at Rafah." 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 democratic 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 make good on past agreements. Prior to disengagement, 120,000 Palestinians from Gaza were employed in Israel or in joint projects. After the Israeli withdrawal, the gross domestic product of the Gaza Strip declined. Jewish enterprises shut down, work relationships were severed and job opportunities in Israel dried up. After the 2006 elections, fighting broke out between Fatah and Hamas, which Hamas won in the Gaza Strip on 14 June 2007. Israel imposed a blockade, and the only goods permitted into the Strip through the land crossings were goods of a humanitarian nature, and these were permitted in limited quantities.
An easing of Israel's closure policy in 2010 resulted in an improvement in some economic indicators, although exports were still restricted. According to the Israeli Defense Forces and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the economy of the Gaza Strip improved in 2011, with a drop in unemployment and an increase in GDP. New malls opened and local industry began to develop. This economic upswing has led to the construction of hotels and a rise in the import of cars. Wide-scale development has been made possible by the unhindered movement of goods into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom Crossing and tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The current rate of trucks entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom is 250 trucks per day. The increase in building activity has led to a shortage of construction workers. To make up for the deficit, young people are being sent to learn the trade in Turkey.
In 2012, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said that Gaza's economic situation has improved and Gaza has become self-reliant "in several aspects except petroleum and electricity" despite Israel's blockade. Zahar said that Gaza's economic conditions are better than those in the West Bank. In 2014 the EU's opinion was: "Today, Gaza is facing a dangerous and pressing humanitarian and economic situation with power outages across Gaza for up to 16 hours a day and, as a consequence, the closure of sewage pumping operations, reduced access to clean water; a reduction in medical supplies and equipment; the cessation of imports of construction materials; rising unemployment, rising prices and increased food insecurity. If left unaddressed, the situation could have serious consequences for stability in Gaza, for security more widely in the region as well as for the peace process itself."
2012 fuel crisis
In early 2012, due to internal economic disagreement between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas Government in Gaza, decreased supplies from Egypt and through tunnel smuggling, and Hamas' refusal to ship fuel via Israel, the Gaza Strip plunged into a fuel crisis, bringing increasingly long electricity shut downs and disruption of transportation. Egypt had attempted for a while to stop the use of underground tunnels for delivery of Egyptian fuel purchased by Palestinian authorities, and had severely reduced supply through the tunnel network. As the crisis broke out, Hamas sought to equip the Rafah terminal between Egypt and Gaza for fuel transfer, and refused to accept fuel to be delivered via the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza.
In mid-February 2012, as the crisis escalated, Hamas rejected an Egyptian proposal to bring in fuel via the Kerem Shalom Crossing between Israel and Gaza to reactivate Gaza’s only power plant. Ahmed Abu Al-Amreen of the Hamas-run Energy Authority refused it on the grounds that the crossing is operated by Israel and Hamas' fierce opposition to the existence of Israel. Egypt cannot ship diesel fuel to Gaza directly through the Rafah crossing point, because it is limited to the movement of individuals.
In early March 2012, the head of Gaza's energy authority stated that Egypt wanted to transfer energy via the Kerem Shalom Crossing, but he personally refused it to go through the "Zionist entity" (Israel) and insisted that Egypt transfer the fuel through the Rafah Crossing, although this crossing is not equipped to handle the half-million liters needed each day.
In late March 2012, Hamas began offering carpools for people to use Hamas state vehicles to get to work. Many Gazans began to wonder how these vehicles have fuel themselves, as diesel was completely unavailable in Gaza, ambulances could no longer be used, but Hamas government officials still had fuel for their own cars. Many Gazans said that Hamas confiscated the fuel it needed from petrol stations and used it exclusively for their own purposes.
Egypt agreed to provide 600,000 liters of fuel to Gaza daily, but it had no way of delivering it that Hamas would agree to.
In addition, Israel introduced a number of goods and vehicles into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom Crossing, as well as the normal diesel for hospitals. Israel also shipped 150,000 liters of diesel through the crossing, which was paid for by the Red Cross.
In April 2012, the issue was resolved as certain amounts of fuel were supplied with the involvement of the Red Cross, after the Palestinian Authority and Hamas reached a deal. Fuel was finally transferred via the Israeli Kerem Shalom Crossing, which Hamas previously refused to transfer fuel from.
