Gaza Strip

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Posted by sonny 03/19/2009 @ 07:10

Tags : gaza strip, middle east, world

News headlines
Gazans Hope US Leader Pushes Israel to Relax Grip - Washington Post
By Howard Schneider BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip -- Majid Jumeh's house, damaged by the Israeli army during a three-week war in January, is down to a kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom, his eight-member family jammed into those bits of livable space wrapped...
Palestinian killed as Gaza smuggling tunnel collapses - Ha'aretz
Palestinians use such tunnels to bring food, clothing, fuel and even livestock into the impoverished Gaza Strip. Egypt and Israel have blockaded Gaza since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of it two years ago in a battle with its...
Noam Shalit to Netanyahu: Tie Gaza gestures to progress on Gilad - Ha'aretz
He said he did not expect his son's plight to feature on the agenda of the meeting, but believed that the Obama administration would demand Israel take steps to ease life in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, where his son is widely believed to be held....
Amira Hass / Israel bans books, music and clothes from entering Gaza - Ha'aretz
By Amira Hass Israel allows only food, medicine and detergent into the Gaza Strip. Thousands of items, including vital products for everyday activity, are forbidden. Altogether only 30 to 40 select commercial items are now allowed into the Gaza Strip,...
Pope Pledges Support for Palestinian Statehood - Voice of America
The pontiff also had words of comfort for the people of the war-torn Gaza Strip. Pope Benedict got a first-hand view of the restrictions that millions of Palestinians live with when his motorcade crossed through an imposing concrete wall that is part...
Prachanda tape ripples hit Gaza Strip - Times of India
Israel's foreign ministry, smarting under a damaging UN inquiry into military attacks in the Gaza Strip, is now doubly discrediting the probe, saying it was headed by the same UN official who also oversaw the controversial verification of the Maoist...
Report: Weapons cache bound for Gaza found in Egypt - Ynetnews
The source told al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper the weapons were likely meant to be smuggled to the Gaza Strip. The cache, that was located in the southern Sinai, contained 266 rockets, 43 mines, 51 artillery shells, 21 grenades, 178 machinegun bullets and...
UPI newstrack topnews - United Press International
"There are at least 4000 people registered and waiting, but from these we can facilitate a limited number," Dr. Ghazi Hamad, head of the crossings in the Gaza Strip, told PNN. Hamad said only names who "are in the Interior Ministry computers will...
Israel opens Kerem Shalom, Nahal Oz crossings into Gaza - Ma'an News Agency
Gaza - Ma'an - Israel will open the Kerem Shalom and Nahal Oz crossings into the Gaza Strip on Sunday, according to crossings official Raed Fattuh. Fattuh told Ma'an that the Israeli side will allow the transfer of 100 to 109 truckloads of aid and...
'Go back and die in Gaza' -
By Stephanie Doetzer Since Israel's closure of the Gaza Strip in 2007, only severely sick Palestinians have been allowed to seek medical attention elsewhere provided they receive authorisation and security clearances from the Israeli authorities....

Gaza Strip

Location of Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip (Arabic: قطاع غزة‎ transliteration: Qiṭāʿ Ġazza/Qita' Ghazzah, Hebrew: רצועת עזה‎ Retzu'at 'Azza) is a coastal strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Egypt on the south-west 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 area is recognized internationally as part of the Palestinian territories. Actual control of the area is in the hands of Hamas, the democratically elected de facto government.

Egypt governed the Gaza Strip from 1948-67, and today rules the southern border between the Gaza strip and the Sinai desert, a border now famous for the breach in late 2008 - 09 and the smuggling of missiles through underground tunnels. Israel governed the Gaza Strip from 1967-2005. Pursuant to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Israel maintains military control of the Gaza strip's airspace, non-Egyptian land borders and territorial waters.

The territory takes its name from Gaza, its main city. It has about 1.4 million Palestinian residents. Most are either refugees or descended from refugees of the Palestinian exodus.

The first mention of the city of Gaza was in the 15th century BC. In the Hebrew Bible, after Samson was delivered into bondage by Delilah he died while toppling the Temple of the god Dagon there.

In the 13th century BC the area was taken over by the Philistines, whose coastal power base of Philistia approximated roughly to the modern Strip. The name Palestine is derived from "Philistia" and "Philistines," via the Greek and Latin languages. The Gaza area changed hands many times over the next 2,000 years. It fell, successively, to the Israelite King David (in 1000 BC), to the Assyrians (in 732 BC), Egyptians, Babylonians (in 586 BC), Persians (in 525 BC), and Greeks. Alexander the Great met stiff resistance there (in 332 BC). After conquering it, he sold its inhabitants into slavery.

