GAZA STRIP


GAZA STRIP
GAZA STRIP (Heb. רְצוּעַת עַזָּה; Ar. ﱠ ﻏَ عﺎُﻄةَﺰﻗ), an area located on the coastal plain between Israel and Egypt, covering the gaza strip. The Gaza Strip.   around 140 sq. miles (362 sq. km.), and between 3 and 4.5 miles (5–7 km.) wide and 28 miles (45 km.) long. The Gaza Strip is not a separate geographical unit, but rather a political one that emerged after the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, when the territory of Palestine, a British Mandate from 1920 to 1948, was divided into three major entities: the independent State of Israel, inhabited predominantly by Jews, and the two Palestinian Arab "territories" of the West Bank (ruled by Jordan at that time) and the Gaza Strip (ruled by Egypt). -Gaza Strip under Egyptian Rule The Armistice Agreement of February 1949 between Israel and Egypt established the borders of the Gaza Strip according to the ceasefire boundaries, although the districts of Beit Hānūn and ʿAbasān were given to Egypt by Israel. This agreement proved to be fragile. From the early 1950s, Palestinian Fidā'iyyūn (lit. those who are ready to sacrifice their lives for their cause) launched attacks from the Gaza Strip on Israeli military and civilian targets. Taking the view that Egypt had initiated these attacks, Israel carried out several raids in the Strip. In 1956, as part of the sinai campaign , Israel occupied the Strip and held it between November 2, 1956, and March 8, 1957. The subsequent period of Egyptian control that followed was relatively quiet, until the outbreak of the Six-Day War in June 1967, when Egypt lost the Strip to Israel (and Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel). Demographic change was much more radical in the Strip during the 1948 War than in the West Bank, and had significant economic and social consequences. Some estimates suggest   hat during the 1948 War the population of the Strip multiplied by 4.5 times (from 80,000 to 360,000) due to the influx of Palestinians from Arab villages in Israel pouring into the Strip in search of protection from the Egyptian army. Eight refugee camps were set up and administered by the newly created United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) where their residents obtained food, basic housing, medical care, and schooling. Unemployment was high because there were not enough jobs in the local economy, largely based on agriculture and small businesses; employment outside the Strip was not permitted until 1952, when Egypt opened its border to allow workers to enter. Yet even then job opportunities were limited. At least half of the labor force remained unemployed, and those who found work earned very little. In 1957, after regaining control of the Strip, Egypt took some measures to relieve the situation, which included improving the seaport of gaza and encouraging exports. Although this had a positive effect for some Palestinians, it did not bring about fundamental structural change, and "national output" from the Strip did not significantly increase; in the last full year of Egyptian control over the Strip, per capita GNP stood at only US$80 (about 1,500 NIS in 2005 prices). -From Direct Control to Disengagement: Israel and the Gaza Strip At the end of the Six-Day War in June 1967, Israel seemed very determined to hold on to the Strip. Prime Minister levi eshkol declared that "Israel intends to keep the former part of Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip" and his defense minister, moshe dayan , declared that "the Gaza Strip is Israel's and steps will be taken to make it part of this country." Even so, a full annexation did not follow these declarations. Although small settlements of Israeli Jews were established in the Gaza Strip, it was only in stages that the notion of annexation was replaced by that of separation. In the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt in 1978, Israel signed "a framework for peace in the Middle East" which called for the implementation of an autonomy plan for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but left open the question of sovereignty over these territories. In 1994–95, in the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a timetable was drawn up for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and for the formation of a self-governing Palestinian entity, leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The so-called permanent status issues such as the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and agreed borders between Israel and a Palestinian entity, were deliberately excluded from the Accords and left for future negotiations. Subsequently, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established as the new governing regime in the Strip. Israel handed over some areas in which both civilian and security authority were transferred to the PA. However, violence and violations on both sides have held back progress in accordance with the Oslo Accords timetable. Nevertheless, the process of separation has been ongoing. In September 2005, Israel withdrew its troops and all Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and relinquished control of certain areas of the northern West Bank, in accordance with its unilateral Disengagement Plan, and the PA took control of the Strip. Israel, however, was to continue to control the Strip's borders and gateways, although the southern border – the "Philadelphi Road" – was to be guarded by Egypt. While the Israeli government expressed its hope that existing economic relations with the PA would be maintained, the Hamas victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006 threw future relations into doubt. (Amos Nadan (2nd ed.) -Nationalism, Politics, and Violence The history of Gaza since 1967 should be seen within the context of the reemergence of Palestinian nationalism, Islamic political revival in Palestinian politics that began in the 1970s, and attempts to settle the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab conflict, especially since the outbreak of the Intifada in 1987. Regarding the ebb and flow of politics and violence within Gaza