...............................................................
:: Key Facts on Gaza Strip
...............................................................
:: Timeline of Recent Events
...............................................................
:: Map of Gaza Siege
...............................................................


KEY FACTS ON THE GAZA STRIP

A more detailed profile on the Gaza Strip can be found on BBC, along with key maps and timeline of the current siege. For some history on Gaza, read Gaza: A City with a Six Millenia History by Dr. Saeb Shaath. Also read the excellent op-ed in the New York Times: What You Don't Know About Gaza by Rashid Khalidi, published Jan 8, 2009.

WHERE IS GAZA?

The Gaza Strip (also known as Gaza) is a coastal strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea, 45 km (25 miles) long and at most 10 km (6 miles) wide. It borders Egypt to it south-west and Israel to its north and east.


Image courtesy of BBC News

WHO LIVES THERE?

Nearly 1.5 million Palestinians live in Gaza, many of them concentrated in one-half of the territory. In this area, the population density is nearly 20,000 people per square mile, one of the highest in the world. Over one-half of its residents are children. In addition, with an annual growth rate of nearly 3.5%, Gaza's young and fertile population is projected to reach over 2 million people in 8 years.

More than three quarters of Gaza's residents are refugees who were driven from their homes during past wars with Israel (in 1948 and 1967), and their descendants. Israel has permanently barred their return. Over half of these refugees still reside in Gaza's eight refugee camps.

Overall, there are over five million Palestinians living in Israel and the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza, while a quarter of them live in Gaza which is 1.5% of the whole territory. Most Gazans live on less than $2 a day with deteriorating health and malnutrition, and up to 80 percent are dependent on food aid, according to humanitarian groups.

WHO GOVERNS GAZA?

The Gaza Strip is not recognized internationally as part of any sovereign country.

Egypt, which governed the Gaza Strip from 1948-1967 controls the southern border between the Gaza strip and the Sinai desert (however the de-facto control of this border rests with Israel).

Israel, which governed the Gaza Strip from 1967-2005, still controls the strip's airspace, territorial water and offshore maritime access, as well as its side of the Gaza-Israeli border. This continued control has allowed the Israeli state, which opposes Hamas, to control the inflow and outflow of multiple types of resources, including food, electricity, water, fuel, import/export goods and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Strip is currently claimed by the Palestinian Authority as part of the Palestinian territories, though following the June 2007 battle of Gaza, actual control of the area is in the hands of the de facto government dominated by Hamas. However, Israel still remains the ultimate power controlling territorial access and flow of all resources to the Gaza Strip.

Prior to Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the United States considered the Gaza Strip to be an Israel-occupied territory. Following the withdrawal, no official US government statement has been made on the status of the Strip. However, the CIA World Factbook on the Gaza Strip (an official U.S. government publication), which was last updated on December 18th, 2008, continues to list the Gaza Strip as an Israeli-occupied territory.

WHAT IS HAMAS?

Hamas or "Movement of Islamic Resistance" was founded in the Gaza Strip shortly after the outbreak of the first Palestinian intifada in December 1987. It was established by Palestinian members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization founded in the 1920s in Egypt, whose emergence in the Gaza Strip was initially welcomed by Israeli military authorities as an alternative to the PLO.

Hamas is not a member organization of the PLO, and has opposed the Oslo accords. It initially treated the Palestinian Authority - a product of the accords - as illegitimate, and refused to participate in the first Palestinian Authority elections in 1996. However, it fielded candidates in municipal elections in January 2005, winning majorities on 28 of 84 town councils in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Hamas members also participated in elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council held in January 2006, although running under the banner of the "Change and Reform Party." The new party promised reforms of the Palestinian Authority and more steadfast support of Palestinian rights to freedom and independence. It did not, however, reiterate Hamas's goal of establishing an Islamic state in Palestine. In 2006, Change and Reform Party candidates took 74 of 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, formed a new Palestinian government.

Main Sources of Information: Reuters News, Wikipedia, and IMEU