Gaza was part of the Ottoman Empire, before it was occupied by the United Kingdom (1918–1948), Egypt (1948–1967), and then Israel, which in 1994 granted the Palestinian Authority in Gaza limited self-governance through the Oslo Accords. Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been de facto governed by Hamas, which claims to represent the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian people.
The territory is still considered to be occupied by Israel by the United Nations, International human rights organisations, and the majority of governments and legal commentators, despite the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza. Israel maintains direct external control over Gaza and indirect control over life within Gaza: it controls Gaza's air and maritime space, and six of Gaza's seven land crossings. It reserves the right to enter Gaza at will with its military and maintains a no-go buffer zone within the Gaza territory. Gaza is dependent on Israel for its water, electricity, telecommunications, and other utilities.
The Gaza Strip acquired its current northern and eastern boundaries at the cessation of fighting in the 1948 war, confirmed by the Israel–Egypt Armistice Agreement on 24 February 1949. Article V of the Agreement declared that the demarcation line was not to be an international border. At first the Gaza Strip was officially administered by the All-Palestine Government, established by the Arab League in September 1948. All-Palestine in the Gaza Strip was managed under the military authority of Egypt, functioning as a puppet state, until it officially merged into the United Arab Republic and dissolved in 1959. From the time of the dissolution of the All-Palestine Government until 1967, the Gaza Strip was directly administered by an Egyptian military governor.
Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the Six-Day War in 1967. Pursuant to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993, the Palestinian Authority became the administrative body that governed Palestinian population centers while Israel maintained control of the airspace, territorial waters and border crossings with the exception of the land border with Egypt which is controlled by Egypt. In 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip under their unilateral disengagement plan.
In July 2007, after winning the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Hamas became the elected government. In 2007, Hamas expelled the rival party Fatah from Gaza. This broke the Unity Government between Gaza Strip and the West Bank, creating two separate governments for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In 2014, following reconciliation talks, Hamas and Fatah formed a Palestinian unity government within the West Bank and Gaza. Rami Hamdallah became the coalition's Prime Minister and has planned for elections in Gaza and the West Bank. In July 2014, a set of lethal incidents between Hamas and Israel led to the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict.
Following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, the territory has been subjected to a blockade, maintained by Israel and Egypt, with Israel arguing that it is necessary to impede Hamas from rearming and to restrict Palestinian rocket attacks and Egypt preventing Gaza residents from entering Egypt. The blockades by Israel and Egypt extends to drastic reductions in basic construction materials, medical supplies, and food stuffs.after intensive air strikes on the city in December 2008. A leaked UN report in 2009 warned that the blockade was "devastating livelihoods" and causing gradual "de-development". It pointed out that glass was prohibited Under the blockade, Gaza is viewed by some critics as an "open-air prison", although the claim is contested.
Prior to 1923
British artillery battery in front of Gaza, 1917
The earliest major settlement in the area was at Tell El Sakan and Tall al-Ajjul, two Bronze Age settlements that served as administrative outposts for Ancient Egyptian governance. The Philistines, mentioned frequently in The Bible, were located in the region, and the city was captured by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE during his Egyptian campaign. Following the death of Alexander, Gaza, along with Egypt, fell under the administration of the Ptolemaic dynasty, before passing to the Seleucid dynasty after about 200 BCE. The city of Gaza was destroyed by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus in 96 BCE, and re-established under Roman administration during the 1st century CE. The Gaza region was moved between different Roman provinces over time, from Judea to Syria Palaestina to Palaestina Prima. During the 7th century the territory was passed back and forth between the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Persian (Sasanian) Empires before the Rashidun Caliphate was established during the great Islamic expansions of the 7th century.
