Gaza Strip

May 21, 2012, 2:44 pm
Source: CIA World Factbook
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Gaza City. Source: Wikipedia

The Gaza Strip (Qita' Ghazzah) is one of two areas in the Palestinian Territories in the Middle East, the other area being the West Bank.

Bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Israel, it is a coastal strip between 6 and 12 kilometres (4–71/2 miles) wide and about 41 kilometres (25 miles) long. It takes its name from Gaza, its main city, and includes nearly one-and-two-thirds million people.

Its major environmental issues include:

  • desertification;
  • salination of fresh water;
  • sewage treatment;
  • water-borne disease;
  • soil degradation;
  • depletion and contamination of underground water resources

The Gaza Strip is susceptible to droughts.

The Gaza Strip is strategic strip of land along Mideast-North African trade routes has experienced an incredibly turbulent history; the town of Gaza itself has been besieged countless times in its history

Background

Following World War II, the British withdrew from their mandate of Palestine, and the United Nations partitioned the area into Arab and Jewish states, an arrangement rejected by the Arabs.

Subsequently, the Israelis defeated the Arabs in a series of wars without ending the deep tensions between the two sides.

The boundary of the Gaza Strip was established as an Armistice Line between the two sides in 1950.

Egyptian forces occupied the Strip at the end of the 1948-1949 war, and Egypt administered but did not claim the territory from 1949 to 1967.

After the 1967 war, Israeli civilians began establishing settlements in the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military used force to remove some settlers from the Sinai in 1982, when Israel withdrew in compliance with the 1978 Camp David Agreement and the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.

Significant numbers of Palestinian refugees entered the Gaza Strip begining in 1948. Most people living in the area are descendents of those refugees.

The September 1993 Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements provided for a transitional period of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Under a series of agreements signed between May 1994 and September 1999, Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for many Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stalled following the outbreak of an intifada in September 2000.

In April 2003, the Quartet (US, EU, UN, and Russia) presented a roadmap to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005 based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. Following Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat's death in late 2004, Mahmud Abbas was elected PA president in January 2005. A month later, Israel and the PA agreed to the Sharm el-Sheikh Commitments in an effort to move the peace process forward.

In September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all of its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip and withdrew settlers and redeployed soldiers from four small northern West Bank settlements. Nonetheless, Israel still controls maritime, airspace, and other access to the Gaza Strip; Isarael also enforces a restricted zone along the border inside Gaza.

In January 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, won control of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Hamas took control of the PA government in March 2006, but President Abbas had little success negotiating with Hamas to present a political platform acceptable to the international community so as to lift economic sanctions on Palestinians. Violent clashes between Fatah and Hamas supporters in the Gaza Strip in 2006 and early 2007 resulted in numerous Palestinian deaths and injuries. In February 2007, Abbas and Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khalid Mishal signed the Mecca Agreement in Saudi Arabia that resulted in the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government (NUG) headed by Hamas member Ismail Haniya.

However, fighting continued in the Gaza Strip, and in June 2007, Hamas militants succeeded in a violent takeover of all military and governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip. Abbas that same month dismissed the NUG and through a series of presidential decrees formed a PA government in the West Bank led by independent Salam Fayyad.

Late November 2007 through June 2008 witnessed a substantial increase in Israeli-Palestinian violence. An Egyptian-brokered truce in June 2008 between Israel and Hamas brought about a five-month pause in hostilities, but spiraling end-of-year violence resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,100 to 1,400 Palestinians and left tens of thousands of people homeless. International donors pledged $4.5 billion in aid to rebuild the Gaza Strip, but by the end of 2011 large-scale reconstruction had not begun.

Fatah and Hamas in May 2011, under the auspices of Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation negotiations, agreed to reunify the Palestinian territories, but the factions have struggled to finalize details on governing and security structures. The status quo remains with Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and Abbas and the Fatah-dominated PA governing the West Bank.

Geography

Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Israel

Geographic Coordinates: 31 25 N, 34 20 E

Area: 360 sq km

Land Boundaries: 62 km (Egypt 11 km, Israel 51 km)

Coastline: 40 km

Maritime Claims: effective 3 January 2009 the Gaza maritime area is closed to all maritime traffic and is under blockade imposed by Israeli Navy until further notice

Natural Hazards: droughts

Terrain: flat to rolling, sand- and dune-covered coastal plain,  The highest point is Abu 'Awdah (Joz Abu 'Awdah) (105 m).

Climate: temperate, mild winters, dry and warm to hot summers

Ecology: The Gaza Strip is ecologically included within the Eastern Mediterranean conifer-sclerophyllous-broadleaf forests

People and Society

Population: 1,710,257 (July 2012 est.)

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 43.9% (male 374,110/female 354,088)
15-64 years: 53.5% (male 453,253/female 432,855)
65 years and over: 2.6% (male 17,326/female 25,523) (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate: 3.108% (2012 est.)

Birthrate: 34.3 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death Rate: 3.22 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net Migration Rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth: 74.16 years

male: 72.48 years
female: 75.95 years (2012 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 4.57 children born/woman (2012 est.)

Languages: Arabic, Hebrew (spoken by many Palestinians), English (widely understood)

Literacy: (age 15 and over can read and write): 92.4% (2004 est.)

Urbanization: 72% of total population (2008) growing at an annual rate of change of 3.3% (2005-10 est.)

Agriculture

Agricultural products: olives, fruit, vegetables, flowers; beef, dairy products

Irrigated Land: 180 sq km; note - includes West Bank (2008)

Resources

Natural Resources: arable land, natural gas

Land Use:

arable land: 29%
permanent crops: 21%
other: 50% (2002)

Economy

High population density, limited land and sea access, continuing isolation, and strict internal and external security controls have degraded economic conditions in the Gaza Strip - the smaller of the two areas in the Palestinian Territories.

Israeli-imposed crossings closures, which became more restrictive after Hamas violently took over the territory in June 2007, and fighting between Hamas and Israel during December 2008-January 2009, resulted in the near collapse of most of the private sector, extremely high unemployment, and high poverty rates.

Shortages of goods are met through large-scale humanitarian assistance - led by UNRWA - and the Hamas-regulated black market tunnel trade that flourishes under the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt. However, changes to the blockade in 2010 included moving from a white list - in which only approved items were allowed into Gaza through the crossings - to a black list, where all but non-approved items were allowed into Gaza through the crossings.

Israeli authorities have recently signaled that exports from the territory might be possible in the future, but currently regular exports from Gaza are not permitted.

GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): Combined with the West Bank: $12.79 billion (2009 est.)

GDP: (Official Exchange Rate): Combined with the West Bank:  $6.641 billion (2008 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP): Combined with the West Bank: $2,900 (2008 est.)

GDP- composition by sector: Combined with the West Bank:

agriculture: 3.7%
industry: 13.6%
services: 82.7% (includes Gaza Strip) (2011 est.)

Industries: textiles, food processing

Currency: New Israeli shekels (ILS)

Glossary

Citation

Agency, C. (2012). Gaza Strip. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/172133

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