In 1517 Gaza fell to the Ottoman empire who ruled it from 1517-1799. Napoleon captured Gaza City in 1799. Starting in the early 1800s, Gaza was culturally dominated by neighboring Egypt. Muhammad Ali made Gaza a part of Egypt in 1832. Though Gaza was recaptured by the Ottoman Empire, a large number of its residents were Egyptians (and their descendants) who had fled political turmoil.

The region served as a battlefield during the First World War (1914-18), with the British and Ottomans fighting in the Sinai and Palestine. Gaza, which controlled the coastal route, was taken by the British in the Third Battle of Gaza on 7 November, 1917. The British government has financially supported the maintenance of a cemetery for fallen British soldiers from WWI.

Following World War I, Gaza became part of the British Mandate of Palestine under the authority of the League of Nations., which required Britain to implement the Balfour Declaration establishing in Palestine a "national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." . Jews were present in Gaza from antiquity until the 1929 Palestine riots, when Arabs forced the Jews to leave Gaza. After that the British prohibited Jews from living in the area, though some Jews returned and, in 1946, re-established kibbutz Kfar Darom in central Gaza which had been destroyed in the 1936-39 Arab revolt in Palestine.

British rule of Palestine ended with the expiration of the British Mandate and the Israeli Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948.

According to the terms of the 1947 United Nations partition plan, the Gaza area was to become part of a new Arab state. However, the Arabs rejected the UN plan. When, following the dissolution of the British mandate of Palestine and 1947-1948 Civil War in Palestine, Israel declared its independence in May 1948, the Egyptian army invaded the area from the south, triggering the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

The Gaza Strip as it is known today was the product of the subsequent 1949 Armistice Agreements between Egypt and Israel, often referred to as the Green Line. Egypt then occupied the Strip from 1949 (except for four months of Israeli occupation during the 1956 Suez Crisis) until 1967. The Strip's population was greatly augmented by an influx of Palestinian Arab refugees who fled from Israel during the fighting.

Towards the end of the war, the All-Palestine Government (Arabic: حكومة عموم فلسطين hukumat 'umum Filastin) was proclaimed in Gaza City on 22 September, 1948 by the Arab League. It was conceived partly as an Arab League attempt to limit the influence of Transjordan over the Palestinian issue. The government was not recognized by Transjordan or any non-Arab country. It was little more than a façade under Egyptian control, had negligible influence or funding, and subsequently moved to Cairo. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or Egypt were issued All-Palestine passports until 1959, when Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt, annulled the All-Palestine government by decree.

Egypt never annexed the Gaza Strip, but instead treated it as a controlled territory and administered it through a military governor. Arab refugees from the 1948 Arab–Israeli War were never offered Egyptian citizenship.

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.

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. The Gaza Strip remained under Israeli military administration until 1994. During that period the military administration was also responsible for the maintenance of civil facilities and services.

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. The final status of the Gaza Strip, and other relations between Israel and Palestinians, was not dealt with in the treaty. The treaty did settle the international border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Egypt renounced all territorial claims to the region beyond the international border.

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 the Strip. 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 PA rule of the Gaza Strip and West Bank under leadership of Arafat suffered from serious mismanagement and corruption. 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 terror bombing attacks against Israeli civilians and military, 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 rule in the Gaza Strip. To avoid any allegation 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.

The Israeli Gaza Strip barrier is a separation barrier first constructed under the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It was completed in 1996, but was largely torn down by Palestinians at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The stated purpose is security and counter-terrorism. Between December 2000 and June 2001, the part of the barrier separating the Gaza Strip from Israel was reconstructed. Completely encircling the Gaza Strip, the barrier is made up of wire fencing with posts, sensors, high technology observation posts and buffer zones on lands bordering Israel, and concrete and steel walls on lands bordering Egypt. A concrete wall over eight metres high equipped with electronic sensors and underground concrete barriers to prevent tunnelling was constructed in 2005, adding to the already existent steel wall running the length of the border with Egypt. Israel established a 200-300 meter buffer zone known as the "Philadelphi Route" or Philadelphi corridor. 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.

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 ocean border. Immediately after Israel withdrew in 2005, Palestine 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, contests that characterization.

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 has been supervised by EU Border Assistance Mission Rafah.

Israel continues to assert control over activities that rely on transit through Israel, as well as air space over and sea access to ports in Gaza. Israel approves all immigration to and emigration, as well as entry by foreigners, imports and exports, and collection and reimbursement of value-added tax always via Israel.

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 Palestine. Direct aid to the Palestinian government 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.

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 14 June 2007 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 won 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 its border crossings with Gaza. Palestinian sources reported that European Union monitors fled the Rafah Border Crossing, on the Gaza-Israel 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 claimed that Hamas continued smuggling in large quantities of explosives and arms from Egypt through tunnels. Egyptian security forces uncovered 60 tunnels in 2007.

