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3/27/19 Gaza - History

3/27/19 Gaza - History

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It has been another strange two days in Israel. It began a few minutes before I woke up, early on Monday morning, when the quiet of the dawn was abruptly broken by a rocket that directly struck a house on a Moshav in central Israel. Most of the residents of the home made it to the safe room in time, and were only lightly wounded. The grandmother in the multi-generational home, however, was not as lucky. While her wounds are not life-threatening, they are serious. No Iron Dome was in place to protect the area, since the Army does only deploys batteries when they believe there is going to be an attack — and this early morning strike was not expected. When I heard the news, I was sure we were headed toward another war.

This week was the first time in six years that residents of the center of the country were wounded by a Hamas rocket. This happened ten days after a missile landed on a Tel Aviv suburb— after which, the government decided it was convenient to accept Hamas’s absurd claim that the missile had been fired “by mistake”. A rocket had been fired at Beersheva a few months ago, which Hamas also insisted was a “mistake.” All of these attacks happened after we had effectively turned the other cheek in November, when 500+ rockets hit the South, because Prime Minister Netanyahu had said Israel had a to deal with a much more time-sensitive problem on the Northern border.

I believed that even though Netanyahu was in Washington, and despite his inherent caution to act, this time, taking merely symbolic action would not suffice. When Netanyahu announced he would cut his Washington trip short, it seemed even more apparent that we were headed toward war. By the afternoon, my scheduled appearance on i24News to cover the White House meeting was canceled, as studios moved to cover war preparation on their broadcasts.

As the sun began to set, Israeli aircraft started their bombing runs, in response to the morning attack. However, it quickly became clear that what was happening was a carefully choreographed show. Israel, once again, attacked empty buildings. As the night wore on, more and more buildings were blown up, and yet, there was not one report of a single Hamas member killed or wounded. Within a few hours, after Hamas fired a few missiles at the communities surrounding Gaza, ceasefire talks began — and by the time Netanyahu ended his meetings in Washington, and set out for Andrews Air Base, this round of hostilities was effectively all over. Israel had hit dozens of empty buildings and military posts; posts that had been bombed repeatedly over the past year.

Netanyahu ultimately decided that two weeks before the election it was less risky to be accused of doing little to deter Hamas than to enter into a war; a war whose beginning is easy to predict, but whose outcome can never be assured. Netanyahu had hoped to have a great moment with Trump in the White House, gaining the gift of US recognition of the Golan.

Unfortunately, during those same moments Netanyahu was in the White House, missiles were falling on the towns around Gaza, and the Israeli Air Force was in the midst of bombing Gaza.

Before getting on the plane back to Israel, Netanyahu complained to Israeli reporters that the signing of the US recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan did not get more coverage.

Upon returning to Israel, the man who is officially Prime Minister, Defense Minister, and Foreign Minister did not call a meeting of the security cabinet. Netanyahu did not speak to the Israeli public to explain the decisions he made. Netanyahu relied on his satellite speech to AIPAC, in which he falsely stated that the Israeli response to Hamas yesterday was the hardest attack on Gaza since the last war — as the only words the Israeli public would hear from him about the confrontation with Gaza

The events of the past two days will cost the Likud at the polls, and no doubt strengthen the extreme right. How much, remains to be seen.
NOTE: Of course, everything I wrote here needs to be read taking in account that since I started writing there has been another exchange of missile and air attacks between Israel and Hamas.

History of Hamas

The History of Hamas is an account of the Palestinian Islamist [1] [2] fundamentalist [3] [4] [5] socio-political organization with an associated paramilitary force, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. [1] [6] [7] Hamas ( حماس ) Ḥamās is an acronym of حركة المقاومة الاسلامية Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamat al-Islāmiyyah, meaning "Islamic Resistance Movement".

Hamas was established in 1987, and has its origins in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement, which had been active in the Gaza Strip since the 1950s and gained influence through a network of mosques and various charitable and social organizations. In the 1980s the Brotherhood emerged as a powerful political factor, challenging the influence of the PLO, [5] and in 1987 adopted a more nationalist and activist line under the name of Hamas. [5] During the 1990s and early 2000s, the organization conducted numerous suicide bombings and other attacks against Israel.

