Gaza Strip [-z-], a narrow area on the Mediterranean coast in southwestern Palestine, 40 km long and up to 10 km wide, covers 363 km 2, with about 1.79 million Palestinian inhabitants; The regional capital of the Palestinian Autonomous Administration is Gaza.
The Gaza Strip has a high population density; 76% of the population live in cities (Gaza, Rafah, Khan Yunis) and in the large refugee camps, some of which are attached to the cities (Jabaliya and others). Over 80% of the Palestinian population are considered refugees, around half of whom live in refugee camps. 99% profess Sunni Islam. Unemployment, which was over 40% in the 1990s, rose to over 55% as a result of the »second Intifada « (October 2000–2004 / 05); in 2017 it was estimated at 26.7%.
A large part of the area is made up of sandy desert and built-up areas; up to 2005, the Israeli settlements with their intensely irrigated agricultural areas (vegetables, citrus fruits, dates, olives, wheat) stood in an apparent contrast that fueled the tension; other economic sectors are small industry, construction and service industries; at Rafah International Airport (opened in 1998, destroyed by Israel during the “second intifada”).
Until 1948 the Gaza Strip was part of the British Mandate Palestine ; in the Palestine War (1948–49) the Arab population of southern Palestine fled to an area controlled by Egyptian troops around the city of Gaza up to the Egyptian border (Gaza Strip). After the armistice (February 1949), the Gaza Strip came under Egyptian administration. In the Suez War (1956-57) it was occupied by Israeli troops in 1956, but returned to Egypt in 1957. After the Six Day War (June 1967) it came under Israeli military administration again. The mayors of Gaza rejected the Gaza autonomy envisaged in the Camp David negotiations (1978) and in the separate Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty (1979). As early as 1977 (assumption of government by M. Begin) there was increasing Israeli settlement; from December 1987 the Gaza Strip became a center of the first intifada, since 1993 of the terrorist attacks and suicide bombings directed by Hamas and Jihad Islami. According to the Gaza-Jericho Agreement or the Cairo Agreement of May 4, 1994, the Gaza Strip with the area of Jericho became the first Palestinian autonomous area (handed over to the Palestinian [National] Authority on May 17, 1994); on January 20th, 1996 the first elections for the Palestinian self-governing body took place.
From autumn 2000 new unrest broke out in the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank (“second intifada”), to which the Israeli government under A. Sharon (from spring 2001) reacted with drastic countermeasures. In 2004, Sharon announced that he would give up all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip (and four in the West Bank). In order not to let the withdrawal appear as a victory for Hamas, Israel cracked down on this organization as well as Palestinian camps and cities in the Gaza Strip from spring 2004. Even so, the goal remained controversial in Israel. It was because of him that Sharon’s conservative-Orthodox government coalition broke up in December 2004; a new coalition with the participation of the Labor Party of S. Peres pursued the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip since January 2005 (start of withdrawal from mid-August 2005; official delivery: September 12, 2005). With the withdrawal of the Israeli security forces, control of the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt passed to the Egyptian armed forces.
On December 28, 2005, Israel declared a “security zone” (about four kilometers wide) in the north of the Gaza Strip. After an Israeli soldier was kidnapped by militant Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip on June 24, 2006 in order to free 1,000 prisoners from Israel, Israel began a military operation on June 27 with considerable destruction in the southern Gaza Strip (including sealing off the Gaza Strip, Bombing of three important bridges and the only power station). As the escalation continued, Israeli tanks initially moved into the southern part of the Gaza Strip; the air force bombed government buildings in Gaza City. Despite repeated Israeli military actions and air strikes, the rocket launching by radical Palestinians on Israel continued. In addition, the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas in the dispute over control of the security forces escalated into a civil war (May / June 2007) in which Hamas was able to gain sole power over the Gaza Strip. In January 2008, in response to rocket attacks, Israel blocked supplies to the Gaza Strip and closed all border crossings. After further rocket attacks by Hamas on Israeli border towns, the Israeli army carried out a massive military action (“Operation Cast Lead”) against Hamas bases from December 2008 to January 2009. Around 1,430 people were killed, including 960 Palestinian civilians. Serious damage occurred to the area’s infrastructure. In 2010, the Israeli Navy raised a ship’s formation with relief supplies for the Gaza Strip (several fatalities).
On October 23, 2012, the Emir of Qatar was the first head of state to visit the Gaza Strip after Hamas came to power. In November 2012, the latent tensions escalated again in the armed conflict. After rocket attacks on Israeli cities, the Israeli army launched a military operation (“Pillar of Defense”) against Hamas. On November 14, 2012, Ahmed al-Jabari (* 1960), the organization’s military leader, was killed. At the same time, there were numerous attacks on missile bases and positions of the militant Palestinians. A ceasefire brokered by Egypt was first broken on April 3rd, 2013 when a Palestinian missile hit Israeli territory and the Israeli air force then bombed targets in the Gaza Strip. In April 2014, after several failed attempts, Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a unity government. In June / July 2014, the conflict between Hamas and Israel again led to bloody military clashes. On July 8th, 2014, Israel started an extensive military operation against targets there by Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups under the name of the “line of protection” after continuing rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. On 8/26 In 2014, a ceasefire brokered by Egypt came into force. The conflict claimed over 2,100 people dead. There was also billions of dollars in property damage.
In the summer of 2015, Hamas withdrew its recognition from the Palestinian unity government. Following the conclusion of a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah in October 2017, Hamas handed control of the most important border crossings in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority on November 1, 2017. However, persistent differences between Hamas and Fatah have so far prevented the reconciliation agreement from being implemented. In the border area there were repeated violent riots between Hamas and Israel, which escalated on May 14, 2018 with the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem and claimed more than 50 lives.