(Arabic: قطاع غزة Qiṭāʿ Ġazza/Qita' Ghazzah, Arabic pronunciation: [qitˤaːʕ ɣazza]) lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, and between 6 and 12 kilometers (4–7.5 mi) wide, with a total area of 360 square kilometers (139 sq mi). The territory takes its name from Gaza, its main city.
The territory has a population of about 1.5 million people, as of July 2009, 1 million of whom were, as of March 2005, refugees who fled to the territory as part of the 1948 Palestinian exodus following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, from those parts of Mandate Palestine that became Israel, and their descendants. The population is predominantly Sunni Muslims and speaks a Western Egyptian dialect of Arabic.
The Gaza Strip acquired its current boundaries at the cessation of fighting in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, which was confirmed in 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. The Gaza Strip continued to be occupied by Egypt. At first it administered the territory through the All-Palestine Government and then directly from 1959 until 1967, when Israel occupied it following the Six-Day War. Pursuant to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in 1993, the Palestinian Authority was set up as an interim administrative body to govern Palestinian population centres, with Israel maintaining control of Gaza Strip's airspace, some of its land borders and territorial waters, until a final agreement could be reached. As agreement remained elusive, Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in 2005.
The Gaza Strip is one of the territorial units forming the Palestinian territories. Since July 2007, following the 2006 Palestinian legislative election and the Battle of Gaza, Hamas has functioned as the effective government in the Gaza Strip.
For the history of Gaza before the termination of the British Mandate of Palestine, see History of Gaza.
See also: History of Palestine, History of the Levant, and Syro-Palestinian archaeology#Archaeology in Gaza
The Gaza Strip came into existence in 1949 as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and acquired its current boundaries under the 1949 Armistice Agreements, though the area has experienced a long history of rule by various regional powers dating back several millennia.
Egyptian control (1948–67)
control of the Gaza Strip by Egypt
On 22 September 1948, towards the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the All-Palestine Government was proclaimed in Gaza City by the Arab League. It was conceived partly as an Arab League attempt to limit the influence of Transjordan in Palestine. It was not recognized by Transjordan or any non-Arab country.
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 to be 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.
The All-Palestine Government continued to nominally exist under Egyptian control. The Strip's population had been greatly augmented by an influx of Palestinian refugees who fled from Israel before and during the fighting. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or Egypt were issued with All-Palestine passports; Arab refugees were never offered Egyptian citizenship. From the end of 1949, the plight of the refugees was relieved by UNRWA. 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 was dissolved in 1959, by decree of Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt.
Egypt continued to occupy the Gaza Strip until 1967, except for four months of Israeli occupation during the 1956 Suez Crisis. Egypt never annexed the Gaza Strip, but instead treated it as a controlled territory and administered it through a military governor.
During the Sinai campaign of November 1956, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula were occupied by Israeli troops. International pressure led Israel to withdraw.
Israeli control (1967–94)
Israel controlled the Gaza Strip again beginning in June 1967, after the Six-Day War. During the period of Israeli control, Israel created a settlement bloc, Gush Katif, in the southwest corner of the Strip near Rafah and the Egyptian border. In total Israel created 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip, comprising 20% of the total territory. Besides ideological reasons for being there, these settlements also served Israel's security concerns.
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 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 period the military was responsible for the maintenance of civil facilities and services. 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. The agreement also established an elected 88-member Palestinian National Council, which held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996.
The Palestinian Authority rule of the Gaza Strip and West Bank 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.
The Second Intifada broke out in September 2000 with its waves of protest, civil unrest and bombings against Israeli military and civilians, many of them perpetrated by suicide bombers, and the beginning of rockets and bombings of Israeli border localities by Palestinian guerrillas from Gaza Strip, especially from Hamas and Jihad Islami movements. In February 2005, the Israeli government voted to implement a unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip. The plan began to be implemented on 15 August 2005, and was completed on 12 September 2005. Under the plan, all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip (and four in the West Bank) and the joint Israeli-Palestinian Erez Industrial Zone were dismantled with the removal of all 9,000 Israeli settlers (most of them in the Gush Katif settlement area in the Strip's southwest) and military bases. On 12 September 2005 the Israeli cabinet formally declared an end to Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip. To avoid allegations that it was still in occupation of any part of the Gaza Strip, Israel also withdrew from the Philadelphi Route, which is a narrow strip adjacent to the Strip's border with Egypt, after Egypt's agreement 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 materials (such as ammunition) and people across the border with Egypt. With Egypt agreeing to patrol its side of the border, it was hoped that the objective would be achieved. However, Israel maintained its control over the crossings in and out of Gaza. The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza was monitored by the Israeli army through special surveillance cameras. Official documents such as passports, I.D. cards, export and import papers, and many others had to be approved by the Israeli army.