Most of the Gaza Strip administration funding comes from outside as an aid, with large portion delivered by UN organizations directly to education and food supply. Most of the Gaza GDP comes as foreign humanitarian and direct economic support. Of those funds, the major part is supported by the U.S. and the European Union. Portions of the direct economic support have been provided by the Arab League, though it largely has not provided funds according to schedule. Among other alleged sources of Gaza administration budget is Iran.
A diplomatic source told Reuters that Iran had funded Hamas in the past with up to $300 million per year, but the flow of money had not been regular in 2011. "Payment has been in suspension since August", said the source.
On January 2012, some diplomatic sources said that Turkey promised to provide Haniyeh's Gaza Strip administration with $300 million to support its annual budget.
On April 2012, the Hamas government in Gaza approved its budget for 2012, which was up 25% year-on-year over 2011 budget, indicating that donors, including Iran, benefactors in the Islamic world and Palestinian expatriates, are still heavily funding the movement. Chief of Gaza's parliament's budget committee Jamal Nassar said the 2012 budget is $769 million, compared to $630 million in 2011.
Geography and climate
The Gaza Strip is located in the Middle East (at Coordinates: ). It has a 51 kilometers (32 mi) border with Israel, and an 11 km (7 mi) border with Egypt, near the city of Rafah. Khan Yunis is located 7 kilometers (4.3 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. Al Deira beach is a popular venue for surfers.
The Gaza Strip has an arid 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 problems include desertification; salination of fresh water; sewage treatment; water-borne diseases; soil degradation; and depletion and contamination of underground water resources. The Gaza Strip is largely dependent on water from Wadi Gaza, which is also a resource for Israel.
Natural resources of Gaza include arable land—about a third of the strip is irrigated. Recently, natural gas was discovered. Environmental problems include desertification; salination of fresh water; water-borne disease; soil degradation; lack of adequate sewage treatment; and depletion and contamination of underground water resources. The Gaza Strip is largely dependent on water from Wadi Gaza, which also supplies Israel.
Gaza's marine gas reserves extend 32 kilometres from the Gaza Strip's coastline. In 1999, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak set aside exploration of Gaza's offshore resources for a future Palestinian state, with no prior consultation with Israel stipulated. The natural gas reserve was calculated to have 35 BCM, larger than Israel's own recently discovered Yam Tethys maritime gas field. The Palestinians signed a memorandum of intent on November 8, 1999 with British Gas and a company linked to the Palestinian Authority, the Consolidated Contractors Company, giving them rights to explore the area. According to Michael Schwartz, Barak deployed the Israeli navy in Gaza's coastal waters to impede the implementation of the terms of the modest contract between the Palestinian Authority and British Gas (BG) to develop Gaza's Mediterranean gas resources. Israel demanded that the Gaza gas be piped to facilities on its territory, and at a price below the prevailing market level and that Israel also control all the (relatively modest) revenues destined for the Palestinians—to prevent the money from being used to "fund terror." In Schwartz's view, with this Israeli action the Oslo Accords were officially doomed, because by declaring Palestinian control over gas revenues unacceptable, the Israeli government committed itself to not accepting even the most limited kind of Palestinian budgetary autonomy, let alone full sovereignty. In Schwartz's view, since no Palestinian government or organization would agree to this, a future filled with armed conflict was assured.
The Israeli veto led to the intervention of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who sought to broker an agreement that would satisfy both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. The result was a 2007 proposal that would have delivered the gas to Israel, not Egypt, at below-market prices, with the same 10% cut of the revenues eventually reaching the PA. However, those funds were first to be delivered to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York for future distribution, to guarantee that they would not be used for attacks on Israel.
The Israelis pointed to the recent victory of the militant Hamas party in Gaza elections as a deal-breaker. Though Hamas had agreed to let the Federal Reserve supervise all spending, the Israeli government, now led by Ehud Olmert, insisted that no "royalties be paid to the Palestinians." Instead, the Israelis would deliver the equivalent of those funds "in goods and services."
The Palestinian government refused the offer, and soon after, Olmert imposed a blockade on Gaza, which Israel's defense minister termed a form of "'economic warfare' that would generate a political crisis, leading to a popular uprising against Hamas." With Egyptian cooperation, Israel then seized control of commerce in and out of Gaza, limiting even food imports and eliminating its fishing industry. Olmert advisor Dov Weisglass summed up this policy by saying the Israeli government was putting the Palestinians "on a diet." According to the Red Cross, this blockade produced "chronic malnutrition," especially among Gazan children.
