Gaza refers to the city of Gaza and to the Gaza strip. The Gaza Strip (Arabic: قطاع غزةý transliteration: Qita
Ghazzah, Hebrew: øöåòú òæäý Retsu'at 'Azah) is a coastal strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea, bordering Egypt on
the south-west and Israel on the north and east. It is about 41 kilometers (25 miles) long, and between 6 and 12 kilometers
(4–7.5 mi) wide. It has a total area of 360 square kilometers (139 square miles).
The territory takes its name from Gaza, its main city. It has about 1.4 million Palestinian Arab residents, the
majority of whom are refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israel war or their descendants.
history of Gaza is the history of
Palestine. In ancient times it was
under Egyptian control, followed for a brief time by Jewish rule in the time of the Hasmonean kings, and later Roman
rule. It was conquered with the rest of Palestine by the Arabs from about 640, and eventually by the Ottoman Turks. Gaza
remained part of the
Ottoman Empire until 1917, when it was
conquered by the British and became part of the British Mandate for Palestine. Following the U.N.
Partition Resolution of 1947, Gaza was to have been incorporated into
the Arab state that would have been formed. However, no serious attempt was made by the Palestinians or any Arab country
to form a state in Gaza and the
West Bank. Instead, Gaza became Egyptian
administered territory. In 1948-1949 it had been conquered by
Israel, but British intervention forced Israel to
relinquish control to the Egyptians. In the 1956 Suez Campaign, Gaza was again conquered by Israel, but Israel was
forced to withdraw. In the 1967 Six Day War, the Gaza Strip was once again conquered by Israel, and remain occupied
until 2005. Israel built over 20 settlements in Gaza, including some that replaced settlements destroyed or removed in 1948
like Kfar Darom.
In 2005, Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, and claims that the Gaza Strip is no longer occupied. Gaza
left to the control of the
Palestinian National Authority. Israel
does not have control over any of the internal institutions in Gaza, and therefore it cannot be said unequivocally that
Gaza is occupied under international law. However, Israel retains control over Gaza's borders and fuel supply. With the
withdrawal of Israeli forces, there were high hopes that Palestinians would build a model administration in Gaza,
proving themselves ready for statehood. American Jewish philanthropists purchased greenhouses and equipment left by
Israelis settlers and turned them over to the Palestinians. However, terror groups in Gaza began a campaign of rocket
and mortar fire on Israeli towns and kibbutzim that took lives and terrorized the population. The barrage intensified
Europeans in charge of monitoring the Rafah border with Egypt proved unequal to the task, allowing large sums
of money and suspicious individuals in and out of Gaza. Tunnels under the border are used to smuggle considerable
quantities of arms and explosives purchased with subsidies from Iran and donors in Arab states. Israel reacted by
closing the borders for long periods. Part of the green houses were trashed immediately by vandals and were rendered
unusable. Others were put to use in growing flowers, but flowers and other agricultural produce could not leave the Gaza
strip due to the closures. Hamas gunmen fired on the checkpoints as well.
In June of 2006, a group affiliated with the
Hamas burrowed under the border fence and
kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, resulting in intensive Israeli security operations with many Palestinian
casualties, which did not hasten the return of Shalit.
In June of 2007, the Hamas staged a coup resulting in expulsion of
Fatah from the Gaza strip. Since then, the
Gaza strip has been under international quarantine. Economic life has ground to a standstill. In a carefully planned
operation, Gazans breached the border with Egypt and streamed into Rafah. After several attempts, Egyptians succeeded in
resealing the border, but police continued to hunt for terrorist teams that had apparently used the break to infiltrate
Israel curtailed supplies of fuel, stimulating an international outcry. Even after humanitarian shipments were
restored, international authorities have complained of an approaching humanitarian crisis. Hamas terrorists attacked the
Israeli fuel depot, complicating fuel supply arrangements.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists launch rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian targets. Israeli forces fire on
rocket teams about to launch rockets or at suspects, but often the fire results in civilian casualties. Far more
Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli fire than Israelis by Palestinian rockets and mortars, but the
Palestinian rocket barrage makes it impossible to carry on normal life in communities surrounding the Gaza strip. Rocket
range has been increasing, both due to use of improved Qassam rockets and due to use of Katyusha ("Grad") rockets that
can reach as far as Ashqelon.
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Further Information: History
of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Map of Palestine History
of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict