Both Security and Justice

for Palestinians as well as Israelis

Gaza and the Gaza Strip [Wikipedia URL]

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Gaza (Arabic: غزةĠazzah, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈɣazːa], Hebrew: עזהAzza Hebrew pronunciation: [ˈ(ʕ)aza]), also referred to as Gaza City, is a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip, with a population of about 450,000, making it the largest city in the Palestinian territories. Inhabited since at least the 15th century BC,[4] Gaza has been dominated by several different peoples and empires throughout its history. The Philistines made it a part of their pentapolis after the Ancient Egyptians had ruled it for nearly 350 years. Under the Romans and later the Byzantines, Gaza experienced relative peace and its port flourished. In 635 AD, it became the first city in Palestine to be conquered by the Rashidun army and quickly developed into a centre of Islamic law. However, by the time the Crusaders invaded the city, it was in ruins. In later centuries, Gaza experienced several hardships—from Mongol raids to floods and locusts, reducing it to a village by the 16th century when it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. During the first half of Ottoman rule, the Ridwan dynasty controlled Gaza and under them the city went through an age of great commerce and peace.

 

Throughout its history, Gaza has never been self-ruled or independent. Gaza fell to British forces during World War I, becoming a part of the British Mandate of Palestine. As a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egypt administered the newly formed Gaza Strip territory and several improvements were undertaken in the city. Gaza was captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967, but in 1993, the city was transferred to the Palestinian National Authority. Following the 2006 election, conflict broke out as the Fatah party seemed unwilling to transfer power to Hamas, resulting in Hamas taking power in Gaza by force. Since then Gaza has been under a blockade by Israel and Egypt.

 

The primary economic activities of Gaza are small-scale industries, agriculture and labor. However, the economy has been devastated by the blockade and recurring conflicts. Most of Gaza's inhabitants adhere to Islam, although there exists a Christian minority. Gaza has a very young population with roughly 75% being under the age of 25, and today the city has one of the highest population densities in the world.

 

Gaza Strip [Wikipedia URL]

 

The Gaza Strip (Arabic: قطاع غزةQiṭāʿ Ġazzah, IPA: [qitˤaːʕ ɣazza]) lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about 41 kilometres (25 mi) long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres (4–7.5 mi) wide, with a total area of 360 square kilometres (140 sq mi). The territory takes its name from Gaza, its main city.

 

The population is about 1.6 million people,[1] most of them descendants of refugees. One million of the population, as of March 2005, were considered refugees, although the vast majority of them were actually born in the Gaza Strip;[2] the older generation fled to Gaza in 1948 as part of the 1948 Palestinian exodus following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, from some parts of Mandate Palestine that became Israel. The population is predominantly Sunni Muslim. With a yearly growth rate of about 3.2%, the Gaza strip has the 7th highest population growth rate in the world.[1]

 

The Gaza Strip acquired its current boundaries at the cessation of fighting in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, which was confirmed in the Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement on 24 February 1949.[3] Article V of the Agreement declared that the demarcation line was not to be an international border. The Gaza Strip continued to be occupied by Egypt. At first it administered the territory through the All-Palestine Government and then directly from 1959 until 1967, when Israel occupied it following the Six-Day War. Pursuant to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1993, the Palestinian Authority was set up as an interim administrative body to govern Palestinian population centres, with Israel maintaining control of Gaza Strip's airspace, all but one of its land borders and territorial waters, until a final agreement could be reached. As agreement remained elusive, Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in 2005.

 

The Gaza Strip is one of the territorial units forming the Palestinian territories.[4][5][6][7] Since July 2007, following the 2006 Palestinian legislative election and the Battle of Gaza, Hamas has functioned as the effective government in the Gaza Strip.

 

Israeli occupation (1967–2005)

 

Israel controlled the Gaza Strip again beginning in June 1967, after the Six-Day War. During the period of Israeli control, Israel created a settlement bloc, Gush Katif, in the southwest corner of the Strip near Rafah and the Egyptian border. In total Israel created 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip, comprising 20% of the total territory. Besides ideological reasons for being there, these settlements also served Israel's security concerns.

In March 1979 Israel and Egypt signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Among other things, the treaty provided for the withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War, to the 1906 international border. The Egyptians agreed to keep the Sinai Peninsula demilitarized. The final status of the Gaza Strip, and other relations between Israel and Palestinians, was not dealt with in the treaty. Egypt renounced all territorial claims to territory north of the international border.

 

The Gaza Strip remained under Israeli military administration until 1994. During that period the military was responsible for the maintenance of civil facilities and services. In May 1994, following the Palestinian-Israeli agreements known as the Oslo Accords, a phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians took place. Much of the Strip (except for the settlement blocs and military areas) came under Palestinian control. The Israeli forces left Gaza City and other urban areas, leaving the new Palestinian Authority to administer and police those areas. The Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat, chose Gaza City as its first provincial headquarters. In September 1995, Israel and the PLO signed a second peace agreement, extending the Palestinian Authority to most West Bank towns. The agreement also established an elected 88-member Palestinian National Council, which held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996.