After Hamas' June victory, 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.

Christians were also threatened and assaulted in the Gaza Strip. 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, to make it possible to cut fuel and electricity supplies. 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.

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 an 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 Israel led to a heavy Israeli military action on 1 March 2008, resulting in over 100 Palestinians being killed according to BBC News, as well as two 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.

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.

After a 24-hour period in which not a single Qassam rocket or mortar was fired into Israel, on 24 November 2008 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.

On 27 December 2008, Israeli F-16 strike fighters launched a series of air strikes against targets in Gaza. Struck were militant bases, a mosque, various Hamas government buildings, a science building in the Islamic University, and a U.N.-operated elementary school in a Palestinian refugee camp. Israel claimed 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. UN medical staff were killed by Israeli combatants during the attacks. Palestinian medical staff said 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. Israel began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on 3 January, 2009. Hamas has rejected diplomatic initiatives for a negotiated cease-fire, citing the enormous number of civilian deaths.

In total more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day war.

After 22 days of fighting, Israel agreed to a unilateral cease-fire, while insisting on holding its positions, while Hamas has vowed to fight on if Israeli forces do not leave the Strip.

5,000 homes, 16 government buildings, and 20 mosques were destroyed. 25,000 homes were damaged.

A few weeks after the cease-fire the situation is similar to the one in the 2008 "lull," with continuous rocket and mortar shell attacks from Gaza into Israel, and the IDF responding with airstrikes. The frequency of the attacks can be observed in the thumbnailed graph. The data corresponds to Timeline of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, using mainly Haaretz news reports from the 1st of February up to the 28th.

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.

The Gaza Strip is located in the Middle East (at 31°25′N 34°20′E / 31.417°N 34.333°E / 31.417; 34.333Coordinates: 31°25′N 34°20′E / 31.417°N 34.333°E / 31.417; 34.333). 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.

In 2007 approximately 1.4 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 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 19th of 222 regions.

The vast majority of the population are Sunni Muslims, with an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Christians. 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.

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 built in Gaza city with help from France and the Netherlands, but was regularly bombed by Israel. 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.

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. 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. 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, 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. However, the effort faltered due to limited water supply, Israeli vandalism, 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.

According to the CIA World Factbook, GDP in 2001 declined 35% to a per capita income of $625 a year, and 60% of the population is now below the poverty line. 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 center. 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.

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. Only about 20,000 have been able to keep these jobs.

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.

A study carried out by Johns Hopkins University (U.S.) and Al-Quds University (in Jerusalem) 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(as opposed to 37.5% of Israeli woman and 30% of Israeli babies). In the aftermath of the Israeli withdrawal of August and September 2005, the healthcare system in Gaza continues to face severe challenges. After the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the subsequent Israeli declaration of Gaza Strip as a "hostile entity", the health conditions in Gaza Strip faces new challenges exacerbated by the intensified Israeli closure. 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 requiring medical care in Israeli hospitals have to apply for a medical permit. In 2007, Israel granted 7176 permits and denied 1627.

Some Gaza patients were evacuated by the Egyptian border but this was a dangereous process as various ambulances were fired on en route or a the border poste. Very few patients were allowed to cross. After the end of the hostilities the Israeli's opened a medical facility totreat Palestinians but there were severe travel restriction on international NGO staff.

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.

Adherents of Islam makes up 99.3 percent of the population and 0.7 percent of the population come from the Christian community.

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 center; 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, and its runway was destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces in December 2001. It 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.

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Governance of the Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip is currently controlled by democratically elected Hamas. Hamas' political and military rival, Fatah, controls the West Bank. Subsequent to the Palestinian legislative election, 2006, both governments regard themselves as the sole legitimate Palestinian government.

On June 14, 2007 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the dissolution of the former unity government and declared a state of emergency. He dismissed Ismail Haniya as Prime Minister and appointed Salam Fayyad as the new one, giving him the task of building a new government. Nonetheless, Ismail Haniya of the Hamas rejected the decree of Mahmoud Abbas and said his government would remain in officeand would claim authority over the entire Palestinian territories.

With Hamas being in control of the Gaza Strip and Fatah in control of the West Bank, there are de facto two Palestinian governments, both considering themselves to be the legitimate Palestinian National Authority government. Palestinian police chief Kamal el-Sheikh ordered his men in the Gaza Strip not to work or obey Hamas orders. Many Fatah members fled the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, and Fatah gunmen stormed Hamas-led institutions in the West Bank after the Battle of Gaza.

Palestinian legislator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian National Authority officially has no control in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and Fatah accused each other of a coup d'état; neither recognizes the authority of the other government.