In the Palestinian legislative election of January 2006, Hamas gained a large majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament, defeating the ruling Fatah party. After the elections, conflicts arose between Hamas and Fatah, which they were unable to resolve. [8] [9] [10] In June 2007, Hamas defeated Fatah in a series of violent clashes, and since that time Hamas has governed the Gaza portion of the Palestinian Territories, while at the same time they were ousted from government positions in the West Bank. [11] [12] Israel and Egypt then imposed an economic blockade on Gaza and largely sealed their borders with the territory. [13] [14]

After acquiring control of Gaza, Hamas-affiliated and other militias launched rocket attacks upon Israel, which Hamas ceased in June 2008 following an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. [15] The ceasefire broke down late in 2008, with each side accusing the other of responsibility. [16] In late December 2008, Israel attacked Gaza, [17] withdrawing its forces in mid-January 2009. [18]

History of Israeli blockade on Gaza

Israel has cleverly fine-tuned the siege, hurting Gazans but not letting the situation there reach crisis levels.

Gaza’s residents largely depend on foreign aid as Israel’s blockade has ruined its economy [Reuters]

With the recent agreement to swap 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Israel may have lost one of its key justifications for its blockade against the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli policy of actively laying siege to the territory, tacitly supported by Egypt under the rule of former president Hosni Mubarak, has been in place since Hamas violently took over power from Fatah in 2007 after it had won elections a year earlier.

The blockade has taken on many shapes and forms over the years. It has been tightened, eased and tightened again, but the changes made – usually a result of international pressure – have been largely cosmetic.

There is no shortage of food in Gaza and recent developments have even triggered what could be described as a ‘construction boom’.

But the blockade on the territory is still very much in place, from land, air and sea.

Contrary to popular belief, the blockade is not only something that has occurred for the last five years.

Israel has been limiting travel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank since the first Intifada in the beginning of the 1990s, a strategy that has had far-reaching consequences for Palestinians living in the occupied territories.

Under the widely ignored Oslo accords of 1993, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are defined as two territories of a single unit, between which Palestinians should be allowed to move freely and trade goods without restrictions.

However, despite recent changes in Israel’s restrictive measures, this utopian situation looks further from reach than ever before.

Gradual tightening

Israel had been using “security” as a pretext for restricting movement of people and goods between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank long before the current siege was put in place, states the non-governmental organisation Gisha.

For example, since 2000, Israel has occasionally allowed football players to exit Gaza, but has continued to prohibit Gaza students from attending universities in the occupied West Bank.

These and other restrictions were tightened over time to reach their peak with the placement of the full siege in 2007.

With the help of the freedom of information act, an Israeli law, Gisha recently managed to expose official documents given to the Israeli army, detailing who, and what, is allowed in and out of the Gaza Strip.

These guidelines go into extensive details, painting a clear picture of the limitations that people in the Gaza Strip have been, and partly continue to be, subjected to until today.

At the height of the siege, no Gazans were permitted to exit the Strip through the Erez crossing, with the exception of a small number of high-placed businessmen, people in need of specialised medical care, and certain other “exceptional” cases.

This also applied to residents of Gaza who intended to move to the West Bank for family unification purposes.

The “exceptional” cases under this restriction applied only to first-degree relatives who were chronically ill, elderly, or orphaned under the age of 16 with no one to care for them in the Gaza Strip.

‘Humanitarian crisis-levels’

In its efforts to punish Hamas and other armed groups, the documents shed light on how Israel fine-tuned the siege, with an aim to hurt Gazans but not let the situation there to reach “humanitarian crisis-levels”.

Since 2007 and until 2010 Israel allowed only those goods into the territory that it deemed as “vital for the survival of the civilian population”.

Netanyahu said that stopping the Gaza flotilla was needed to “prevent creation of an Iranian port on Mediterranean” [Reuters]

For example, hummus was considered a vital good, whereas hummus topped with pine nuts or mushrooms was banned.

Items such as shoes, paper, and even coffee and tea were also placed on the banned list.

All goods that Israel deemed “dual-use” – material that could be used for both manufacturing weapons and for construction – such as wood, cement and iron were banned, despite the dire need for these goods for reconstruction following Israel’sl 2008-2009 war on Gaza.

The quantities of goods allowed in were calculated using mathematical formulas that determined the level of daily consumption of each of the basic products, based on data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, multiplied by the population of the Gaza Strip.

Export of goods is virtually banned, with limited exceptions, such as a seasonal harvest of agricultural goods.

With this policy, Israel maintains that the siege of Gaza does not fall under “collective punishment” as it considered itself to be fulfilling the minimum requirements that an occupier is obliged with under the fourth Geneva Convention rules.

In the aftermath of the disastrous Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla of May 2010, in which nine Turkish activists were killed by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara, Israel eased some of the restrictions.

In response to the international outcry over the raid, Israel published a list of items not permitted into Gaza “that is limited to weapons and war material, including problematic dual-use items”.

“All items not on this list will be permitted to enter Gaza,” Israel said.

In reality, little has changed. Most of the material that is needed for reconstruction comes in through the hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the border with Egypt.