During the Crusades, the city of Gaza was reported to be mostly abandoned and in ruins; the region was placed under the direct administration of the Knights Templar during the Kingdom of Jerusalem; it was traded back and forth several times between Christian and Muslim rule during the 12th century, before the Crusader founded kingdom lost control permanently and the land became part of the Ayyubid dynasty's lands for a century until the Mongol ruler Hulagu Khan destroyed the city. In the wake of the Mongols, the Mamluk Sultanate established control over Egypt and the eastern Levant, and would control Gaza until the 16th century, when the Ottoman Empire absorbed the Mamluk territories. Ottoman rule continued until the years following World War I, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Gaza formed part of the League of Nations British Mandate of Palestine.
1923–48 British Mandate
The British Mandate for Palestine was based on the principles contained in Article 22 of the draft Covenant of the League of Nations and the San Remo Resolution of 25 April 1920 by the principal Allied and associated powers after the First World War. The mandate formalized British rule in the southern part of Ottoman Syria from 1923–1948.
1948 All-Palestine government
On 22 September 1948, towards the end of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the All-Palestine Government was proclaimed in the Egyptian-occupied Gaza City by the Arab League. It was conceived partly as an Arab League attempt to limit the influence of Transjordan in Palestine. The All-Palestine Government was quickly recognized by six of the then seven members of the Arab League: Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, but not by Transjordan. It was not recognized by any country outside the Arab League.
After the cessation of hostilities, the Israel–Egypt Armistice Agreement of 24 February 1949 established the separation line between Egyptian and Israeli forces, and established what became the present boundary between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Both sides declared that the boundary was not an international border. The southern border with Egypt continued to be the international border which had been drawn in 1906 between the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire.
Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or Egypt were issued All-Palestine passports. Egypt did not offer them citizenship. From the end of 1949, they received aid directly from UNRWA. During the Suez Crisis (1956), the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula were occupied by Israeli troops, who withdrew under international pressure. The government was accused of being little more than a façade for Egyptian control, with negligible independent funding or influence. It subsequently moved to Cairo and dissolved in 1959 by decree of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser.
1959–67 Egyptian occupation
After the dissolution of the All-Palestine Government in 1959, under the excuse of pan-Arabism, Egypt continued to occupy the Gaza Strip until 1967. Egypt never annexed the Gaza Strip, but instead treated it as a controlled territory and administered it through a military governor. The influx of over 200,000 refugees from former Mandatory Palestine, roughly a quarter of those who fled or were expelled from their homes during, and in the aftermath of, the 1948 Arab–Israeli War into Gaza resulted in a dramatic decrease in the standard of living. Because the Egyptian government restricted movement to and from the Gaza Strip, its inhabitants could not look elsewhere for gainful employment.
1967 Israeli occupation
In June 1967, during the Six-Day War, Israel Defense Forces captured the Gaza Strip.
According to Tom Segev, moving the Palestinians out of the country had been a persistent element of Zionist thinking from early times. In December 1967, during a meeting at which the Security Cabinet brainstormed about what to do with the Arab population of the newly occupied territories, one of the suggestions Prime Minister Levi Eshkol proffered regarding Gaza was that the people might leave if Israel restricted their access to water supplies, stating: "Perhaps if we don't give them enough water they won't have a choice, because the orchards will yellow and wither." A number of measures, including financial incentives, were taken shortly afterwards to begin to encourage Gazans to emigrate elsewhere,
Subsequent to this military victory, Israel created the first settlement bloc in the Strip, Gush Katif, in the southwest corner near Rafah and the Egyptian border on a spot where a small kibbutz had previously existed for 18 months between 1946–48. In total, between 1967 and 2005, Israel established 21 settlements in Gaza, comprising 20% of the total territory.
