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Gaza Strip

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Fact Sheet: An Overview of the Gaza Strip
  • The Gaza strip was part of the British mandate of Palestine before 1948 and was captured by Israel from Egypt in the 1967 war.  Although the Gaza strip is under Israeli occupation, it is not considered a part of Israel, either by the Israeli government or by any other country.  The Gaza strip is approximately 360 square kilometers in area.  It has an 11km land border with Egypt and a 51km land border with Israel.  Its land borders and 40km coastline are under Israeli control.  Unlike the West Bank, the Gaza strip is entirely surrounded on land by an Israeli-controlled security fence.

  • In the Gaza strip, some 1.2 million Palestinians live on approximately 60% of the land, making it one of the most densely populated places on earth.  Yet under the Oslo accords, Israeli retains military control of 42% of the Gaza strip, most of it reserved for 6,000 Israeli settlers (.5% of the entire population).  This 42% includes military bases, bypass roads, a buffer zone along the border, and “yellow areas” (areas populated by Palestinians but under Israeli military control).

  • Three-fourths of Gazans are refugees expelled from what is now Israel in the 1948 war, or their descendants.  Approximately 400,000 of these people live in UN-registered camps.  The Palestinian population in the Gaza strip is growing rapidly, at over 4% per year; half of the population is under age 15.

  • Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip are all illegal under international humanitarian law.[1]  Built mainly on expropriated land, settlements disrupt the territorial contiguity of Palestinian areas and are used to justify the Israeli military presence.  They are heavily fortified and linked to Israel by roads that are off-limits to Palestinians.  Settlers in the Gaza strip have virtually no contact with the Palestinian population.

  • Before the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, the Gazan economy was valued at approximately $US 1 billion.  The service sector is the largest part the economy, followed by agriculture.  According to the United Nations, the Palestinian economy contracted by 50% during the last quarter of 2000 due mostly to severe movement restrictions imposed by Israel.[2]  Approximately 24,000 Gazans who used to work in Israel are now unable to reach their jobs due to Israeli border closures.

[last updated 18 March 2002]


[1] “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies” (Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49 paragraph 6).

[2] See reports available at www.unsco.org.