Israel-Gaza Strip barrier
Between 1994 and 1996, Israel built the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier. The separation barrier was first constructed to improve security in Israel. The barrier was largely torn down by Palestinians at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. Between December 2000 and June 2001, the barrier fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel was reconstructed. A barrier on the Gaza Strip-Egypt border was constructed from 2004. There are three main crossing points in the barrier: the northern Erez Crossing into Israel, the southern Rafah Crossing into Egypt, and the eastern Karni Crossing used only for cargo. Israel control 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 Israel.
Dispute over occupation status
Under international law there are certain laws of war governing military occupation, including the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The UN, Human Rights Watch and many other international bodies and NGOs consider Israel to be the occupying power of the Gaza Strip as Israel controls Gaza's airspace and territorial waters, and does not allow the movement or goods in or out of Gaza by air or sea. Israel states that Gaza is no longer occupied, inasmuch as Israel does not exercise effective control or authority over any land or institutions in the Gaza Strip. 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.”
However, this has been disputed because Gaza does not belong to any sovereign state and because of Israel’s effective control of the borders of Gaza, including its long sea border. Immediately after Israel withdrew in 2005, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stated, "the legal status of the areas slated for evacuation has not changed." Soon after, Palestinian American attorney Gregory Khalil said “Israel still controls every person, every good, literally every drop of water to enter or leave the Gaza Strip. Its troops may not be there... but it still restricts the ability for the Palestinian authority to exercise control.”Human Rights Watch also contested that this ended the occupation
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs maintains an office on “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which concerns itself with the Gaza Strip.A July 2004 opinion of the International Court of Justice treated Gaza as part of the occupied territories.In his statement on the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories" 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, spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) contends that Israel is an occupying power. However, Meagan Buren, Senior Adviser to the Israel Project, a pro-Israel media group contests that characterization.
Palestinian Authority control (1994–2007)
In accordance with the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority took over the administrative authority of the Gaza Strip (other than the settlement blocs and military areas) in 1994. After the complete Israeli withdrawal of Israeli settlers and military from the Gaza Strip on 12 September 2005, the Palestinian Authority had complete administrative authority in the Gaza Strip. Since the Israeli withdrawal the Rafah Border Crossing had been supervised by EU Border Assistance Mission Rafah under an Agreement finalised in November 2005.
Violence in the wake of 2006 election
In the Palestinian parliamentary elections held on January 25, 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, the Israeli government and the key players of the international community, the United States and the EU refused to recognize its right to govern 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 Preventative Security Force, died when a rocket hit his home. Gharib's two daughters and two bodyguards were also killed in the attack, which was carried out by Hamas gunmen.
At the end of January 2007, a truce was negotiated between Fatah and Hamas. However, after a few days, new fighting broke out.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. In response to constant attacks by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, 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 placed the blame for the worsening situation in the Strip upon Israel, stating that the constant pressure of economic sanctions upon Gaza resulted in the "real explosion." Expressions of concerns were received from many Arab leaders, with many offering to try to help by doing some diplomatic work between the two factions. 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 factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah. In the aftermath of the Gaza War, a series of violent acts aimed at Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel killed 54 Palestinians, while hundreds have claimed they were tortured.
349 Palestinians were killed in fighting between factions in 2007. 160 Palestinians were killed in June alone.
Hamas control (2007–present)
In June 2007, the Palestinian Civil War between Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) and Fatah (Palestine Liberation Movement) intensified. Hamas routed Fatah after winning the democratic election, and by the 14th of June, 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.
Abbas's government received widespread international support. In late June 2008 Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia said that the West Bank-based Cabinet formed by Abbas was the sole legitimate Palestinian government, and Egypt moved its embassy from Gaza to the West Bank. The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip faces international, diplomatic, and economic isolation.