Israel currently issues about 3,000 permits per month to people who want to leave Gaza, which only amounts to little over half of one per cent of the number of people who crossed the border at Erez in September 2000.

Naval blockade

In addition to the land blockade, Israel has maintained its naval cordon on Gaza, where attempts by flotillas to break the siege, such as the Mavi Marmara, have been halted in international waters.

The Israeli government, during the period of prime minister Ehud Olmert and under current prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has dismissed the flotilla attempts as provocations with the sole purpose of trying to break the blockade, rather than to bring aid.

“This was not the Love Boat, it was a hate boat,” Netanyahu said, when defending the raid on the 2010 Gaza flotilla.

“These weren’t pacifists, these weren’t peace activists. They were violent supporters of terrorism.”

Netanyahu claims that stopping the flotillas is needed to prevent the creation of an “Iranian port on the Mediterranean”.

Following the Mavi Marmara raid, Israel’s security cabinet issued a statement confirming that all goods bound for Gaza would continue to be inspected at the port of Ashdod, prior to entering Gaza.

Under the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement fishermen are permitted to sail out to fishing grounds up 37km offshore however, Israel only allows them to reach to 5.6km, a restriction Israel says is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks and smuggling.

Gilad Shalit

The prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas has sparked new hope that the siege on Gaza could be lifted.

It has even been suggested that the lifting of the siege would be part of the deal that was struck between both parties.

Since his capture in 2006, Israeli politicians had increasingly presented Shalit’s case as a reason for not lifting the blockade.

Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert had also linked lifting of Gaza blockade to Shalit’s release [GALLO/GETTY]

In February 2009, Olmert, who was prime minister at the time, said: “We want first to resolve the Shalit issue and then will look into the reopening of crossings and the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip.”

Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, in June 2010 linked the lifting of the siege, with both the release of Shalit, and “the renunciation of terrorism” by Gaza’s leaders.

“The day Palestinian leaders in Gaza renounce terrorism, release Gilad Shalit, stop firing missiles and halt their attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers, the continuity of the security cordon imposed on the Gaza Strip won’t be needed,” he said.

A recent flare-up of violence, in which 11 Palestinians and an Israeli were killed in a fresh spate of tit-for-tat rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes, has dashed the momentum created by the prisoner exchange.

Moreover, with the exchange, Israel has released hundreds of what is sees as high-security prisoners into the Gaza Strip, perhaps giving proponents of the siege a stronger case for keeping the strict border controls in place.

Life in Gaza

Life for the many of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip is difficult.

Israel controls its coastline and all the entry and exit crossings into Israel. There is another crossing point into Egypt. There is no working airport. Because access is so restricted, not many goods get into or out of Gaza. Food is allowed in, but aid agencies say families are not eating as much meat or fresh vegetables and fruit as they used to. There are often power cuts.

Large numbers of people are unemployed because businesses can get very few of their products out of Gaza to sell, and people don't have much money to buy things.

What is the Biblical history of the ancient city of Gaza?

The word Gaza is the Greek transliteration of the Heb. ‘Azzah, which means “strong.” The city was also called Azzah (Deut. 2:23 1 Kings 4:24 Jer. 25:20). The known history of the city of Gaza covers a period of 4,000 years. This city was ruled by diverse dynasties.

The Avims and the Caphtorim

The Avims or the “ruin dwellers” first occupied it. These were the aborigines of the area who preceded the Canaanites. The Caphtorim overcome the Avims and possessed the city (Deut. 2:22, 23). Then, the philistines conquered them and took over the city (Deut. 2:23).

The Philistines

Gaza was the southernmost of the Philistine cities and the largest among them (Gen. 10:19). It was around 30 mi. (48 km.). It was a focal point because the travelers routes from the desert joined the road from Egypt there.

The philistines that occupied Gaza were the enemies of the Israelites. The inhabitants of these cities were heathen and practiced wickedness. For a short period of time, “Judah took Gaza with its territory” (Judges 1:18), but soon lost it (Joshua 13:3 Judges 3:3).

Gaza was the city where Samson’s was captured and humiliated. But there he gave up his life and destroyed all of his enemies. In his death he killed more Philistines, and greater ones than he had in his life (Judges 16).

The Hebrews

This Philistines continued to hold during the time of Samuel and onward (1 Sam. 6:17). But Gaza fell to the Israelites in about 1000 BCE. King Solomon (1 Kings 4:21, 24), and after him King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:8), subdued that city. In 730 BDE, Gaza became part of the Assyrian Empire.

The Greeks

At the time of the Greeks, the city resisted Alexander the Great for five months, but it fell in 332 BCE. It became an important military post during the struggles between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, and in the wars of the Maccabees (1 Maccabees 11:61).