 

The Palestinian Authority rule of the Gaza Strip and West Bank under the leadership of Arafat suffered from serious mismanagement and corruption scandals. For example, exorbitant bribes were demanded for allowing goods to pass in and out of the Gaza Strip, while heads of the Preventive Security Service apparatus profited from their involvement in the gravel import and cement and construction industries, such as the Great Arab Company for Investment and Development, the al-Motawaset Company, and the al-Sheik Zayid construction project.[10]

 

The Second Intifada broke out in September 2000 with its waves of protest, civil unrest and bombings against Israeli military and civilians, many of them perpetrated by suicide bombers, and the beginning of rockets and bombings of Israeli border localities by Palestinian guerrillas from Gaza Strip, especially from Hamas and Jihad Islami movements. In February 2005, the Israeli government voted to implement a unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip. The plan began to be implemented on 15 August 2005, and was completed on 12 September 2005. Under the plan, all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip (and four in the West Bank) and the joint Israeli-Palestinian Erez Industrial Zone were dismantled with the removal of all 9,000 Israeli settlers (most of them in the Gush Katif settlement area in the Strip's southwest) and military bases. On 12 September 2005 the Israeli cabinet formally declared an end to Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip. To avoid allegations that it was still in occupation of any part of the Gaza Strip, Israel also withdrew from the Philadelphi Route, which is a narrow strip adjacent to the Strip's border with Egypt, after Egypt's agreement to secure its side of the border. Under the Oslo Accords the Philadelphi Route was to remain under Israeli control to prevent the smuggling of materials (such as ammunition) and people across the border with Egypt. With Egypt agreeing to patrol its side of the border, it was hoped that the objective would be achieved. However, Israel maintained its control over the crossings in and out of Gaza. The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza was monitored by the Israeli army through special surveillance cameras. Official documents such as passports, I.D. cards, export and import papers, and many others had to be approved by the Israeli army.[citation needed]

 

Israel-Gaza Strip barrier

 

Between 1994 and 1996, Israel built the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier. The separation barrier was first constructed to improve security in Israel. The barrier was largely torn down by Palestinians at the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000.[11] Between December 2000 and June 2001, the barrier fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel was reconstructed. A barrier on the Gaza Strip-Egypt border was constructed from 2004.[12] There are three main crossing points in the barrier: the northern Erez Crossing into Israel, the southern Rafah Crossing into Egypt, and the eastern Karni Crossing used only for cargo.[13] Israel controls the Gaza Strip's northern borders, as well as its territorial waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza Strip's southern border, under an agreement between it and Israel.[14]

 

2005 – Israel's unilateral disengagement

 

The Israel Defence Forces left the Gaza Strip on 1 September 2005 as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan, and all Israeli citizens were evicted from the area. An 'Agreement on Movement and Access' between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was brokered by Condoleezza Rice in November 2005 to improve Palestinian freedom of movement and economic activity in the Gaza Strip. Under its terms, the Rafah crossing with Egypt was to be reopened, with transits monitored by the Palestinian National Authority and the European Union. Only people with Palestinian ID, or foreign nationals, by exception, in certain categories, subject to Israeli oversight, were permitted to cross in and out. All goods, vehicles and trucks to and from Egypt had to pass through the Israeli crossing at Kerem Shalom, under full Israeli supervision.[15] Goods were also permitted transit at the Karni crossing in the north.

 

Legal status

 

The UN, Human Rights Watch and many other international bodies and NGOs consider Israel to be the occupying power of the Gaza Strip as Israel controls Gaza's airspace and territorial waters, and does not allow the movement of goods in or out of Gaza by air or sea (only by land).[16][17][18] However, the border crossing into Egypt is not controlled by Israel; similar to Israel, Egypt has alternately restricted or allowed goods and people to cross that terrestrial border. Israel states that Gaza is no longer occupied, inasmuch as Israel does not exercise effective control or authority over any land or institutions in the Gaza Strip.[19][20] Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel Tzipi Livni stated in January, 2008: “Israel got out of Gaza. It dismantled its settlements there. No Israeli soldiers were left there after the disengagement.”[21]. After Israel withdrew in 2005, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stated, "the legal status of the areas slated for evacuation has not changed."[19] Palestinian American attorney Gregory Khalil said “Israel still controls every person, every good, literally every drop of water to enter or leave the Gaza Strip. Its troops may not be there... but it still restricts the ability for the Palestinian authority to exercise control.”[22]. The issue of the legal status of Gaza strip appears to be particularly complex according to international law and legally intruiging, even after the Operation "Cast Lead" and the Israeli invasion of Gaza in January 2009.[23]

In his statement on the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur wrote that international humanitarian law applied to Israel "in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war."[24] In a 2009 interview on Democracy Now Christopher Gunness, spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) called Israel an occupying power. However, Meagan Buren, Senior Adviser to the pro-Israeli media group Israel Project, contested that characterization.[25]

 

Wikipedia URL