The Palestinians still refused to accept Israel's terms, and the Olmert government decided to unilaterally extract the gas, something that, they believed, could only occur once Hamas had been displaced or disarmed. As Moshe Ya'alon explained, "Hamas... has confirmed its capability to bomb Israel's strategic gas and electricity installations... It is clear that, without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement." Operation Cast Lead, launched in the winter of 2008, did not achieve the goal of "transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel."
In 2010-11, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced an energy crisis when the Arab Spring in Egypt interrupted and then stopped 40% of Israel's gas supplies. Rising energy prices contributed to some of the largest protests involving Jewish Israelis in decades. Israel's Resource Minister asserted that "[t]hese areas are within the economic waters of Israel... We will not hesitate to use our force and strength to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law."
The Iron Dome system, developed in part to stop Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel's northern gas fields, was put in place near the border with Gaza and was tested during Operation Returning Echo, the fourth Israeli military attempt to weaken Hamas and eliminate any Palestinian "capability to bomb Israel's strategic gas and electricity installations."
The next round of negotiations stalled over the Palestinian rejection of Israel's demand to control all fuel and revenues destined for Gaza and the West Bank. The new Palestinian Unity government then followed the lead of the Lebanese, Syrians, and Turkish Cypriots, and in late 2013 signed an "exploration concession" with Gazprom, the large Russian natural gas company. As with Lebanon and Syria, the Russian Navy was a potential deterrent to Israeli "interference."
With Gazprom's move to develop the Palestinian-claimed gas deposits on the horizon, the Israelis launched their fifth military effort "to force Palestinian acquiescence," Operation Protective Edge. The operation "had two major hydrocarbon-related goals: to deter Palestinian-Russian plans and to finally eliminate the Gazan rocket systems." The first goal was apparently met when Gazprom postponed its development deal. However, "the two-pronged land and air attack -- despite unprecedented devastation in Gaza -- failed to destroy Hamas's rocket stockpiles or its tunnel-based assembly system; nor did the Iron Dome achieve the sort of near-perfect interception rate needed to protect proposed energy installations."
As of early 2015, Gaza's natural gas is still underwater and the same for almost all of the Levantine gas.
In 2010 approximately 1.6 million Palestinians lived in the Gaza Strip, almost 1.0 million of them UN-registered refugees. The majority of the Palestinians descend (the Palestinians are the only refugee group to have ever been given hereditary refugee status) from refugees who were driven from or left their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Strip's population has continued to increase since that time, one of the main reasons being a total fertility rate of 4.24 children per woman (2014 est). In a ranking by total fertility rate, this places Gaza 34th of 224 regions.
Before the Hamas takeover in 2007, approximately 500 women from the former Soviet Union lived in Gaza.
Religion and culture
The United Nations body UNESCO stopped[when?] funding a children's magazine - sponsored by the Palestinian National Authority - that commended Nazi Germany's killing of Jews. It deplored this publication as contrary to its principles of building tolerance and respect for human rights and human dignity.
Palestinian attitudes towards political violence
A March 2008 report by Palestinian Center for Policy & Survey Research (PSR) reported that the majority[quantify] of Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip support rocket launching, suicide attacks, and school shootings against Israeli civilians inside Israel.
Religious compliance of population to Islam
Islamic law in Gaza
From 1987 to 1991, during the First Intifada, Hamas campaigned for the wearing of the hijab head-cover and for other measures (such as the promotion of polygamy, segregating women from men and insisting they stay at home). In the course of this campaign, women who chose not to wear the hijab were verbally and physically harassed[by whom?], leading to hijabs being worn "just to avoid problems on the streets".
Since Hamas took over in 2007, attempts have been made[by whom?] to impose "Islamic dress" and to require women to wear the hijab. The government's "Islamic Endowment Ministry" has deployed Virtue Committee members to warn citizens of the dangers of immodest dress, card playing and dating. However, there are no government laws imposing dress and other moral standards, and the Hamas education ministry reversed one effort to impose Islamic dress on students. There has also been successful resistance[by whom?] to attempts by local Hamas officials to impose Islamic dress on women.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Hamas-controlled government stepped up its efforts to "Islamize" Gaza in 2010, efforts it says included the "repression of civil society" and "severe violations of personal freedom."
Palestinian researcher Khaled Al-Hroub has criticized what he called the "Taliban-like steps" Hamas has taken: "The Islamization that has been forced upon the Gaza Strip – the suppression of social, cultural, and press freedoms that do not suit Hamas's view[s] – is an egregious deed that must be opposed. It is the reenactment, under a religious guise, of the experience of [other] totalitarian regimes and dictatorships." Hamas officials denied having any plans to impose Islamic law. One legislator stated that "[w]hat you are seeing are incidents, not policy" and that "we believe in persuasion".