About 96 B.C. Gaza was ruined and its people were killed by Alexander Jannaeus (Josephus Antiquities xiii. 13. 3 [358–364]). But it was rebuilt by the proconsul Gabinius (ibid. xiv. 5. 3 [88]), though the new city was closer to the coast of the sea than the older one.

The Romans

Gaza was rebuilt by Roman General Pompey Magnus, and after 30 years was given to Herod the Great. Throughout the Roman period, it was supported by different emperors. A 500-member senate governed the city. These consisted of Romans, Greeks, Jews, Egyptians, Persians and Nabateans. Later on, the city converted to Christianity under Saint Porphyrius, who removed its eight pagan temples between 396 and 420 CE.

Gaza’s Past and Gaza’s Present

Ancient kingdoms of the Levant, image via Wikimedia Commons

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,193, June 6, 2019

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israel’s difficulties with Gaza have long historical antecedents. Philistia, an ancient geographical area that contained modern-day Gaza in its southern portion, was a trouble spot for the inhabitants of the Land of Israel as long ago as the time of Judges.

The first Philistines (not to be confused with present-day Palestinians) were invading seamen originating from Kaphtor (Cyprus or Crete) who arrived on the Gaza coast, close to Grar Stream. They were aggressive and determined. After establishing a foothold in the territory, they gradually moved northward to Sorek Stream and beyond. Biblical Philistia contained the “Five Lords of the Philistines” (from south to north): Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath (between Kiryat Gat and Beit Shemesh of today), Ashdod, and Ekron (near today’s Kiryat Ekron).

During the most recent round of fighting between Israel and Gaza (May 2019), Hamas frequently targeted Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Beit Shemesh, Ashdod, and Kityat Ekron. Their aim, as ever, was to kill Jewish civilians, though this time their further purpose was to condense their barrages in an effort to overwhelm the Iron Dome system. This was not the first time that Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has targeted Gush Dan over the past decade.

There is a powerful historical echo to these clashes. The Biblical Tribe of Dan, who were of course Israelites, dwelt for years directly in front of Northern Philistia, domain to domain, head to head. The Philistines of the time monopolized the iron industry and managed to prohibit the production of common weapons by the Israelites, compelling the Judges who fought them – Shamgar ben Anath and Samson – to employ unusual means. Shamgar ben Anath temporarily saved the Israelites by killing 600 Philistines with an ox goad, for example.

While the tribal origin of Shamgar ben Anath is unknown, Samson – who embodied supreme physical might and spiritual boldness – was from the Tribe of Dan. The treatise of Samson’s confrontations with the Philistines is among the most impressive in the Bible, and underscores his creative tactical and strategic thinking.

Samson “smote [the Philistines] hip on thigh” he “caught 300 foxes, attached flaming torches to their tails, let them loose within the Philistines’ fields, and thus burned all their harvest” and he “found a donkey jawbone, with which he hit 1,000 Philistines.” The Gazans eventually succeeded, with the help of Delilah, in exhausting Samson and forcing his surrender, but he collapsed the temple of Dagon in Gaza on top of them all, killing himself and thousands of Philistines along with him.

This was by no means the end of the Israelites’ trouble with the Philistines. They expanded outward from Philistia, arriving at Shiloh in the domain of the Tribe of Efraim, and placed garrison forces at Mikhmash and Geva in the domain of the Tribe of Benjamin. The first king of the Israelites, Saul, who was affiliated with the Tribe of Benjamin, rebelled against the Philistines. In the process, he became the first to establish an orderly army for the Israeli people, headed by Avner ben Ner. Saul struck the Philistines in Mikhmash, and his son Jonathan hit them in Geva. Saul eventually hit Ammon, Moav, Tsova, and Amalek as well, but was eventually defeated by the Philistines.

Prior to his becoming king, David volunteered to face Goliath the Philistine, a formidable giant who was terrorizing the Israelites. By means of an incredibly simple weapon, his shepherd’s slingshot, David delivered a stone directly at the forehead of Goliath – his only exposed part – and killed him. The horrified Philistines fled, and the Israeli army plundered their camps.

When David was a king in Hebron, the Philistines dominated appreciable territories outside of Philistia. When he came to rule his kingdom in Jerusalem, however, he made a point of pushing the Philistines back into Philistia. But while David’s kingdom extended up to Sidon and included a considerable portion of what was eventually to be called Transjordan, it did not encompass any of Philistia itself. The five Lords of the Philistines remained intact.