The economic growth rate from 1967 to 1982 averaged roughly 9.7 percent per annum, due in good part to expanded income from work opportunities inside Israel, which had a major utility for the latter by supplying the country with a large reserve of unskilled and semi-skilled manpower. Gaza's agricultural sector was adversely affected as one-third of the Strip was appropriated by Israel, competition for scarce water resources stiffened, and the lucrative cultivation of citrus declined with the advent of Israeli policies, such as prohibitions on planting new trees and taxation that gave breaks to Israeli producers, factors which militated against growth. Gaza's direct exports of these products to Western markets, as opposed to Arab markets, was prohibited except through Israeli marketing vehicles, in order to assist Israeli citrus exports to the same markets. The overall result was that large numbers of farmers were forced out of the agricultural sector. Israel placed quotas on all goods exported from Gaza, while abolishing restrictions on the flow of Israeli goods into the Strip. Sara Roy characterised the pattern as one of structural de-development 
1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty
On 26 March 1979, Israel and Egypt signed the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty. Among other things, the treaty provided for the withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War. The Egyptians agreed to keep the Sinai Peninsula demilitarized. The final status of the Gaza Strip, and other relations between Israel and Palestinians, was not dealt with in the treaty. Egypt renounced all territorial claims to territory north of the international border. The Gaza Strip remained under Israeli military administration until 1994. During that time, the military was responsible for the maintenance of civil facilities and services.
After the Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty 1979, a 100-meter-wide buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt known as the Philadelphi Route was established. The international border along the Philadelphi corridor between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is 7 miles (11 km) long.
1994: Gaza under Palestinian Authority
In September 1992, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told a delegation from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy "I would like Gaza to sink into the sea, but that won't happen, and a solution must be found."
In May 1994, following the Palestinian-Israeli agreements known as the Oslo Accords, a phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians took place. Much of the Strip (except for the settlement blocs and military areas) came under Palestinian control. The Israeli forces left Gaza City and other urban areas, leaving the new Palestinian Authority to administer and police those areas. The Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat, chose Gaza City as its first provincial headquarters. In September 1995, Israel and the PLO signed a second peace agreement, extending the Palestinian Authority to most West Bank towns.
Between 1994 and 1996, Israel built the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier to improve security in Israel. The barrier was largely torn down by Palestinians at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000.
View of Gaza during the 2000s.
2000 Second Intifada
The Second Intifada broke out in September 2000 with waves of protest, civil unrest and bombings against Israeli military and civilians, many of them perpetrated by suicide bombers. The Second Intifada also marked the beginning of rocket attacks and bombings of Israeli border localities by Palestinian guerrillas from the Gaza Strip, especially by the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad movements.
Between December 2000 and June 2001, the barrier between Gaza and Israel was reconstructed. A barrier on the Gaza Strip-Egypt border was constructed starting in 2004. The main crossing points are the northern Erez Crossing into Israel and the southern Rafah Crossing into Egypt. The eastern Karni Crossing used for cargo, closed down in 2011. Israel controls the Gaza Strip's northern borders, as well as its territorial waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza Strip's southern border, under an agreement between it and Israel. Neither Israel or Egypt permits free travel from Gaza as both borders are heavily militarily fortified. "Egypt maintains a strict blockade on Gaza in order to isolate Hamas from Islamist insurgents in the Sinai."
2005 Israel's unilateral disengagement
In February 2005, the Knesset approved a unilateral disengagement plan and began removing Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005. All Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and the joint Israeli-Palestinian Erez Industrial Zone were dismantled, and 9,000 Israelis, most living in Gush Katif, were forcibly evicted.
On 12 September 2005, the Israeli cabinet formally declared an end to Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip.