In October 2012 Gaza youth complained that security officers had obstructed their freedom to wear saggy pants and to have haircuts of their own choosing, and that they faced being arrested. Youth in Gaza are also mocked[by whom?] for wearing shorts and for showing their legs, which have been described by youth as embarrassing incidents, and one youth explained that "My saggy pants did not harm anyone." However, a spokesman for Gaza's Ministry of Interior denied such a campaign, and denied interfering in the lives of Gaza citizens, but explained that "maintaining the morals and values of the Palestinian society is highly required".
Iran was the largest state supporter of Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood also gave support, but these political relationships have recently been disrupted[by whom?] following the Arab Spring and the position of Hamas has declined as support diminishes.
In 2010, illiteracy among Gazan youth was less than 1%. In 2012, there were five universities in the Gaza Strip and eight new schools are under construction. According to UNRWA figures, there are 640 schools in Gaza: 383 government schools, 221 UNRWA schools and 36 private schools, serving a total of 441,452 students.
In 2010, Al Zahara, a private school in central Gaza introduced a special program for mental development based on math computations. The program was created in Malaysia in 1993, according to the school principal, Majed al-Bari.
The Community College of Applied Science and Technology (CCAST) was established in 1998 in Gaza City. In 2003, the college moved into its new campus and established the Gaza Polytechnic Institute (GPI) in 2006 in southern Gaza. In 2007, the college received accreditation to award BA degrees as the University College of Applied Sciences (UCAS). In 2010, the college had a student population of 6,000 in eight departments offering over 40 majors.
In June 2011, some Gazans, upset that UNRWA did not rebuild their homes that were lost in the Second Intifada, blocked UNRWA from performing its services and shut down UNRWA's summer camps. Gaza residents also closed UNRWA's emergency department, social services office and ration stores.
In Gaza, there are hospitals and additional healthcare facilities. Because of the high number of young people the mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world, at 0.315% per year. The infant mortality rate is ranked 105th highest out of 224 countries and territories, at 16.55 deaths per 1,000 births. The Gaza Strip places 24th out of 135 countries according to Human Poverty Index.
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. After the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip health conditions in Gaza Strip faced 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. In a 2012 study of the occupied territories, the WHO reported that roughly 50% of the young children and infants under two years old and 39.1% of pregnant women receiving antenatal services care in Gaza suffer from iron-deficiency anemia. The organization also observed chronic malnutrition in children under five "is not improving and may be deteriorating."
Dr. Mohammed Abu Shaban, director of the Blood Tumors Department in Al-Rantisy Hospital in Gaza witnessed an increase in blood cancer. In March 2010 the department had seen 55 cases that year, compared to 20 to 25 cases normally seen in an entire year.[dubious ]According to the United Nations Development Programme, the average life expectancy in the Gaza Strip is 72.
According to Palestinian leaders in the Gaza Strip, the majority of medical aid delivered are "past their expiration date." Mounir el-Barash, the director of donations in Gaza's health department, claims 30% of aid sent to Gaza is used.
In 2012, two hospitals funded by Turkey and Saudi Arabia were under construction.
Culture and sports
The Gaza Strip has been home to a significant branch of the contemporary Palestinian art movement since the mid 20th century. Notable artists include painters Ismail Ashour, Shafiq Redwan, Bashir Senwar, Majed Shalla, Fayez Sersawi, Abdul Rahman al Muzayan and Ismail Shammout, and 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.
In 2010, Gaza inaugurated its first Olympic-size swimming pool at the As-Sadaka club. The opening ceremony was held by the Islamic Society. The swimming team of as-Sadaka holds several gold and silver medals from Palestinian swimming competitions.
Transport and communications
Salah al-Din Road (also known as the Salah ad-Deen Highway) is the main highway of the Gaza Strip and extends over 45 kilometers, spanning the entire length of the territory from the Rafah Crossing in the south to the Erez Crossing in the north.  The road is named after the 12th-century Muslim general Salah al-Din.
A single standard gauge railway line that ran the length of the Strip from north to south is not operative. Prior to 1948 the line connected to the Egyptian railway system to the south, as well as what then became the Israeli system to the north.