That state of affairs continued until 770 BC, when King Uzziah of Judea captured Gath and Ashdod, came to Yavne, and built settlements and strongholds along the sea coast. He did not capture Ashkelon or Gaza (and apparently did not try to). This conquest endowed Uzziah with the ability to monitor transactions not only at the seaports, but also along part of the Philistia pathway between Egypt and Israel. Thanks to this advantage, plus the dominance he attained in Kadesh and Eilat, Uzziah gained control over the route over which goods moved between the Eilat Bay head and Philistia. He was also able to monitor routes connecting Philistia with the Arab Peninsula countries and to control land trade routes from Egypt northward, to Philistia and beyond.

Jonathan the Hasmonean conquered Gaza in 145 BC, but did so as a governor nominated by the Seleucid Empire, not as an independent entity. In 101 BC, Alexander Jannaeus conquered Gaza – following a year of blockade – after taking Anthedon (between Gaza and Ashkelon), Rafah, and Rhinokoroura (now el-Arish).

Four years later, Alexander Jannaeus was ordered to destroy Gaza – a port city and an important international trading crossroads – rather than use it. The object was to choke off Gazan trading by isolating it from the sea and thereby strengthen the trading power of Judea. In doing this, he avoided harming nearby Ashkelon in deference to the alliance between that city and the Ptolemaic dynasty, which helped Judea maintain good relations with Egypt and Cleopatra the Third.

After the suppression of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 135 BC – and despite the fact that the territories of Philistia were not included within the rebellion areas – the Romans changed the name of the province of Judea to Syria-Palestina, from which the modern-day name “Palestine” originated.

Toward the end of the Hasmonean era, a Jewish community was initiated in Gaza that experienced ups and downs until its final destruction during the 1929 pogroms. During the Talmudic era, there was a Hebrew village in the heart of the Gaza Strip, between Gaza and Khan-Younes. In this village dwelt the Tanna Rabbi Eliezer Ben Yitzhak of Kfar Darom. Many years later, a renewed Kfar Darom, together with Gush Katif, housed a considerable Jewish population in the Gaza Strip, where they were met with increasing Arab terrorism.

The foreign rulers who occupied the Land of Israel, from the Assyrians to the British, were also exposed to the challenges of Gaza. During the Christianizing of the Empire of Byzantium, for example, Gaza adamantly resisted pressure to give up its culture and pagan religion. Only by force did the central government in Byzantium succeed in imposing Christianity as the predominant religion in Gaza. The troops of the British Empire, too, had a long and difficult fight with the locals on their hands before they managed to take Gaza from the Ottomans in 1917.

During the Israeli War of Independence (1948), the Egyptian army succeeded in advancing along the coastal plain up to Ashdod, but was halted at the Ad-Halom Bridge. Operation Yoav, which included a combination of offensive ground, aerial, and marine activity, pushed the Egyptian army into a southward retreat, bringing Israeli dominance to Ashdod and Ashkelon in October 1948. The Gaza Strip remained in Egyptian hands. After the war, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip but did not regard it as Egyptian territory, choosing instead to establish a military administration there.

In 1967 (and, indeed, in 1956 as well), the IDF conquered the Gaza Strip from Egypt – but at the southern entrances of Gaza a severe battle took place between the city’s defenders, affiliated with the “Palestinian” 20 th division of the Egyptian army, and the IDF. On the morning of June 6, after the Israeli Air Force bombed targets in Gaza, Israeli troops attacked from the east. In parallel, after facing fierce resistance in the Khan-Younes area, another Israeli force maneuvered northward. By noon, the conquest of Gaza was completed.

Gaza was used as the chief command station of the IDF troops occupying the Strip from 1967 through 1994. With the exception of 1970-71, when the PLO managed to stir up a terrorist wave that was swiftly suppressed by the Israeli security forces, the Strip was relatively calm until December 1987, when the intifada broke out with the city of Gaza one of its foci. During the intifada, which lasted until the signing of the Oslo Accords in the autumn of 1993, Gaza’s economic situation deteriorated due to limitations imposed on Gazans’ movement into Israel.

In 1994, as part of the Oslo Accords, Israel ended its control of the Palestinian population of Gaza, which came under the rule of the newly established PLO-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA). PLO Chairman and PA President Yasser Arafat set up its HQ in Gaza, and the first session of the Palestinian National Council (the PLO’s semi-parliament) in PA-held territory took place there in March 1996.

In the summer of 2005, Israel completed its disengagement from Gaza by unilaterally removing the 8,000-strong residents of the dozen Israeli villages that had existed in the southern tip of the Strip for decades, prompting a painful dispute inside Israel. In 2007, Hamas, which had won the first-ever parliamentary Palestinian elections the previous year, forcibly seized control of the Strip from the PLO/PA. In response, Israel declared the Strip “a hostile entity.”