The United States, EU, and Israel have not recognized the Hamas government, but support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's government in the West Bank. The Arab League called on all parties to stop the fighting and return the government to its status before the Battle of Gaza, which would be the 2007 unity government and not the new PA government appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Although the US does not officially recognize the Hamas government, it holds it "fully and entirely responsible for the Gaza Strip," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

On June 16, 2007, Ismail Haniya declared Said Fanuna (officially a Fatah general who, in reality, distanced himself from Mahmoud Abbas) as the new security chief in the Gaza Strip, stating him as a "higher police command" than the West Bank-based police chief Kamal el-Sheikh of the Fatah.

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Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip or Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, or simply the Interim Agreement, also known as Oslo 2 (or Oslo II), and alternately known as Taba, was a key and complex agreement about the future of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It was first signed in Taba (in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt) by Israel and the PLO on September 24, 1995 and then four days later on September 28, 1995 by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and witnessed by US President Bill Clinton as well as by representatives of Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Norway, and the European Union in Washington, D.C.

The agreement, in effect a component of a comprehensive peace treaty, built on the foundations of the initial Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or Declaration of Principles (DOP) or Oslo 1, known as the original Oslo Accords, which had been formally signed on September 13, 1993 by Israel and the PLO, with Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat in Washington, D.C. shaking hands, and officially witnessed by the United States and Russia.

The Interim Agreement of 1995 became the basis and reference point for subsequent negotiations and agreements such as the Hebron Protocol (1997) and the Wye River Memorandum (1998) and it is a basis for the latter Road map for peace (2002).

The agreement consists of a "preamble" acknowledging its roots in earlier diplomatic efforts of UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) and UN Security Council Resolution 338 (1973) the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the other prior agreements that came before it.

The agreement has five "chapters" consisting of thirty-one "articles", plus seven "annexes" and nine attached "maps".

Most significantly the agreement recognizes the establishment of a "Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority," i.e. an elected Council, called "the Council" or "the Palestinian Council".

Consisting of Articles I-IX: The role and powers of a governing Palestinian "council" and committee dealing with civil affairs and the transfer of power from Israel to the Palestinian Council. The holding of elections, the structure of the Palestinian Council, and that it should contain 82 representatives, the executive authority of the Council, various other committees, that meetings of the council should be open to the public, and outlining the powers and responsibilities of the Council.

Consisting of Articles XVII-XXI: The scope of the Palestinian Council's authority and jurisdiction and the resolution of conflicts, the legislative powers of the Council, that "Israel and the Council shall exercise their powers and responsibilities...with due regard to internationally-accepted norms and principles of human rights and the rule of law", the various rights, liabilities and obligations with the transfer of powers and responsibilities from the Israeli military government and its civil administration to the Palestinian Council, dealing with financial claims, and the settlement of differences and disputes.

The rules for economic relations as set out in the Protocol on Economic Relations, signed in Paris on April 29, 1994, cooperation programs that will hopefully be developed, the role and functioning of the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Liaison Committee set up as part of the Declaration of Principles (Oslo Accords 1993 and the setting up of a Monitoring and Steering Committee, liaison and cooperation with Jordan and Egypt, and locating and returning missing persons and soldiers missing in action.

Discussion about the release of Palestinian prisoners, agreement about the attached annexes and maps, and commencement of Israel's redeployment.

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Gaza Strip League

Gaza Strip League is the one of the two top divisions of the Palestinian Football Federation in the territories governed by the Palestinian Authority.

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Army of Islam (Gaza Strip)

Army of Islam (Arabic: جَيش الإسلام‎ Jaysh al-Islām), also known as Tawhid and Jihad Brigades, is the name used by the Dughmush-sometimes rendered "doghmush"- Hamula (clan) for their militant and takfiri activities. It is located at the Tzabra neighborhood in the center of the Gaza Strip bordered by Israel and Egypt.

Notorious for their kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston and capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Army of Islam, which appears to draw inspiration from, or is linked to al-Qaeda, have also conducted at least one bombing of a Palestinian civilian target (an empty school) and a number of other kidnappings. The group has been previously closely related to Hamas, but has been since shunned by both Hamas and Fatah. The group has also been known as the organisation of al-Qaeda in Palestine.

In 2007 the group have kidnapped the BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. On June 25, 2007 a video was released by Army of Islam showing Johnston with an explosive belt around his waist, with a demands for the release of Muslim prisoners in British custody. The group, which also kidnapped ten members of Hamas, had claimed that they would have killed him if there had been an attempt to rescue him by force. On July 4, 2007, after Gaza authorities arrested several members of Army of Islam including its spokesman, Abu Muthana, as well as threats of execution, Alan Johnston was handed over to Hamas officials and released after 114 days in captivity.

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Source : Wikipedia