GAZA CITY: The Gaza Strip, run by Islamist movement Hamas for the past 10 years, is a poverty-stricken and overcrowded Palestinian coastal enclave suffering from a severe Israeli blockade: Situated on the Mediterranean coast, between Israel and Egypt, the Gaza Strip is home to around two million Palestinians.
They live in a cramped area stretching just 362 square kilometers (140 square miles), making it one of the most densely populated territories on the planet. After the Arab-Israel war of 1948-1949 and the formation of the Jewish state of Israel, Gaza came under Egyptian administration, but was never annexed.
Israel seized the territory from Egypt during the June 1967 Six-Day War. On September 12, 2005, Israel pulled out all of its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in a unilateral move which ended 38 years of occupation. In the summer of 2006, following the capture of a soldier by militants from Hamas, Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza which was tightened a year later after the Islamists forcibly ousted troops loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah faction.
In May, 2010, Israeli commandos stormed the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, part of a blockade-busting flotilla bound for Gaza. Since the ousting of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, the only entrance to Gaza not controlled by Israel, Rafah, has been almost completely closed by Cairo.
According to the World Bank, Gaza’s GDP losses caused by the blockade are estimated at more than 50 per cent. The Gaza Strip has almost no industry, and it suffers from a chronic lack of water and fuel. Unemployment stands at 45 percent and more than two thirds of the population depends on humanitarian aid.
On February 27-March 3, 2008, Israel carried out operation “Hot Winter” following the death of an Israeli from rocket fire from Gaza. More than 120 Palestinians were killed. Unrest continued – Gaza rocket fire and Israeli attacks – in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed until a truce was concluded in June.
On December 27 Israel launched a vast air offensive – operation “Cast Lead” in a bid to put an end to Palestinian rocket fire. On January 18, 2009 a ceasefire came into force to end the Israeli operation, in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
On July 8, 2014, Israel launched operation “Protective Edge” against Gaza with the aim of ending rocket fire and destroying smuggling and military tunnels dug from the enclave. The war left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side and 74 on the Israeli side.
The radical Palestinian movement Islamic Jihad is the enclave’s second biggest force after Hamas. Founded early in the 1980s in the wake of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, a close ally and ideological inspiration, it is completely devoted to armed action. In May, Islamic Jihad rejected Hamas’s new policy of easing its stand on Israel and accepting the establishment of a Palestinian state limited to the 1967 borders.
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