In the 12 years that have passed since 2007, many changes have taken place in the Gaza Strip of varying degrees of significance – but the ancient core embodying Gaza, the last of the Five Lords of the Philistines, remains in place. While the Strip’s current inhabitants are not descended from ancient non-Arab Philistinians, they bring Gaza’s ancient past – and its intractable resistance to peaceable coexistence with the Jewish state – into the present.

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, a microbiologist and an expert on chemical and biological warfare in the Middle East, is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He is a former senior intelligence analyst in the IDF and the Israeli Defense Ministry.

The Gaza Strip: History of Jewish Settlement

Gaza first appears in the Tanach as a Philistine city, the site of Samson's dramatic death. Jews finally conquered it in the Hasmonean era, and continued to live there. Notable residents include Dunash Ibn Labrat, and Nathan of Gaza, advisor to false messiah Shabtai Zvi. Gaza is within the boundaries of Shevet Yehuda in Biblical Israel (see Genesis 15, Joshua 15:47, Kings 15:47 and Judges 1:18) and therefore some have argued that there is a Halachic requirement to live in this land. The earliest settlement of the area is by Avraham and Yitzhak, both of whom lived in the Gerar area of Gaza. In the fourth century Gaza was the primary Jewish port of Israel for international trade and commerce.

Great medieval rabbis such as Rabbi Yisrael Najara, author of Kah Ribon Olam, the popular Shabbat song, and renowned Mekubal Rabbi Avraham Azoulai, were rabbanim in Gaza Jewish communities.

The periodic removal of Jews from Gaza goes back at least to the Romans in 61 CE, followed much later by the Crusaders, Napoleon, the Ottoman Turks, the British and the contemporary Egyptians. However, Jews definitely lived in Gaza throughout the centuries, with a stronger presence in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Jews were present in Gaza until 1929, when they were forced to leave the area due to violent riots against them by the Arabs. Following these riots, and the death of nearly 135 Jews in all, the British prohibited Jews from living in Gaza to quell tension and appease the Arabs. Some Jews returned, however, and, in 1946, kibbutz Kfar Darom was established to prevent the British from separating the Negev from the Jewish state.

The United Nations 1947 partition plan allotted the coastal strip from Yavneh to Rafiah on the Egyptian border to be an Arab state. In Israel's war for independence, most Arab inhabitants in this region fled or were expelled, settling around Gaza City. Israeli forces conquered Gaza, and proceeded south to El-Arish, but subsequently gave control of the area to Egypt in negotiations, keeping Ashdod and Ashkelon. In 1956, Israel went to war with Egypt, conquered Gaza again, only to return it again.

With the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli forces reentered Gaza and captured it. During the war, Israel had no idea what it would do with the territory. Eshkol called it &ldquoa bone stuck in our throats.&rdquo 1

The initial settlements were established by the Labor government in the early 1970s. The first was Kfar Darom, which was originally established in 1946, and reformed in 1970. In 1981, as part of a peace treaty with Egypt, the last settlements of the Sinai were destroyed, and some Jews moved to the Gaza area. Israeli settlers reside in 18 percent of the 363 square kilometer area. They are sparsely settled in the area as compared to the density of the Palestinian regions in the Gaza Strip.

There were twenty-one settlements in Gaza. The most populated Gush Katif area contained some thirty synagogues plus Yeshivat Torat Hachim with 200 students, the Hesder Yeshiva with 150 students, the Mechina in Atzmona with 200 students, Yeshivot in Netzarim and Kfar Darom, 6 Kollelim, a Medrasha for girls in Neve Dekalim and more. All of the settlements had their own schools, seminaries, stores, and doctors.

The largest group of settlements was the Katif bloc, located along the southern Gaza coastline. These settlements blocked access to the coast from the major Palestinian cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah and cement Israeli control on the Egypt-Gaza border. Another group of settlements (comprising Elei Sinai, Dugit, and Nisanit) were located along Gaza's northern border with Israel, expanding the Israeli presence from the city of Ashkelon (inside Israel) to the edges of Gaza City (the Erez Industrial zone is part of this bloc). Netzarim, Kfar Darom, and Morag were strategically located in the heart of the Gaza Strip (along a north-south axis), creating a framework for Israeli control of the area and its main transportation route, and facilitating Israel's ability to divide the Gaza Strip into separate areas and isolate each area's inhabitants. In addition, the settlements controlled prime agricultural land, some of the area's main aquifers, and approximately one-third of the total Gaza coastline.

