What is the Gaza Strip? What you need to know about the ground at the heart of the Israel-Hamas war

Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli air strike on the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on October 9, 2023.

Mahmoud Hams | Afp | Getty Images

The Gaza Strip has been the focus of heavy bombardment for more than a week after Israel launched aerial retaliation for the unprecedented terror attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7.

The enclave – a narrow strip of land between Israel and Egypt, next to the Mediterranean Sea – is home to around 2.3 million Palestinians and is described as one of the most densely populated places on Earth. The 140 square mile area is about the size of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The majority of those living in Gaza are young, with nearly 65% ​​of the population under the age of 24.

“The world’s largest open-air prison”

The humanitarian situation in Gaza was already dire enough after 16 years of Israel’s crushing closure. But now we’re descending to depths we simply haven’t seen.

Omar Shakir

Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch

Her economy was crippled by the severe limitations for the movement of individuals. The unemployment rate in Gaza is over 40%, and 63% of Gazans are is considered unsafe food, according to the UN, without reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Moreover, about 80% of Gazans were they depend on some kind of international aid.

Further exacerbating the humanitarian situation, Israel ordered a total siege of Gaza following the October 7 Hamas terror attack, cutting off supplies of food, water and electricity that the enclave depends mainly on Israel for. The United Nations aid agency in the region (UNRWA) warned on Sunday that fresh water is running out in Gaza. Last Wednesday, its only factory ran out of fuel.

The World Health Organisation warned on Thursday that the health system in the Gaza Strip is at a “tipping point”, stressing that hospitals have only a few hours of electricity each day.

Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli air strike on buildings in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on October 9, 2023.

Mohammed Abed | Afp | Getty Images

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza was already very dire after 16 years of Israel’s crushing closure. But now we’re going down to depths that we simply haven’t seen,” Omar Shakir, director at Human Rights Watch, told CNBC.

Who controls it?

The Gaza Strip is one of two designated Palestinian territories, the other being the West Bank. is divided into five provinces: Gaza City, North Gaza, Rafah, Deir el-Balah and Khan Younis.

In 1947, the fledgling UN issued the “Palestine Partition Plan” that would divide the land—then called Palestine— in an Arab and a Jewish stateto satisfy the desire for a Jewish homeland and the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Jews from all over the world.

This came against the will of the local Palestinian Arab population and the surrounding Arab states.

After the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent Arab-Israeli war, Israel seized land from the Palestinian Arab state and ended up 77% of the total territory. More than half of the Palestinian Arab population was expelled or fled as refugees to Gaza, the West Bank and neighboring countries.

Gaza was under Egyptian control from 1948 to 1967. Israel then gained control and occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank after winning the 1967 Six Day War against Arab neighbors Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The United Nations classifies Israel as an occupying state in the Palestinian territories.

Fast forward to 2006, and Hamas emerged victorious in Gaza elections over its rival, the Fatah party. It has been in control of Gaza ever since. No elections were subsequently held and Hamas maintains political control.

The militant group Hamas, designated a terrorist organization by the US and many other countries, is committed to establishing an independent Islamic state in historic Palestine. It does not recognize Israel and has asked the latter to end the blockade of Gaza and stop the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

For many years Hamas called for the destruction of Israel, but issued a new statute in 2017 in what was seen as an attempt to soften his image. It removed the language surrounding the destruction of Israel, but still calls for the liberation of all of historic Palestine—including Israel.

Hamas is one of two major political forces in the Palestinian territories, the other being Fatah, which was formerly known as the Palestinian National Liberation Movement. Fatah maintains control of the Palestinian National Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Between 2008 and 2023 before the current conflict, Israeli airstrikes had killed 6,407 Palestinians in the occupied territories, 5,360 of them in Gaza, according to the UN During the same period, 308 Israelis were killed.


Israel has been massing troops along the Gaza border since last Saturday’s deadly incursion in preparation for a possible ground offensive to go after Hamas.

Israeli hostages, meanwhile, are still trapped in Gaza, an act of Hamas UN experts have condemned as a war crime. The organization has strongly condemned the brutal October 7 attack by Hamas, and the “deliberate and widespread” killings of innocent civilians.

The UN has he was also convicted Israel’s “violent and indiscriminate attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza” and the further strengthening of the “illegal blockade”.

CNBC’s Natasha Turak and Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

Read the original at Defence247.gr

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