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The Gaza Strip, also known as Qiṭāʿ Ghazzah in Arabic and Reẓuʿat ʿAzza in Hebrew, covers an area of 140 square miles (363 square km) along the Mediterranean Sea. It is a densely populated region that is not officially recognized as part of any existing country. According to a census in September 1967, the population was smaller than previously thought by organizations like UNRWA and Egypt. Approximately half of the people reside in refugee camps. As of 2017, the estimated population is 1,899,291 and it is expected to reach 2,226,544 by 2023.

Geographical information

On the Gaza Strip, temperatures range between the mid-50s F (about 13°C) in winter and the upper 70s to low 80s F (mid- to upper 20s C) in summer, with an annual precipitation average of 12 inches (300 mm).

The Gaza Strip is typically characterized by poor living conditions due to a number of factors: a dense, rapidly growing population (its growth rate is among the highest in the world); inadequate water, sewage, and electrical services; high unemployment rates; and sanctions imposed by Israel since September 2007.

Its largest economic activity is agriculture, which occupies nearly three quarters of the land area. Under agreement with Israel, citrus fruit is grown on irrigated lands and exported to Europe and other markets. Other crops include truck crops, wheat, and olives, as well as light industry and handicrafts in Gaza, the area’s chief city.

The tomb of Mohammed Bin Ali in Salalah, Oman.

Middle East View

During periods of political stability, a significant number of Palestinians commute to Israel for employment (although they are not permitted to remain overnight). However, when political tension and violence arise, the Israeli border is frequently closed for an extended time, causing many Palestinians to lose their jobs. As a solution, a bustling smuggling enterprise has developed, utilizing an underground tunnel system that connects portions of the Gaza Strip with neighboring Egypt. Through these tunnels, Palestinians can obtain necessary items such as food, fuel, medicine, electronics, and even weapons.

Following the end of Ottoman Empire rule in World War I (1914-1918), the Gaza area was incorporated into the British mandate of Palestine under the League of Nations. On November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly accepted a plan for Arab-Jewish partition, where Gaza and surrounding territory were designated for Arab control. When the British mandate ended on May 15, 1948, it marked the start of the first Arab-Israeli war. Shortly thereafter, Egyptian forces took over Gaza and used it as their base in Palestine. After heavy fighting in autumn 1948, the occupied Arab territory was significantly reduced to a narrow strip measuring 25 miles (40 km) long and 4-5 miles (6-8 km) wide, now known as the Gaza Strip. The boundaries of this area were determined in the Egyptian-Israeli armistice agreement on February 24, 1949.

The Gaza Strip was ruled by the Egyptian military in two separate periods, from 1949 to 1956 and then again from 1957 to 1967. The area’s main issue was the presence of Palestinian Arab refugees who lived in dire conditions in camps. Despite this, the Egyptian government did not consider the strip part of Egypt and therefore did not allow the refugees to become citizens or relocate to other Arab nations for integration. On the other hand, Israel also prohibited their return to their former homes or any compensation for their loss of property. As a result, these refugees relied heavily on aid from UNRWA. Sadly, some of the younger refugees joined as fedayeen (Arab guerrillas) and carried out attacks against Israel, which contributed to Israel’s takeover of the strip during the Suez Crisis in 1956. However, due to international pressure, control of the strip reverted back to Egypt in 1957.

Gaza Six-Day War

Following Israel’s takeover of the Gaza Strip during the Six-Day War in June 1967, the region remained under Israeli occupation for the next 25 years. However, tensions reached a boiling point in December 1987 when violent clashes between Palestinian residents and Israeli troops erupted, sparking what would become known as the intifada (which means “shaking off” in Arabic). Eventually, as part of the Oslo Accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israel began a gradual transfer of governmental control to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1994. Led by Yasser Arafat, the fledgling Palestinian government faced numerous challenges including a struggling economy, divided support from its people, stalled negotiations with Israel over territorial issues and troop withdrawals, and threats of terrorism from extremist groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas. This unrest led to a second wave of violence dubbed the Aqṣā intifada beginning in late 2000. In an attempt to bring peace to the region, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced a plan in 2003 to withdraw soldiers and settlers from Gaza. The withdrawal was completed in September 2005 and control of the territory was officially transferred to the PA, although Israeli

Hamas’ rule

During the 2006 PA parliamentary elections, Fatah, which had been a dominant force in Palestinian politics since its establishment in the 1950s, faced a significant defeat at the hands of Hamas. This outcome reflected widespread discontent with Fatah’s rule, which had long been criticized for its corruption and inefficiency. As a result of Hamas’s victory, Israel, the United States, and the European Union all imposed sanctions on the organization as it was officially classified as a terrorist group by each entity. The Gaza Strip became embroiled in heightened violence between the rival groups and a brief coalition government was dissolved in June 2007 when Hamas gained control of the area while Fatah took charge of the West Bank through an emergency cabinet. Despite President Mahmoud Abbas’s urging for Hamas to relinquish their hold on Gaza, they remained in control of the territory.

Reconciliation attempts with Fatah

Several attempts were made to reconcile with the Fatah-led PA, with some initial success in 2011. However, this agreement did not lead to significant changes. In 2014, a new deal was reached in which Hamas agreed to transfer control of the Gaza Strip to the PA and recognize Rami Hamdallah as prime minister. Subsequently, the Hamas government in Gaza resigned, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Although a new agreement was implemented in late 2017, it was not until this point that the PA was able to resume control of public institutions in Gaza. Despite these efforts, the PA was unable to gain full governance of the area and ultimately decided to cut funding for Gaza in 2018. As disagreements grew more heated, the PA closed the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in January 2019. This ultimately led to Prime Minister Hamdallah’s resignation later that month and ended the unity government.