"The Oslo Agreements gave Israel full control over Gaza's airspace, but established that the Palestinians could build an airport in the area..." and the disengagement plan states that: "Israel will hold sole control of Gaza airspace and will continue to carry out military activity in the waters of the Gaza Strip." "Therefore, Israel continues to maintain exclusive control of Gaza's airspace and the territorial waters, just as it has since it occupied the Gaza Strip in 1967." Human Rights Watch has advised the UN Human Rights Council that it (and others) consider Israel to be the occupying power of the Gaza Strip because Israel controls Gaza Strip's airspace, territorial waters and controls the movement of people or goods in or out of Gaza by air or sea. The EU considers Gaza to be occupied. Israel also withdrew from the Philadelphi Route, a narrow strip of land adjacent to the border with Egypt, after Egypt agreed to secure its side of the border. Under the Oslo Accords, the Philadelphi Route was to remain under Israeli control to prevent the smuggling of weapons and people across the Egyptian border, but Egypt (under EU supervision) committed itself to patrolling the area and preventing such incidents. With the Agreement on Movement and Access, known as the Rafah Agreement in the same year Israel ended its presence in the Philadelphi Route and transferred responsibility for security arrangements to Egypt and the PA under the supervision of the EU.
The Israel Defense Forces left the Gaza Strip on 1 September 2005 as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan and all Israeli citizens were evicted from the area. In November 2005, an "Agreement on Movement and Access" between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was brokered by then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to improve Palestinian freedom of movement and economic activity in the Gaza Strip. Under its terms, the Rafah crossing with Egypt was to be reopened, with transits monitored by the Palestinian National Authority and the European Union. Only people with Palestinian ID, or foreign nationals, by exception, in certain categories, subject to Israeli oversight, were permitted to cross in and out. All goods, vehicles and trucks to and from Egypt passed through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, under full Israeli supervision. Goods were also permitted transit at the Karni crossing in the north.
After the Israeli withdrawal in 2005 the Oslo Accords give the Palestinian Authority administrative authority in the Gaza Strip. The Rafah Border Crossing has been supervised by EU Border Assistance Mission Rafah under an agreement finalized in November 2005. The Oslo Accord permits Israel to control the airspace and sea space.
Post-2006 elections violence
In the Palestinian parliamentary elections held on 25 January 2006, Hamas won a plurality of 42.9% of the total vote and 74 out of 132 total seats (56%). When Hamas assumed power the next month, Israel, the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations demanded that Hamas accept all previous agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist, and renounce violence; when Hamas refused, they cut off direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, although some aid money was redirected to humanitarian organizations not affiliated with the government. The resulting political disorder and economic stagnation led to many Palestinians emigrating from the Gaza Strip.
In January 2007, fighting erupted between Hamas and Fatah. The deadliest clashes occurred in the northern Gaza Strip, where General Muhammed Gharib, a senior commander of the Fatah-dominated Preventive Security Force, died when a rocket hit his home.
On 30 January 2007, a truce was negotiated between Fatah and Hamas. However, after a few days, new fighting broke out. On 1 February, Hamas killed 6 people in an ambush on a Gaza convoy which delivered equipment for Abbas' Palestinian Presidential Guard, according to diplomats, meant to counter smuggling of more powerful weapons into Gaza by Hamas for its fast-growing "Executive Force". According to Hamas, the deliveries to the Presidential Guard were intended to instigate sedition (against Hamas), while withholding money and assistance from the Palestinian people. Fatah fighters stormed a Hamas-affiliated university in the Gaza Strip. Officers from Abbas' presidential guard battled Hamas gunmen guarding the Hamas-led Interior Ministry.
In May 2007, new fighting broke out between the factions. Interior Minister Hani Qawasmi, who had been considered a moderate civil servant acceptable to both factions, resigned due to what he termed harmful behavior by both sides.
Fighting spread in the Gaza Strip, with both factions attacking vehicles and facilities of the other side. Following a breakdown in an Egyptian-brokered truce, Israel launched an air strike which destroyed a building used by Hamas. Ongoing violence prompted fear that it could bring the end of the Fatah-Hamas coalition government, and possibly the end of the Palestinian authority.
Hamas spokesman Moussa Abu Marzouk blamed the conflict between Hamas and Fatah on Israel, stating that the constant pressure of economic sanctions resulted in the "real explosion." Associated Press reporter Ibrahim Barzak wrote an eyewitness account stating: "Today I have seen people shot before my eyes, I heard the screams of terrified women and children in a burning building, and I argued with gunmen who wanted to take over my home. I have seen a lot in my years as a journalist in Gaza, but this is the worst it's been."