The Port of Gaza has been an important and active port since antiquity. Despite plans under the Oslo Peace Accords to expand the port, it has been under a blockade since Hamas was elected as a majority party in the 2006 elections. Both the Israeli Navy and Egypt enforce the blockade, which continues currently and has limited many aspects of life in Gaza, especially, according to Human Rights Watch, the movement of people and commerce, with exports being most affected. The improvement and rebuilding of infrastructure is also negatively impacted by these sanctions. Plans to expand the port were halted after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada.
The Yasser Arafat International Airport opened on 24 November 1998 after the signing of the Oslo II Accord and the Wye River Memorandum. It was closed by Israel in October 2000. Its radar station and control tower were destroyed by Israel Defense Forces aircraft in 2001 during the al-Aqsa Intifada, and bulldozers razed the runway in January 2002. The only remaining runway is at the Gaza Airstrip. However, the airspace over Gaza may be restricted by the Israeli Air Force as the Oslo Accords authorized.
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) and Israeli providers such as Cellcom. Gaza is serviced by four internet service providers that now compete for ADSL and dial-up customers.
Television and radio
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.
- Al-Bustan resort
- Enclave and exclave
- Gaza Security Force
- Governance of the Gaza Strip
- Human rights in the Palestinian territories
- International recognition of the State of Palestine
- Israeli-occupied territories
- Israeli settlement
- Military equipment of Israel
- Palestinian Declaration of Independence
- Palestinian National Security Forces
- Political status of the Palestinian territories
- Southern District (Israel)
Notes and references
- The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) ISBN 0-19-861263-X - p.761 "Gaza Strip /'gɑːzə/ a strip of territory under the control of the Palestinian National Authority and Hamas, on the SE Mediterranean coast including the town of Gaza...".
- "General Assembly Votes Overwhelmingly to Accord Palestine ‘Non-Member Observer State’ Status in United Nations". Un.org. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
- "EU Heads of Missions’ report on Gaza 2013". Eccpalestine.org. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
- Sanger, Andrew (2011). M.N. Schmitt, Louise Arimatsu, Tim McCormack, ed. "The Contemporary Law of Blockade and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla". Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law 2010 (Springer Science & Business Media) 13: 429. doi:10.1007/978-90-6704-811-8_14. ISBN 9789067048118.
Israel claims it no longer occupies the Gaza Strip, maintaining that it is neither a Stale nor a territory occupied or controlled by Israel, but rather it has 'sui generis' status. Pursuant to the Disengagement Plan, Israel dismantled all military institutions and settlements in Gaza and there is no longer a permanent Israeli military or civilian presence in the territory. However the Plan also provided that Israel will guard and monitor the external land perimeter of the Gaza Strip, will continue to maintain exclusive authority in Gaza air space, and will continue to exercise security activity in the sea off the coast of the Gaza Strip as well as maintaining an Israeli military presence on the Egyptian-Gaza border. and reserving the right to reenter Gaza at will.
Israel continues to control six of Gaza's seven land crossings, its maritime borders and airspace and the movement of goods and persons in and out of the territory. Egypt controls one of Gaza's land crossings. Troops from the Israeli Defence Force regularly enter pans of the territory and/or deploy missile attacks, drones and sonic bombs into Gaza. Israel has declared a no-go buffer zone that stretches deep into Gaza: if Gazans enter this zone they are shot on sight. Gaza is also dependent on israel for inter alia electricity, currency, telephone networks, issuing IDs, and permits to enter and leave the territory. Israel also has sole control of the Palestinian Population Registry through which the Israeli Army regulates who is classified as a Palestinian and who is a Gazan or West Banker. Since 2000 aside from a limited number of exceptions Israel has refused to add people to the Palestinian Population Registry.
It is this direct external control over Gaza and indirect control over life within Gaza that has led the United Nations, the UN General Assembly, the UN Fact Finding Mission to Gaza, International human rights organisations, US Government websites, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a significant number of legal commentators, to reject the argument that Gaza is no longer occupied.
* Scobbie, Iain (2012). Elizabeth Wilmshurst, ed. International Law and the Classification of Conflicts. Oxford University Press. p. 295. ISBN 9780199657759.
Even after the accession to power of Hamas, Israel's claim that it no longer occupies Gaza has not been accepted by UN bodies, most States, nor the majority of academic commentators because of its exclusive control of its border with Gaza and crossing points including the effective control it exerted over the Rafah crossing until at least May 2011, its control of Gaza's maritime zones and airspace which constitute what Aronson terms the 'security envelope' around Gaza, as well as its ability to intervene forcibly at will in Gaza.
* Gawerc, Michelle (2012). Prefiguring Peace: Israeli-Palestinian Peacebuilding Partnerships. Lexington Books. p. 44. ISBN 9780739166109.