A meeting between Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa Al Thani and Ismail Haniyeh

In the fall of 2007, Israel declared the Gaza Strip, which was under the control of Hamas at the time, as a hostile entity. As a result, they implemented sanctions such as cutting off power, limiting imports, and closing borders. In January of 2008, in response to continuous rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, Israel expanded their sanctions by completely sealing off the border and temporarily stopping fuel imports. Shortly after this intensified blockade began, Hamas forces destroyed parts of the border barrier between Gaza and Egypt (which had been closed since their takeover in 2007). This allowed hundreds of thousands of Gazans to cross into Egypt for essential goods that were not available due to the blockade. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak gave temporary permission for this breach to ease civilian suffering before efforts were made to restore the border.

During Mubarak’s rule, Egypt’s involvement in enforcing the blockade was met with disapproval from its citizens. However, after a popular uprising led to Mubarak’s resignation as president in 2011, the interim government declared that the Rafah border crossing would be permanently opened for Palestinians to travel between Egypt and Gaza. Initially, about 1,200 individuals were allowed to cross each day, although trade continued to be prohibited. Due to security concerns following the removal of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, traffic through the border was restricted to just 50 people per day and eventually closed entirely.

Egyptian authorities began allowing 200 people per day to cross the Rafah border crossing in May 2018, after the Palestinian Authority took control in late 2017. The border was briefly closed after the PA left the Gaza Strip in January 2019, but it was reopened by Hamas weeks later. Tens of thousands of Gazans were reported to have permanently emigrated during this rare and prolonged easing of the border.

As a part of an effort to incentivize a long-term cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, Israel eased restrictions on its blockade after months of violence between the two in mid-2018. A number of goods were allowed to flow into and out of Gaza in 2019, the permitted fishing zone for Gazans was expanded to the largest extent in a decade, and thousands of Gazans were permitted to work in Israel.

The Qatari government began providing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip at the end of 2018 after both Israel and Egypt agreed to allow it. By 2021, it had disbursed nearly $400 million to the Gaza Strip.

Israel-Palestine conflict

In June 2008, after months of ongoing clashes, Israel and Hamas reached an agreement to implement a six-month truce. However, the truce was quickly threatened as both sides accused each other of violating the terms. This eventually led to escalated tensions in the final months of the truce. When it officially expired on December 19, Hamas announced its refusal to extend it. As a result, Israel responded with extensive air strikes across the region in an effort to target Hamas amidst sustained rocket fire. After a week of air strikes, Israeli forces launched a ground campaign into the Gaza Strip while facing international pressure for a cease-fire. The hostilities continued for over three weeks and resulted in a devastating toll of casualties and displacement. Eventually, both Israel and Hamas declared independent cease-fires.

Following an increase in rockets fired from Gaza into Israeli territory over the previous nine months, Israel launched a series of air strikes against Gaza on November 14, 2012. In the initial strike, Hamas’ military wing chief, Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari, was killed. As a result, Hamas continued to launch rocket attacks on Israel until a cease-fire agreement was reached on November 21.

In June 2014, three Israeli teenagers were abducted, leading to aggressive measures by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As tensions rose, Israel initiated a 50-day campaign into the Gaza Strip on July 8. By the end of the conflict, over 2,100 Palestinians and more than 70 Israelis had lost their lives and numerous targets in Gaza were destroyed. Despite the destruction, Hamas’s actions during the conflict received praise from Palestinians and bolstered their support.

During the spring of 2018, protests erupted along the border with Israel. These demonstrations, which involved flying flaming kites and attempts to cross the border, were met with a forceful reaction from Israel. On May 14, the protests and violence reached a climax as approximately 40,000 Gazans gathered in attendance. When a large number of them simultaneously attempted to cross the border, Israeli troops responded with gunfire resulting in the death of approximately 60 individuals and injuries to 2,700 others. The conflict then escalated into military strikes by Israel and rocket fire from Hamas, lasting for several months.

Amid the occasional bouts of conflict, Israel and Hamas seemed to have made some efforts to reduce tensions while Egypt mediated a long-term truce between them. In October, Israel concluded that a lightning strike was responsible for rockets hitting their territory from the Gaza Strip. Then in November, when a covert Israeli operation was revealed, Hamas retaliated by launching hundreds of rockets into Israel. In response, Israel carried out more than 100 air strikes. However, the two sides quickly reached a truce and continued negotiations throughout 2019 and into 2020 for a lasting “understanding” to maintain peace and ease the blockade. Despite some brief incidents of retaliation, these talks were bolstered by halted border protests and an easing of restrictions on trade and travel through the Gaza border.

There was a major escalation in Jerusalem in May 2021. Weeks of simmering tensions were about to boil over when the Supreme Court ruled on the eviction of Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah, a Jerusalem neighbourhood. Hamas launched rockets into Jerusalem and parts of southern Israel after confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators; Israel responded by bombing Gaza.

As a result of a coordinated land, sea, and air assault launched by Hamas on October 7, 2023, Israel was caught completely off guard. Within hours, hundreds of Israelis were reported dead or missing—the deadliest day for the country since its independence—and more than 100 were kidnapped. Hundreds of Gazans died on that same day when Israel responded. For the first time since 1973, Israel declared war on the Gaza Strip the following day.