itself, it was highly volatile in the first years of Israeli rule, quiescent and peaceful between 1972 and the early 1980s, and after the eruption of the Intifada in December 1987, became steeped in almost perpetual violent struggle against Israeli rule. Gaza also became the scene to the most extreme forms of internecine political contention and violence, mostly between Fatah, the largest nationalist faction within the PLO, and the Hamas, the major Islamic movement. Why violent opposition to Israeli rule was greater in Gaza than in the West Bank during the first years of Israel's rule had to do with Egyptian policy before the Six-Day War. Unlike Hashemite Jordan, which went to great efforts to stifle Palestinian identity and curtail PLO political activity, Egypt, the former ruler, had been engaged since 1959 in actively promoting a Palestinian identity and institutions in Gaza as part of its political offensive against Israel. After 1964, this included the PLO and its military arm, the Palestinian Liberation Army; their performance against the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the Six-Day War won high marks from Israeli military analysts. It was these former officers and soldiers in the PLA who served as the nucleus of violent opposition to Israeli rule that began in 1968 and reached its zenith in 1970–early 1971 when 17 Israelis were killed in Gaza as a result of terrorist activity emanating from there. Terrorist activity was virtually stamped out by Israeli forces under General Ariel Sharon, Head of Southern Command, who employed techniques such as specialized anti-terror units acting in disguise and the employment of armored military craft in urban warfare, which later became better known in subsequent more intense rounds of Israeli-Palestinian violence under increasing media scrutiny. Yet Israel's response in itself was hardly sufficient to wipe out terrorism. Israel, after initial hesitation, opened its labor market during these years to a job-hungry population (see below) while an additional ten percent of the workforce was directly linked to providing transportation for these commuters. Employment in Israel was the major factor in the vast improvement in the standard of living. It also had its limitations – the Israeli market offered blue collar work only – a form of employment that became a growing source of frustration for an increasingly educated Palestinian workforce. Nevertheless, prosperity brought tranquility until the early 1980s. Calm gave way to increasing tension as the PLO, principally Fatah and the Islamic Brotherhood, began forming "front" social and political institutions that not only provided social services but had the added advantage of employing the new augmented ranks of high school and university students. There was also political friction, focused mainly around Gaza University, established in 1978, between student blocs affiliated to Fatah, Islamic Jihad, formed in 1983, and the local Muslim Brotherhood, which in early 1988, after the outbreak of the Intifada, became known as the Hamas. These organizations became recruiting grounds for the "military" wing of these political forces in Gaza with the result that even before the outbreak of the Intifada, Gaza became the stage of increasing acts of terror, the most dramatic of which was the clash in October 1987 between three al-Jihad al-Islami members who had escaped detention and Israel General Security agents, leading to the death of an Israeli agent. The incident had a dramatic effect; for the first time since 1971, "the resistance," as it was known in Palestinian society, had succeeded in killing a member of an elite security unit of almost mythic proportions. The trend of increasing violence paled in comparison to the mass violence that broke out on December 8, 1987, in Jabaliyya Refugee Camp and elsewhere over rumors that an Israeli had deliberately crashed into a vehicle killing four Palestinians. Thousands took to the streets in massive daily confrontations against a small hard-pressed Israeli military presence in Gaza. If political forces were not responsible for the outbreak of Intifada, they were crucial in assuring its persistence; the Unified National Command of the West Bank and Gaza, consisting of members of the four major factions under the PLO umbrella, Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Palestinian Communist Party, organized activity directly and through a series of leaflets; the Hamas and Islamic Jihad did much the same through its own separate organizations and leaflets. Soon mass activities and violence, characterized by stone throwing and use of incendiary bombs, gave way to increasing terrorist activity by a professional "salaried" hard core; the establishment of the ʿIzz al-Dīn al-Qassām Brigades in Gaza, Hamas' military wing in 1989, and its kidnapping and killing of an Israeli soldier in that year were, in retrospect, the most significant actions. This ushered in a series of killings culminating in the expulsion to Lebanon of nearly 413 Hamas and Jihad activists in December 1992. Their expulsion and even more so their subsequent repatriation, was an egregious mistake; in Lebanon they perfected their skills to use explosives, under the aegis of Hizbullah, leading to the introduction of suicide-bombing, a new and more lethal mode of terrorism. The first suicide bombing, by a member of the al-Jihad al-Islami, took place in April 1993 in the Jordan Valley. Nevertheless, Fatah was still the major political and military force, even in Gaza, when the Palestinian Authority as part of the Oslo peace process was created. For a brief period in Palestinian politics between the establishment of the PA in July 1994 and the entry of the PA into the six major towns of the West Bank in January 1996, Gaza held the limelight as yasser arafat set up headquarters in the city of Gaza. Even afterwards, Arafat, realizing the popularity of the two major Islamic organizations native to Gaza, spent much of his time, if not most, in Gaza to assure his control in the area. Most of the other formerly Tunis-based Palestinian politicians and organizations