From 2006–2007 more than 600 Palestinians were killed in fighting between Hamas and Fatah. 349 Palestinians were killed in fighting between factions in 2007. 160 Palestinians killed each other in June alone.
2007 Hamas takeover
Following the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election, Hamas and Fatah formed the Palestinian authority national unity government headed by Ismail Haniya. Shortly after, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in the course of the Battle of Gaza, seizing government institutions and replacing Fatah and other government officials with its own. By 14 June, Hamas fully controlled the Gaza Strip. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded by declaring a state of emergency, dissolving the unity government and forming a new government without Hamas participation. PNA security forces in the West Bank arrested a number of Hamas members.
In late June 2008, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan declared the West Bank-based cabinet formed by Abbas as "the sole legitimate Palestinian government". Egypt moved its embassy from Gaza to the West Bank.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt supported reconciliation and a new unity government and pressed Abbas to start talks with Hamas. Abbas had always conditioned this on Hamas returning control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas visited a number of countries, including Russia, and the EU member states. Opposition parties and politicians called for a dialogue with Hamas as well as an end to the economic sanctions.
After the takeover, Israel and Egypt closed their border crossings with Gaza. Palestinian sources reported that European Union monitors fled the Rafah Border Crossing, on the Gaza–Egypt border for fear of being kidnapped or harmed. Arab foreign ministers and Palestinian officials presented a united front against control of the border by Hamas.
Meanwhile, Israeli and Egyptian security reports said that Hamas continued smuggling in large quantities of explosives and arms from Egypt through tunnels. Egyptian security forces uncovered 60 tunnels in 2007.
Egyptian border barrier breach
On 23 January 2008, after months of preparation during which the steel reinforcement of the border barrier was weakened, Hamas destroyed several parts of the wall dividing Gaza and Egypt in the town of Rafah. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans crossed the border into Egypt seeking food and supplies. Due to the crisis, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered his troops to allow the Palestinians in but to verify that they did not bring weapons back across the border. Egypt arrested and later released several armed Hamas militants in the Sinai who presumably wanted to infiltrate into Israel. At the same time, Israel increased its state of alert along the length of the Israel-Egypt Sinai border, and warned its citizens to leave Sinai "without delay."
The EU Border Monitors initially monitored the border because Hamas guaranteed their safety, but they later fled. The Palestinian Authority demanded that Egypt deal only with the Authority in negotiations relating to borders. Israel eased restrictions on the delivery of goods and medical supplies but curtailed electricity by 5% in one of its ten lines. The Rafah crossing remained closed into mid-February.
In February 2008, 2008 Israel-Gaza conflict intensified, with rockets launched at Israeli cities. Aggression by Hamas led to Israeli military action on 1 March 2008, resulting in over 110 Palestinians being killed according to BBC News, as well as 2 Israeli soldiers. Israeli human rights group B'Tselem estimated that 45 of those killed were not involved in hostilities, and 15 were minors.
After a round of tit-for-tat arrests between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, the Hilles clan from Gaza were relocated to Jericho on 4 August 2008. Retiring Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on 11 November 2008, "The question is not whether there will be a confrontation, but when it will take place, under what circumstances, and who will control these circumstances, who will dictate them, and who will know to exploit the time from the beginning of the ceasefire until the moment of confrontation in the best possible way." On 14 November 2008, Israel blockaded its border with Gaza after a five-month ceasefire broke down. In 2013 Israel and Qatar brought Gaza's lone power plant back to life for the first time in seven weeks, bringing relief to the Palestinian coastal enclave where a lack of cheap fuel has contributed to the overflow of raw sewage, 21-hour blackouts and flooding after a ferocious winter storm. "Palestinian officials said that a $10 million grant from Qatar was covering the cost of two weeks’ worth of industrial diesel that started entering Gaza by truckload from Israel."
