But how did Gaza become one of the most densely populated parts of the planet? And why is it the home to militant Palestinian action now? As a scholar of Palestinian history, I believe understanding the answers to those questions provides crucial historical context to the current violence.
A brief history of Gaza
The Gaza Strip is a narrow piece of land on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C., it is wedged between Israel to its north and east and Egypt to its south.
An ancient trade and sea port, Gaza has long been part of the geographic region known as Palestine. By the early 20th century, it was mainly inhabited by Muslim and Christian Arabs who lived under Ottoman rule. When Britain took control of Palestine following World War I, intellectuals in Gaza joined the emergent Palestinian national movement.
During the 1948 war that established the state of Israel, the Israeli military bombed 29 villages in southern Palestine, leading tens of thousands of villagers to flee to the Gaza Strip, under the control of the Egyptian army that were deployed after Israel declared independence. Most of them and their descendants remain there today.
Following the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the Gaza Strip came under Israeli military occupation. The occupation has resulted in “systematic human rights violations,” according to rights group Amnesty International, including forcing people off their land, destroying homes and crushing even nonviolent forms of political dissent.
Palestinians staged two major uprisings, in 1987-1991 and in 2000-2005, hoping to end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state.
Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist militant group centered in Gaza, was founded in 1988 to fight against the Israeli occupation. Hamas and other militant groups launched repeated attacks on Israeli targets in Gaza, leading to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. In 2006, Palestinian legislative elections were held. Hamas beat its secular rival, Fatah, which had been widely accused of corruption. Elections haven’t been held in Gaza since 2006, but polling from March 2023 found that 45% of Gazans would back Hamas should there be a vote, ahead of Fatah at 32%.
After a brief conflict between Hamas and Fatah militants in May 2007, Hamas took complete control of the Gaza Strip. Since then, Gaza has been under the administrative control of Hamas, even though it is still considered to be under Israeli occupation by the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and other international bodies.
Decoding Zionism's Controversial Stand and Its Impact on Palestinian Rights
Language as a Weapon: The Gaza War and the Fight for Narrative Control
Theodor Herzl's 'The State of the Jews': Muslim Perception
These Children in Gaza Insist on Making Life Despite the Devastation
This Family Insists Living on Rubble in South Gaza
War on Gaza: Unveiling Insanity of Western Power
Brown University Vigil Erupts in Protest for the Three Shot Palestinian Students
‘A Mass Assassination Factory’: Inside Israel's Calculated Bombing of Gaza
How Gaza United the World
Israel's Dark Future: Civil War And More Slaughter
Israel Can’t Fight All Fronts at Same Time
A bereaved mother in Gaza bids farewell to her daughter
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