preferred, however, Ramallah and even though sessions of the Palestinian Legislative Council, elected in January 1996, took place in both, increasing government business was transacted in the latter. Arafat's political instincts were correct. For the PA and Arafat, Gaza became a major source of opposition; in November 1994, PA security forces gunned down 12 mostly Hamas activists coming out of mosque in the city of Gaza to quell a continuation of mass protests against the PA for arresting and harassing its members; the three suicide bombings of late February–early March 1996 resulting in 57 deaths in Israel were all planned, organized, and carried out in Gaza by the Hamas. Israel reacted to suicide-bombing by curtailing work permits and targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists. Nevertheless, there was some room for hope and prosperity. An airport in Dahaniya in Gaza was opened, the Erez industrial park in the north rapidly expanded, and another industrial park was established in Karni, but none of these developments could make up for restricted and much reduced access to the Israeli labor market and led to a 40 percent decline in the average income level since the Oslo peace process in 1993. Access to the Israeli labor market terminated almost completely with the outbreak of armed conflict between the PA and the Palestinian factions in September 2000; Gaza became the stage of mass armed demonstrations and protests and soon thereafter of recurring armed assaults and suicide attacks against the Israeli military and civilian presence there, including 18 settlements established since 1971. Unlike Judea and Samaria, where two massive IDF military offensives in 2002 and the partial reoccupation of its towns brought about a significant reduction of terrorism and armed attacks, in Gaza terrorism and guerrilla activity increased from 2002 to 2005 reaching levels of violence unparalleled in Judea and Samaria, which even the assassination of Ahmad Yasin, the founder and leader of Hamas in March 2004, and one month afterwards of his successor, ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Rantīsī, only temporarily reduced. (Hillel Frisch (2nd ed.)   -Socioeconomic Features under Israeli Rule The Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip in 1967 brought immediate economic relief to Gaza's residents, as Israel opened its labor market to Palestinians. In 1968, according to Israeli statistics, about 82.5% of the Strip's laborers were employed. In 1973 this figure reached 99.1%, with about one-third (32.7%) of these workers finding their main employment in Israel. The level of employment in Israel continued to increase. In 1979 it stood at 42.4% and in 1986 at almost half of the total (46.1%); in Israel, the Palestinian workers from Gaza were engaged in labor-intensive jobs, but their wages were far lower by 59% than those of the Israeli workforce. From 1968 to 1986 the average annual population growth in the Strip stood at 2.2%, with an annual growth of 2.5% in per capita GDP (from 3,508 NIS to 5,964 NIS in 2005 prices); yet this deteriorated between 1979 and 1985 (from 6,593 NIS to 5,346 NIS). These trends were significantly different from the more economically viable West Bank: in 1968 per capita GDP in the Gaza Strip was 18% less than in the West Bank, but by 1986 it was lower by 55%. The Intifada ("uprising") of 1987 was the first Palestinian national revolt since the Israeli occupation 20 years earlier. The socioeconomic roots and consequences of this Intifada were significant. At its onset, the 1987 Intifada was a spontaneous disturbance, not directed by a recognized national leadership; it also started in the poorest region – the Gaza Strip – and spilled over into the West Bank. The group of rebels who initiated the revolt was essentially people who used to work in Israel, who felt poor and discriminated against, and hoped for change. To some extent, the Intifada of 1987 acted as a labor-separator between the Strip and Israel. By 1993, the level of Gazan workers employed in Israel and in Israeli settlements had dropped to 26.5%. Moreover, several suicide attacks by Palestinians in Israel in 1994 and 1995, and the border "closure policy" of the Israeli government, brought a further reduction of Gazans employed in Israel: in 1995 only 3.3% of Gazans who were employed had found work in Israel. However, this gradually changed, and by 1998 the number had risen to 16.2%. The Intifada of 2000, the second revolt against Israeli occupation, was supported and sustained from the outset by the PA, as well as by the Islamic opposition groups in Gaza. While per capita GDP figures suggest that the economic crisis of the first Intifada was not particularly serious, the socioeconomic consequences of the 2000 Intifada were undoubtedly much more severe. There was an average annual decline of more than 14% in GNP in Gaza between 1999 and 2002, and the average level of Gazan employment in Israel fell to below 1% between October 2000 and mid-2004. (Amos Nadan (2nd ed.) -ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: O. Eran, "Arab-Israel Peacemaking," in: A. Sela (ed.), The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East (2002), 127–47; A.M. Lesch and M. Tessler, Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinians: From Camp David to Intifada (1988); The Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force Survey: Annual Report, 1998; Z. Schiff and E. Ya'ari, Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising – Israel's Third Front (1990); State of Israel, Central Bureau of Statistics, National Accounts of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Area 1968–1993 (1996); United States, Department of State, The Camp David Summit (1978); World Bank, Four Years – Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis: An Assessment (2004); Regularly updated data about Gaza Strip and the West Bank are available on the Internet: <http://www.pcbs.org> ; <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/> .

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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