However, both Saudi Arabia and Egypt supported reconciliation and the forming of a new unity government, and pressed Abbas to start serious talks with Hamas. Abbas had always conditioned this on Hamas' returning control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas has been invited to and has visited a number of countries, including Russia, and in the EU countries, opposition parties and politicians called for a dialogue with Hamas and 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.
Conditions after the Hamas take-over
v • d • e
After Hamas' June loss, it started ousting Fatah-linked officials from positions of power and authority in the Strip (such as government positions, security services, universities, newspapers, etc.) and strove to enforce law in the Strip 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 have been closed down and journalists have been harassed.Fatah demonstrations have been 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.
More than one instance of violence against Christians were recorded, all by unidentified parties. The owner of a Christian bookshop was abducted and murdered, and on 15 February 2008, the Christian Youth Organization's library in Gaza City was bombed. Hamas has used hospitals and other public buildings as staging grounds for attacks and retaliation,which has resulted in Fatah responding in kind.
Hamas and other Gazan militant groups continued to fire home made Qassam rockets from the Strip across the border into Israel. According to Israel, between the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the end of January 2008, 697 rockets and 822 mortar bombs were fired at Israeli towns.In response, Israel targeted home made Qassam launchers and military targets and on 19 September 2007, declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity. In January 2008 the situation escalated; Israel curtailed travel from Gaza, the entry of goods, and cut fuel supplies to the Strip on 19 January 2008, 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 extremely short supply,  Israel countered that Gaza had enough food and energy supplies for weeks.In early March 2008, air strikes and ground incursions into the Strip by the IDF led to the deaths of over 110 Palestinians and extensive damage to Jabalia. The Egyptian border continues to remain closed with no significant international pressure to open it.
2008 breach of the Gaza–Egypt border
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 indicated their readiness to return to monitor the border, should Hamas guarantee their safety; while the Palestinian Authority demanded that Egypt deal only with the Authority in negotiations relating to borders. Israel eased up some influx of goods and medical supplies to the strip, but it curtailed electricity by 5% in one of its ten lines, while Hamas and Egypt shored up some of the gaping holes between the two areas. The first attempts by Egypt to reclose the border were met by violent clashes with Gaza gunmen, but after 12 days the borders were sealed again.
By mid-February the Rafah crossing remained closed. In February 2008 a Haaretz poll indicated that 64% of Israelis favour their government holding direct talks with Hamas in Gaza about a cease-fire and to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was captured in a cross border raid by Hamas militants on 25 June 2006 and has been held hostage since.
In February 2008, Israeli-Palestinian fighting intensified with rockets launched at Israeli cities and Israel attacking Palestinian gunmen. Military aggression by Hamas led to a heavy 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, Gaza was blockaded by Israel in response to the rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas and other militant groups operating inside Gaza, however food, power and water can still enter from Egypt if the Egyptian authorities allow it.
On November 28, 2008, after a 24-hour period in which no Qassam rockets were fired into Israel, the IDF facilitated the transfer of over 30 truckloads of food, basic supplies and medicine into the Gaza Strip, and it also transferred fuel to the main power plant of the area. On 25 November 2008 Israel closed its cargo crossing with Gaza due to two rockets being shot at Israel.
Combined Monthly rocket & Mortar hits in Israel in 2008
Israelis killed by Palestinians in Israel (blue) and Palestinians killed by Israelis in Gaza (red)
On 27 December 2008, Israeli F-16 strike fighters launched a deadly series of air strikes against targets in Gaza. Struck were police stations, schools, hospitals, UN warehouses, mosques, various Hamas government buildings, a science building in the Islamic University, and a U.N.-operated elementary school in a Palestinian refugee camp. 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. Palestinian medical staff claimed at least 434 Palestinians were killed, and at least 2,800 wounded, made up mostly civilians and some Hamas members, in the first five days of Israeli strikes on Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces rejected claims the majority of those killed were civilians, providing evidence that Hamas deliberately hides weapons and fighters in "mosques, school yards and civilian houses" to deter an attack and exploit Israel's rules of engagement.Israel began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on 3 January 2009. Israel rebuffed many cease-fire calls and both sides declared unilateral cease-fires.
In total, between 1,100-1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day war..
After 22 days of fighting, Israel decided to stop fighting, while insisting on holding its positions, while Hamas has vowed to fight on if Israeli forces do not leave the Strip.
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.
However, by February of 2009 food availability returned to pre-war levels..