The Gaza settlements ranged from religious communities (Atzmona, Bedolah, Gadid, Ganei Tal, Gan Or, Katif, Kfar Darom, Morag, Netzarim, Netzer Hazani, and Neve Dekalim) to non-religious communities (Dugit, Elei Sinai, Kfar Yam), to mixed communities (Nisanit, Pe'at Sade, and Rafiah Yam). Their economies were generally based on agriculture (with many classified as &ldquomoshavim&rdquo or cooperative agricultural villages), with some local industry (Neve Dekalim and Katif) and tourist facilities (Dugit, Katif bloc). One settlement, Gadid, had a large French population and maintained an absorption center for new immigrants from France. The isolated location of the Gush Katif bloc attracted some of the most ideologically-motivated members of the Gaza settlement community. Residents of the northern bloc (Elei Sinai, Nisanit, and Dugit) were physically separated from the rest of the Gaza settlers (to reach the other settlements they had to travel into Israel, then re-enter Gaza, through another entrance point) and their social and economic lives were more closely linked to Israel than other settlers, with many of the residents working and studying inside Israel.

Jews and Muslims coexisted for more than a decade but tensions grew and, in 1987, a Jewish shopper in a Gazan market was stabbed to death. The next day an Israeli truck accidentally killed four Arabs, sparking the first riots of what would become the first intifada. A brief period of calm followed the Oslo agreements as Israel agreed to withdraw from parts of the Gaza Strip. Ultimately, the Palestinian Authority assumed control over about 80 percent of the area, but an escalation of violence, especially after September 2000, led Israel to impose stricter measures on Palestinians in the area, and to engage in frequent military operations to prevent terrorist attacks against soldiers and Jews living in the Gaza settlements as well as infiltrations to attack targets inside Israel.

On August 17, 2005, Israel began to evacuate all the Jews from Gaza. It was expected to take several weeks, but took less than one. Israel and the Palestinians agreed the buildings would be razed and the army began that process after the residents left.

A total of 1,700 families were uprooted at a cost of nearly $900 million. This included 166 Israeli farmers who produce $120 million in flowers and produce. Approximately 15 percent of Israel's agricultural exports originated in Gaza, including 60 percent of its cherry tomato and herb exports. Israe also lost 70 percent of all its organic produce, which was also is grown in Gaza.

Since the disengagement process was completed, no Jews have been present in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza Strip

Inhabited since at least the 15th century B.C., the Gaza Strip has been dominated by many different peoples and empires throughout its history it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the early 16th century. The Gaza Strip fell to British forces during World War I, becoming a part of the British Mandate of Palestine. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egypt administered the newly formed Gaza Strip Israel captured it in the Six-Day War in 1967. Under a series of agreements known as the Oslo accords signed between 1993 and 1999, Israel transferred to the newly-created Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for many Palestinian-populated areas of the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank. In 2000, a violent intifada or uprising began, and in 2001 negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West bank and Gaza Strip stalled. Subsequent attempts to re-start negotiations have not resulted in progress toward determining final status of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel by late 2005 unilaterally withdrew all of its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip, but it continues to control the Gaza Strip&rsquos land and maritime borders and airspace. In early 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS) won a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council election. Attempts to form a unity government between Fatah, the dominant Palestinian political faction in the West Bank, and HAMAS failed, leading to violent clashes between their respective supporters and HAMAS's violent seizure of all military and governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Since HAMAS&rsquos takeover, Israel and Egypt have enforced tight restrictions on movement and access of goods and individuals into and out of the territory. Fatah and HAMAS have since reached a series of agreements aimed at restoring political unity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank but have struggled to enact them a reconciliation agreement signed in October 2017 remains unimplemented.

In July 2014, HAMAS and other Gaza-based militant groups engaged in a 51-day conflict with Israel culminating in late August with an open-ended truce. Since 2014, Palestinian militants and the Israel Defense Forces have exchanged projectiles and air strikes respectively, sometimes lasting multiple days and resulting in multiple deaths on both sides. Egypt, Qatar, and the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process have negotiated multiple ceasefires to avert a broader conflict. Since March 2018, HAMAS has coordinated weekly demonstrations along the Gaza security fence, many of which have turned violent, resulting in one Israeli soldier death and several Israeli soldier injuries as well as more than 200 Palestinian deaths and thousands of injuries.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Gaza: The Basics

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of Palestinians streamed into Egypt for a shopping frenzy after gunmen in the Gaza Strip destroyed part of the barrier along the border. In the past two weeks, following a rise in rocket attacks, Israel had ramped up its blockades, refusing to allow anything besides humanitarian supplies to pass into the region. Below, the Explainer tackles a few basic questions about the region.

What exactly is the Gaza Strip?