While Israel withdrew from the immediate territory, Israel still controlled all access to and from Gaza through the border crossings, as well as through the coastline and the airspace. ln addition, Gaza was dependent upon Israel for water electricity sewage communication networks and for its trade (Gisha 2007. Dowty 2008). ln other words, while Israel maintained that its occupation of Gaza ended with its unilateral disengagement Palestinians - as well as many human right organizations and international bodies - argued that Gaza was by all intents and purposes still occupied.
- Leibovitz, Liel. "Some Concrete Facts about Hamas".
- "Egypt to raze 2,000 more homes for Gaza buffer zone". Haaretz. Retrieved 2015-06-23.
- The Palestinians: In Search of a Just Peace - Page 52, Cheryl Rubenberg - 2003
- Gaza Strip Entry at the CIA World Factbook
- Arnon, Arie (Autumn 2007). "Israeli Policy towards the Occupied Palestinian Territories: The Economic Dimension, 1967-2007" (PDF). Middle East Journal 61 (4): 575. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-30.
- Egypt Israel Armistice Agreement[dead link] UN Doc S/1264/Corr.1 23 February 1949
- Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem. "Palestinian unity government of Fatah and Hamas sworn in | World news". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2014-08-02.
- Seib 2012, p. 148.
- Dion Nissenbaum. "Olmert aide supports free Gaza". McClatchy Newspapers. 8 December 2008:'Since Hamas took control of Gaza last year, Israel has dramatically reduced the amount of food, fuel and supplies going through its border crossings with Gaza that are the main Palestinian lifeline to the outside world. . Since the Israeli military operation on Nov. 4th, according to humanitarian groups, about 700 truck loads of goods have gone into Gaza. That's what should be going in-and-out on a single day.'
- "Israel tightens its blockade of Gaza for 'security reasons'". Middle East Monitor. 14 October 2013.:'Yet critics point out that it is not just military supplies that cannot enter Gaza, but basic construction materials, medical supplies, and food stuffs. The issue came to international attention in 2010, when a flotilla of activists attempted to break the blockade and carry humanitarian aid into Gaza. Nine were killed when the Israeli navy entered the ship.The incident shone a spotlight onto the harsh blockade of Gaza. At one stage, prohibited materials included coriander, ginger, nutmeg and newspapers. A relaxation of the rules in June 2009 meant that processed hummus was allowed in, but not hummus with extras such as pine nuts or mushrooms. These small details highlight the excessive nature of the restrictions. One of the biggest issues has been building materials. The strict restrictions on goods going into Gaza meant that it was impossible to start reconstruction work after intensive air strikes on the city in December 2008. A leaked UN report in 2009 warned that the blockade was "devastating livelihoods" and causing gradual "de-development". It pointed out that glass was prohibited; it was therefore impossible to repair shattered windows to keep out the winter rain.'
- "Gaza's Tunnel Economy". Borgen Magazine. 4 August 2014.
- "Inquiry urged into Israel convoy raid". BBC. 1 June 2010.
- "Gaza Strip, overview". Freedom House.
- Jonathan Cook, 'How Israel is turning Gaza into a super-max prison,' The National October 27, 2014: 'One Israeli analyst has compared the proposed solution to transforming a third-world prison into a modern US super-max incarceration facility.'
- Alistair Dawber, 'Tales from Gaza: What is life really like in 'the world's largest outdoor prison'?' The Independent 13 April 2013.'Locals call it "the world's biggest prison", and it's not difficult to understand why.'
- W. Andrew Terrill, Jordan, ABC-CLIO 2010 p.69:'At the time the Gaza Strip was under severe economic sanctions and widely viewed within the kingdom as an “open air prison” because Hamas had seized power there. Jordanians may have been willing to assert that Hamas was a legitimate organization because they were appalled by the conditions that had been imposed on Gaza’s population in order to punish Hamas.’
- Zaki Chehab, Inside Hamas: The Untold Story of Militants, Martyrs and Spies, I.B.Tauris, 2007 p.182:'The Rafiah crossing is the gateway to what Palestinians refer to as their open-air prison – the Gaza Strip.'
- Anna Ball, 'Impossible Intimacies,' in Anastasia Valassopoulos (ed.) Arab Cultural Studies: History, Politics and the Popular, Routledge 2013 pp71-91 p.73.
- Erick Stakelbeck, The Terrorist Next Door: How the Government is Deceiving You About the Islamist Threat, Regnery Publishing, 2011 p.143.
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