Gaza Strip

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The Gaza Strip is a coastal region of the Middle East along the Mediterranean Sea that is about 26 miles long and 4 to 8 miles wide, bordering Egypt and Israel. It is home to about 1.4 million Palestinian people, mostly refugees dependent on international aid, and is one of the most overcrowded areas of the world; the land and sea borders are controlled by Israel and Egypt, so movement out of the Gaza Strip is restricted. The main urban centre is Gaza City. Claimed by the Palestinian Authority, the area has been governed by the Hamas organisation since June 2007, and has previously been occupied by Israel (1967-2005, following the six-day Arab-Israeli War) and Egypt (1948-1967). Israel maintains control of the Strip's airspace and its navy continues to patrol Gazan waters; the homes that it set up in the Gaza Strip during its occupation housed about 8,000 Israelis and were assigned much of the land. About 6,000 Palestinians are involved in moving food, fuel and other goods through tunnels from Egypt; a United Nations report describes these tunnels as a "lifeline" for Palestinians and the private sector, since Israel restricts the flow of goods across Gaza's borders. Egypt has destroyed some of the tunnels,[1] which are also used for smuggling arms.[2]

Hamas and other organisations such as Islamic Jihad do not recognise Israel and their military wings have fought against their neighbours for some years, mainly through launching hundreds of rockets of crude sophistication into Israeli territory.[3] Israel, for its part, has used its extensive technological advantage in firepower to launch attacks against targets in the Gaza Strip. Following violence between Hamas and Fatah which saw Hamas take power in the Gaza Strip, a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas broke down in 2008, towards the end of a period which saw about 20 Israelis killed since 2001.[4] Over 2000-2008, about 3,000 Gazan Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, according to an Israeli human rights group,[5] and more died due to restrictions on movement.[6]

2008-2009 Gaza conflict

For more information, see: 2008-2009 Gaza conflict.

In January 2009, following air strikes that began on 27th December, Israel launched a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks and destroying tunnels into Gaza used to smuggle weapons as well as food and fuel;[7] 'Operation Cast Lead' widened to the removal of Hamas.[8] The operation led to 1,166 Palestinian deaths (including 89 children) by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) estimates, but 1,434 (288 children) according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)[9] and 1,387 according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem (September 2009 figures).[10] Israel maintains that the majority of fatalities were Palestinian fighters, rather than the 235 minority reported by the PCHR, and has rejected Israeli soldiers' accounts of abuses and unlawful killings.[11][12] Limited humanitarian assistance was permitted, but over 50,000 people were left homeless.[13] The Israeli civilian death toll was three, with 10 soldiers also killed. The two sides agreed on a temporary daily truce on 7th January, with hopes that this would lead to a permanent ceasefire.[14]

Major hostilities ended on 18th January,[15] with talks opening in Cairo aimed at building a lasting truce.[16] Israel lifted a ban on international aid agencies entering the Gaza Strip on 23rd January; the United Nations' Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Sir John Holmes,[17] criticised Israel for the destruction in Gaza, which led to raw sewage flooding streets and buildings levelled over wide areas.[18] A later UN report strongly criticised Israel for its targeting of UN buildings in Gaza, though Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ruled out further inquiries.[19] Satellite imaging allowed researchers to identify over 1,000 destroyed or damaged buildings;[20] the United Nations Development Programme network estimated that 14,000 Gazan homes, 219 factories and 240 schools had been destroyed in the conflict.[21]

See also

Footnotes

  1. United Nations: 'The Humanitarian Monitor: occupied Palestinian territory'. September 2008. .pdf.
  2. Times: 'Arms are still arriving through undamaged tunnels'. 22nd January 2009.
  3. BBC News: 'Gaza's rocket threat to Israel'. 21st January 2008.
  4. Cohen, Roger. The dominion of the dead, The New York Times, 7 January 2009. Retrieved on 4 October 2013.
  5. B'Tselem - the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: 'Statistics - fatalities'.
  6. B'Tselem - the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories: 'Statistics - Palestinians who died following an infringement of the right to medical treatment in the Occupied Territories'.
  7. BBC: 'Israeli jets target Gaza tunnels'. 28th December 2008.
  8. Guardian: 'Israel looks to drive out Hamas'. 6th January 2009.
  9. BBC: 'Gaza soldier accounts 'hearsay''. 30th March 2009.
  10. B'Tselem: 'B'Tselem publishes complete fatality figures from Operation Cast Lead'. 9th September 2009.
  11. Haaretz: ''Shooting and crying''. 26th March 2009.
  12. BBC: 'Gaza soldier accounts 'hearsay''. 30th March 2009.
  13. BBC: 'Gaza rebuild 'to cost billions''. 20th January 2009.
  14. BBC News: 'Israel accepts truce 'principles''. 7th January 2009.
  15. BBC: 'Hamas announces ceasefire in Gaza'. 18th January 2009.
  16. BBC: 'Cairo talks on ceasefire in Gaza'. 22nd January 2009.
  17. For official biography, see the 'United Nations Secretary-General website.
  18. BBC: 'UN 'shocked' by Gaza destruction'. 23rd January 2009.
  19. Independent: 'UN retreats after Israel hits out at Gaza report'. 6th May 2009.
  20. BBC: 'Gaza crisis: key maps and timeline'.
  21. BBC: 'What gets into the Gaza Strip'. 2nd March 2009.