Gaza blockade continues
2007–2010 blockade of the Gaza Strip
Israel Army observation post overlooking the Nir Am-Gaza Strip border
The blockade of the Gaza strip continued after the end of the war, although Israel allowed in limited quantities of medical humanitarian aid. The Red Cross said that the blockade was harming the Gazan economy and causing a shortage of basic medicines and equipment such as painkillers and x-ray film.
Director of the Shabak Yuval Diskin has said he would not oppose the loosening of trade restrictions, but firmly believes the smuggling tunnels in the Sinai and an open seaport in the Gaza Strip endangers the security of Israel. According to Diskin, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have smuggled over "5,000 rockets with ranges up to 40 kilometers." Some of the rockets can reach as far as the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area.
Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister’s office, has said that the program is of sanctions and not a blockade, but attorney Sharhabeel al-Zaeem, a legal consultant in Gaza for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), has said that the blockade is "an action outside of international law”.
In July 2010, British prime minister David Cameron criticized the blockade, saying "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 organisation Hamas. The situation in Gaza is the direct result of Hamas' rule and priorities."
The Arab League has accused Israel of waging a financial war.
The IDF strictly controls travel within the area of the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and has sealed its border with Gaza. The security environment within Gaza and along its borders, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and can change at any time.
As of June 2010, the Rafah Border Crossing connecting Gaza with Egypt was open for an indefinite period, following Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's decision after the events of the Gaza flotilla raid. Strict requirements regarding the flow of traffic from Gaza to Egypt have been
Israel's cooperation with international aid programs
Palestinian Legislative Council in Rimla
Between January 2009-June 2010, approximately 2 billion pounds of aid, 137 million liters of fuel, and 50,000 tons of cooking gas were delivered by Israel to the Gaza Strip.
Government and politics
Governance of the Gaza Strip
Israel disengaged from the coastal strip in 2005. Hamas assumed administrative control of Gaza following the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and its 2007 military victory over Fatah, the secular Palestinian nationalist party.
Main article: Geography of the Gaza Strip
Principal geographical features of Israel and south-eastern Mediterranean region
In the summer, many Gazan residents spend their time at the beach.
Port of Gaza at dusk
Sea-view from Al Deira hotel on the Gaza coast
The Gaza Strip is located in the Middle East (at 31°25′N 34°20′ECoordinates: 31°25′N 34°20′E). It has a 51 kilometers (32 mi) border with Israel, and an 11 km border with Egypt, near the city of Rafah. Khan Yunis is located 7 kilometers (4 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.
Gaza strip has a temperate 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 issues include desertification; salination of fresh water; sewage treatment; water-borne disease; soil degradation; and depletion and contamination of underground water resources.
The Strip currently holds the oldest known remains of a man-made bonfire, and some of the world's oldest dated human skeletons. It occupies territory similar to that of ancient Philistia, and is occasionally known by that name.
Demographics of the Palestinian territories
In 2009 approximately 1.5 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, of whom almost 1.0 million are UN-registered refugees. The majority of the Palestinians are descendants of 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 more than 5 children per woman. In a ranking by total fertility rate, this places Gaza 30th of 222 regions and above all non-African countries except Afghanistan and Yemen.
The vast majority of the population are Sunni Muslims, with an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Christians, making the region 99.3 percent Sunni Muslim and 0.7 percent Christian.In December 2007, Israel permitted 400 Gaza Christians to travel through Israel to Bethlehem for Christmas. Even though they were restricted by travel permits, many Christian families took the opportunity to settle in the West Bank, despite the illegality.
One of the largest foreign communities in the Gaza Strip was the approximately 500 women from the former Soviet Union. During the Soviet era, the Communist Party subsidized university studies for thousands of students from Yemen, Egypt, Syria and the territories. Some of them got married during their studies and brought their Russian and Ukrainian spouses back home. However, over half of them were able to leave the Strip via the Erez crossing to Amman within days of Hamas's takeover. From there they have flown back to Eastern Europe.
See also: Economy of Gaza, Economy of the Palestinian territories, and Blockade of the Gaza Strip
The economy of the Gaza Strip is severely limited by high population density, limited land access, strict internal and external security controls, the effects of Israeli military destruction of capital, and restrictions on labour 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 centre. 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, Egypt, and the West Bank. Economic output in the Gaza Strip declined by about one-third between 1992 and 1996. This downturn has been variously attributed to corruption and mismanagement by Yasser Arafat, and to Israeli closure policies. An important hindrance to economic development is the lack 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 said that the Israeli settlement was being shot from the construction site at the harbour. As a result, any international transports (both trade and aid) have to go through Israel, which are 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.