The Gaza Strip is a roughly rectangular territory surrounding the city of Gaza, wedged between the Mediterranean Sea and Israel. To the southwest, it shares a seven-mile border with Egypt. The region has a long history of occupation—by the ancient Egyptians, the Philistines, the Arabs, the Christian Crusaders, and the Ottomans. After World War I, the Gaza area became part of the British Mandate of Palestine, and it was occupied by Egypt in 1948, in the aftermath of the first Arab-Israeli war. Israel took control of the region during the Six-Day War in 1967, along with the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula.

In 1994, Israel withdrew from parts of the Gaza Strip as part of its obligations under the Oslo Accords (which also affirmed the rights of the Palestinians to self-government). The Palestinian National Authority and Israel shared power in the Gaza Strip for the next 10 years, with the PNA administering civilian control and the Israelis overseeing military affairs as well as the borders, airspace, and remaining Israeli settlements.

In 2005, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally ended military rule in the region and withdrew all Israeli settlements, thus bringing all areas of the Gaza Strip under Palestinian administration. * In 2007, Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, causing a division between the region and the other Palestinian territory, the West Bank, where the Fatah party is dominant.

How did it come to be that shape?

The rectangular Gaza Strip is about 25 miles long and three to seven miles wide. One long side lies along the Mediterranean. One short, straight end borders Egypt: This follows the border that existed between Egypt and the British Mandate of Palestine. The other sides of the rectangle—a long, ragged edge and a shorter, northeastern side—separate the Gaza Strip from Israel. This border was established after the first Arab-Israeli War, which also resulted in the creation of Israel. The Gaza region became Egypt’s military headquarters during the 1948 conflict, and the narrow coastal strip saw heavy fighting. When the cease-fire was announced later that year—following a decisive Israeli victory—the final position of the military fronts became what’s known as “the Green Line,” or the border between the Palestinian territories (both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank) and Israel.

Who lives on the Gaza Strip?

Since the withdrawal of Israeli settlements, the Gazan population is almost entirely Palestinian Arab. More than 99 percent are Sunni Muslims, with a very small number of Christians. The region saw a huge influx of Palestinian refugees after the creation of Israel in 1948—within 20 years, the population of Gaza had grown to six times its previous size. The Gaza Strip now has one of the highest population densities in the world: Almost 1.5 million people live within its 146 square miles. Eighty percent of Gazans live below the poverty line.

Who built the fence between Gaza and Egypt? Who controls the border?

In 1979, Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty that returned the Sinai Peninsula, which borders the Gaza Strip, to Egyptian control. As part of that treaty, a 100-meter-wide strip of land known as the Philadelphi corridor was established as a buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt. Israel built a barrier there during the Palestinian uprisings of the early 2000s. It’s made mostly of corrugated sheet metal, with stretches of concrete topped with barbed wire.

In 2005, when Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip, Israel and Egypt reached a military agreement regarding the border, based on the principles of the 1979 peace treaty. The agreement specified that 750 Egyptian border guards would be deployed along the length of the border, and both Egypt and Israel pledged to work together to stem terrorism, arms smuggling, and other illegal cross-border activities.

From November 2005 until July 2007, the Rafah Crossing—the only entry-exit point along the Gaza-Egypt border—was jointly controlled by Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, with the European Union monitoring Palestinian compliance on the Gaza side. After the Hamas takeover in June 2007, the European Union pulled out of the region, and Egypt agreed with Israel to shut down the Rafah Crossing, effectively sealing off the Gaza Strip on all sides.

Got a question about today’s news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Tamara Cofman Wittes of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland.

Correction, Jan. 28, 2008: The original version identified Ariel Sharon as the Israeli president. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Correction, March 12, 2008: The original story misleadingly stated that, with Israel’s disengagement, the Gaza Strip came “completely under Palestinian administration.” Airspace and coastal waters remained under Israeli control. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

There are multiple causes for the current conflict in the Gaza Strip. Israel captured the area during the Six-Day War of 1967 and established Jewish villages. But in the 1990s, the PLO and Israel began looking for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 1993, both parties signed the Oslo Accords in Washington. The PLO acknowledged the state of Israel and in return, Israel would withdraw from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Therefore, Israel permanently removed its Jewish citizens from Gaza in 2005.

Palestinian Hamas militants take part in an anti-Israel military show in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 11, 2019.

The situation in the area has deteriorated since Israel’s departure. In 2006, the militant Hamas movement won the parliamentary elections. However, this victory was not

recognized, so Hamas decided to carry out a violent coup. In June 2007, Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip. The Islamic resistance movement wants to ‘liberate’ Palestine from Israel and establish its own Palestinian state.

Because Hamas is a threat to Israel, the country set up a blockade around the area in 2006. Imports of goods have been strictly monitored since that time. From the coast, the Israelis check ships from the outside. With these measures, Israel wants to protect its inhabitants. Egypt has also hermetically closed its border with Gaza.

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