Profile: Gaza Strip 
The Gaza Strip is a narrow piece of land along the Mediterranean coast between 
Israel and Egypt.  
Just 40km (25 miles) long and 10km wide, it is home to more than 1.5 million 
The shape of the territory was defined by the Armistice Line following
the creation of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent war between the
Israeli and Arab armies.  
Egypt administered the Strip for the next 19 years, but Israel captured
it during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and Gaza has been under Israeli
control since then. 
In 2005, Israel pulled out the troops occupying Gaza, along with
thousands of Jews who had settled in the territory. As far as Israel
was concerned that was the end of the occupation. 
However, that has not been accepted internationally as
Israel still exercises control over most of Gaza's land borders, as
well as its territorial waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza's
southern border. 
In June 2007, the Islamist militant group Hamas took
over the strip, ousting the forces of Fatah, the faction led by
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and effectively splitting
Gaza from the West Bank in terms of its administration. Hamas had won
legislative elections in January 2006. 
Gaza City is the Strip's biggest population centre and has about 400,000 
As in other towns in Gaza, there are high levels of poverty, deprivation and 
unemployment in Gaza City. 
It was the scene of frequent deadly clashes between gunmen from the
rival Hamas and Fatah factions. Under Hamas rule, law and order in the
strip improved, though Hamas security forces have been accused of
Over the years, Israeli air strikes targeting militants
in the densely populated areas have often killed bystanders as well. 
Gaza's other two main population centres are Khan
Younis (population 200,000) in central Gaza and Rafah (population
150,000) in the south. 
The majority of Gaza's residents are from refugee families which fled
or were expelled from the land that became Israel in 1948. Most Gazans
live in eight refugee camps to which the United Nations delivers
health, education and other humanitarian services. 
Some of the camps have merged with nearby towns, while others such as Nuseirat 
and Bureij are self-contained. 
The influx of refugees into the narrow strip of land means it now has
one of the highest population densities on earth. About 20% of refugee
dwellings are not connected to the sewage system and waste water flows
in open channels along roads. 
The camp population in Gaza, according to the UN, are:
Jabaliya (106,691), Rafah (95,187), Shati (78,768), Nuseirat (57,120),
Khan Younis (63,219), Bureij (28,770), Maghazi (22,266), Deir al-Balah
Israel has for many years restricted entry to and exit from Gaza, but
it intensified its blockade of Gaza in June 2007, when Hamas took over.
The aim has been to isolate Hamas and to pressure it to stop militant
rocket fire. 
Since, the strip's population have been relying on less
than a quarter of the volume of imported supplies they received in
December 2005. At times, significantly less than that has gone into the
strip, causing severe shortages. 
Only basic humanitarian items have been allowed in, and virtually no exports 
permitted, paralysing the economy. 
In the wake of the Hamas takeover, Israel said it would allow only
basic humanitarian supplies into the strip. No specific list of what is
and is not classed as humanitarian exists, although aid agencies say
permitted items generally fall into four categories - human food,
animal food, groceries (cleaning products, nappies etc) and medicines. 
In September 2007, the Israeli government declared the
Strip a "hostile entity" in response to continued rocket attacks on
southern Israel, and said it would start cutting fuel imports. 
Fuel shortages and a lack of spare parts have had a
heavy knock-on impact on sewage treatment, waste collection, water
supply and medical facilities. 
Israel maintains the blockade has at no point caused a
humanitarian crisis - but in early 2008, a group of aid agencies
described the situation as exactly that, and the worst situation in the
strip since Israel occupied it in 1967. The blockade has been
criticised as collective punishment by, among other, the United
An Israeli-built metal fence separates Israel and the Gaza Strip. Along
the border are several heavily fortified border crossings for people
and goods. They are heavily guarded by Israeli forces and have been
targets of Palestinian militant attacks. 
After the 2005 pullout, Israel wanted to keep control
of Gaza's border with Egypt, known as the Philadelphi Route, to control
traffic and prevent smuggling. 
However, it was obliged by international pressure to
abandon the plan and it handed over responsibility for the border to
Since Hamas took over the strip by force in June 2007,
Egypt has kept largely its border with Gaza closed. It is opened
occasionally for humanitarian reasons and to allow pilgrims to pass
Tunnels have been built under the border which are used to bring in all kinds 
of goods, and weapons. 
Officially goods can enter from Egypt by the Kerem Shalom crossing and
from Israel via the Sufa and Karni crossings, both of which are
controlled by the Israeli army. 
These crossings have been closed much of the time since Hamas took over Gaza. 
The main passenger crossing point into Israel, Erez in the north, has
been closed to Palestinians for long periods, preventing labourers from
working in Israel, though internationals and emergency medical cases
are allowed to cross. 
In the late 1990s, the Palestinians were allowed to
open their own airport in the Gaza Strip, but this has been put out of
use by Israeli attacks since the 2000 intifada. 
Israel agreed in principle to the opening of a seaport
for Gaza and to allow bus connections with the West Bank in a
US-brokered deal in November 2005. But both moves are yet to be
Gaza is the stronghold of the Palestinian militant organisation Hamas,
which won parliamentary elections in January 2006. Hamas effectively
governs the territory. 
Other groups such as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committee
have a strong presence in the Strip. In June 2007, Fatah was routed in
Gaza along with the Fatah affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. 
Despite Gaza's isolation, militants have continued to attack Israeli interests 
from the Strip since the 2005 pull-out. 
The main vehicle of resistance, as the militants describe it, is the
firing of short-range homemade rockets which can reach nearby Israeli
population centres, such as Sderot, less than a kilometre from Gaza's
north-east corner. 
Palestinian militant groups have started firing more sophisticated rockets, 
some reaching 40km (25 miles) in to Israel. 
These have caused a handful of deaths, injuries and severe disruption for 
Israelis living within range. 
Israeli shelling and missile attacks, meanwhile, which Israel says are
meant to stop the rocket fire, have killed large numbers of Gazans,
including many civilians.  
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/01/06 13:39:23 GMT


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