Panorama of Gaza City
Israel's use of comprehensive closures decreased during the next few years and, in 1998, Israel implemented new policies to reduce the impact of closures and other security procedures on the movement of Palestinian goods and labor into Israel. These changes fueled an almost three-year-long economic recovery in the Gaza Strip. Recovery ended with the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in the last quarter of 2000 that lasted until 2004. 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 severely in early 2002, internal turmoil and Israeli military measures in Palestinian Authority areas resulted in the destruction of capital plant and administrative structure, widespread business closures, and a sharp drop in GDP. During the Intifada, a lot of infrastructure had been destroyed by Israel such as the Palestine airport.Another major factor has been the decline of income earned 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 again resumed, although Israel has stated its intention to 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 also provided employment for many hundred Gazan Palestinians. 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 the Palestinian people to jump-start their economy, while others were demolished by the departing Israeli settlers. However, the effort faltered due to limited water supply, Palestinian looting, inability to export produce due to Israeli border restrictions, and corruption in the Palestinian Authority. Many Palestinian companies have been repairing greenhouses damaged and looted in the process of Israeli withdrawal.
Before the second Palestinian uprising broke out in September 2000, around 25,000 workers from the Gaza Strip (about 2% of the population) used to work in Israel every day.
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 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 agree to past agreements. Since Israel's withdrawal and its subsequent blockade, the gross domestic product of the Gaza Strip has been crippled. The enterprise and industry of the former Jewish villages has been impaired, and the previously established work relationships between Israel and the Gaza Strip have been disrupted. Job opportunities in Israel for Gaza Palestinians have been largely lost. Prior to disengagement, 120,000 Palestinians from Gaza were employed in Israel or in joint projects. After the 2006 elections, fighting broke out between Fatah and Hamas, which Hamas won in the Gaza Strip on 14 June 2007. After that, all contact between the outside world and the Strip has been severed by Israel. The only goods permitted into the Strip through the land crossings are goods of a humanitarian nature. Despite the blockade, the new the Gaza Mall multi-story shopping center that includes food, clothing, perfumes, shoes, household appliances, office supplies and more was opened in July 2010.
The Gaza Strip has experienced a boom in the local tourism industry since the underground smuggling business along has border has become less profitable. Israel's decision to allow more luxury goods into Gaza has "reduced prices of many items significantly." Palestinians have invested 77 million NIS in a new seaside resort and tourist attraction. Economist Mueen Rajab said "Many investors now prefer to put their money in businesses that are safe and more profitable than the underground tunnels."
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.Gazans who desire medical care in Israeli hospitals must apply for a medical visa permit. In 2007, State of Israel granted 7,176 permits and denied 1,627. 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 – discuss]According to the United Nations Development Programme, the average life expectancy in the Gaza Strip is 72.. As part of the Palestinian territories, the Gaza Strip places 24th out of 135 countries according to Human Poverty Index.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.
University College of Applied Sciences, the largest college in Gaza
Mosque near the border with Israel
The Gaza Strip has been home to a significant branch of the contemporary Palestinian art movement since the mid 20th century. Prominent artists include painters Fayez Sersawi, Abdul Rahman al Muzayan and Ismail Shammout (who lived in exile much of his adult life) and new 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.
Transport and communication
Damaged part of Gaza airport
The Gaza Strip has a small, poorly developed road network. It also had a single standard gauge railway line running the entire length of the Strip from north to south along its centre; however, it is abandoned, in disrepair, and little trackage remains. The line once connected to the Egyptian railway system to the south, as well as the Israeli system to the north.
The strip's one port was never completed after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada. Its airport, the Gaza International Airport, opened on 24 November 1998, as part of agreements stipulated in the Oslo II Accord and the 23 October 1998 Wye River Memorandum. The airport was closed in October 2000 by Israeli orders. Its radar station and control tower were destroyed by Israel Defense Forces aircraft in 2001 after the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada, and bulldozers cut the runway apart in January 2002. The airport has since been renamed Yasser Arafat International Airport.
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), or Israeli providers such as Cellcom. Gaza is serviced by four internet service providers that now compete for ADSL and dial-up customers. 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.