On 25 November 2008, Israel closed its cargo crossing with Gaza after Qassam rockets were fired into its territory. On 28 November, after a 24-hour period of quiet, the IDF facilitated the transfer of over thirty truckloads of food, basic supplies and medicine into Gaza and transferred fuel to the area's main power plant.
2008 Gaza War
Monthly rocket and mortar hits in Israel, 2008.
Israelis killed by Palestinians in Israel (blue
) and Palestinians killed by Israelis in Gaza (red
On 27 December 2008, Israeli F-16 fighters launched a series of air strikes against targets in Gaza following the breakdown of a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas. Israeli defense sources said that Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the IDF to prepare for the operation six months before it began, using long-term planning and intelligence-gathering.
Various sites that Israel claimed were being used as weapons depots were struck: police stations, schools, hospitals, UN warehouses, mosques, various Hamas government buildings and other buildings. Israel said that the attack was a response to Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel, which totaled over 3,000 in 2008, and which intensified during the few weeks preceding the operation. Israel advised people near military targets to leave before the attacks. Palestinian medical staff claimed at least 434 Palestinians were killed, and at least 2,800 wounded, consisting of many civilians and an unknown number of Hamas members, in the first five days of Israeli strikes on Gaza. The IDF denied that the majority of the dead were civilian. Israel began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on 3 January 2009. Israel rebuffed many cease-fire calls but later declared a cease fire although Hamas vowed to fight on.
A total of 1,100–1,400 Palestinians (295–926 civilians) and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day war.
The conflict damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes, 15 of Gaza's 27 hospitals and 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities, 800 water wells, 186 greenhouses, and nearly all of its 10,000 family farms; leaving 50,000 homeless, 400,000–500,000 without running water, one million without electricity, and resulting in acute food shortages. The people of Gaza still suffer from the loss of these facilities and homes, especially since they have great challenges to rebuild them.
By February 2009, food availability returned to pre-war levels but a shortage of fresh produce was forecast due to damage sustained by the agricultural sector.
In the immediate aftermath of the Gaza War, Hamas executed 19 Palestinian Fatah members, on charges that they had collaborated with Israel. Many had been recaptured after escaping prison which had been bombed during the war. The executions followed an Israeli strike which killed 3 top Hamas officials, including Said Seyam, with Hamas charging that information on where Hamas leaders lived and where arms were stocked had been passed to Fatah in the West Bank, and via the PA to Israel, with whom the PA shares security intrelligence. Many suspected were tortured or shot in the legs. Hamas thereafter pursued a course of trying collaborators in courts, rather than executing them in the street.
A 2014 unity government with Fatah
On 5 June 2014, Fatah signed a unity agreement with the Hamas political party.
2014 Israel–Gaza conflict
Operation Protective Edge
|Homes severely damaged or destroyed
|Houses of worship damaged or destroyed
|Kindergartens damaged or destroyed
|Medical facilities damaged or destroyed
||2.5 mln tons
Connections to Sinai insurgency
Egypt's Sinai Peninsula borders the Gaza Strip and Israel. Its vast and desolate terrain has transformed it into a hotbed of illicit and militant activity. Although most of the area's inhabitants are tribal Bedouins, there has been a recent increase in al-Qaeda inspired global jihadi militant groups operating in the region. Out of the approximately 15 main militant groups operating in the Sinai desert, the most dominant and active militant groups have close relations with the Gaza Strip.
According to Egyptian authorities, the Army of Islam, a U.S. designated "terrorist organization" based in the Gaza Strip, is responsible for training and supplying many militant organizations and jihadist members in Sinai. Mohammed Dormosh, the Army of Islam's leader, is known for his close relationships to the Hamas leadership. Army of Islam smuggles members into the Gaza Strip for training, then returns them to the Sinai Peninsula to engage in militant and jihadist activities.
2018 Israel–Gaza conflict