Middle East Encyclopedia

Encyclopedia of the Middle East


MidEastWeb Middle East


Gaza refers to the city of Gaza and to the Gaza strip. The Gaza Strip (Arabic: قطاع غزة transliteration: Qita Ghazzah, Hebrew: 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 (47.5 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.

The 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 with time.

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 into Sinai.

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    Palestine

  Map of Palestine History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

USA Credit Card - Donate On-Line - Help us live and grow

Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

Copyright 2007- 8,  MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA.

All original materials at MidEastWeb are copyright by MidEastWeb and/or by their authors unless otherwise noted. Please do not copy materials from this Web site to your Web site or to forums without permission. Please tell your friends about MidEastWeb. Please forward these materials in e-mails to friends with links to this URL - http://www.mideastweb.org and to the URL of the material. You can print out materials for your own use or classroom use, giving the URL of  MidEastWeb. For pages marked Copyright, printed material should bear this notice:

"Copyright by MidEastWeb for Coexistence R.A - Middle East Resources. - http://www.mideastweb.org. All rights reserved. "

and should give the URL of the original. Reproduction in any other form - by permission only. Consult detailed terms of use and copyright information

Mideastweb: Middle East Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Issues in a Nutshell Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Brief History Zionism Zionism: Definition & brief history