The Gaza Strip: A Tumultuous History and its Current Crisis

The Gaza Strip, a sliver of territory hugging the Mediterranean Sea, has been the epicenter of conflicts, disputes, and humanitarian concerns for decades.

by Faruk Imamovic
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The Gaza Strip: A Tumultuous History and its Current Crisis
© Getty Images News/Ulet Ifansasti

The Gaza Strip, a sliver of territory hugging the Mediterranean Sea, has been the epicenter of conflicts, disputes, and humanitarian concerns for decades. With its turbulent history spanning almost a century, understanding its past helps to unravel the complexities of its present situation.

A Brief Retrospective: From British Rule to Hamas Control

Emerging from the ashes of World War I, the Gaza Strip found itself under the mandate of the League of Nations' Palestine governed by British rule. This stewardship ended in 1948, the same year the Arab-Israeli war broke out, turning Gaza into a base for Egyptian forces.

This war shrunk the Arab-controlled region around Gaza city into a narrow strip, subsequently labeled the 'Gaza Strip' In 1949, an armistice agreement between Egypt and Israel gave this strip its modern boundaries. For nearly two decades, the Gaza Strip faced Egyptian military oversight, with its residents caught between Egypt, which never fully accepted them, and Israel, which denied them return or compensation.

As tensions brewed, younger refugees became fedayeen - guerrillas against Israel. Their actions played a significant role in the 1956 Suez crisis. However, the critical turn came in the Six Day War of 1967 when Israel recaptured the strip.

The subsequent two decades saw the uprising of the Intifada and the signing of the Oslo Accords, which aimed at a gradual transfer of governance to the Palestinian Authority (PA). However, the PA's tenure was fraught with challenges from internal and external factions, notably Hamas.

A significant jolt came with the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, eventually leading to Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. The power vacuum was filled in 2006 when Hamas, classified as a terrorist group by many Western nations, seized control, leading to escalated tensions.

The Gaza Strip Today: A Humanitarian Crisis

In 2023, the situation in Gaza is dire. Despite Egypt's 12km border with Gaza, it largely supports the blockade, perceiving Hamas as a destabilizing entity. According to a recent UN report, over half of Gaza's residents require humanitarian aid.

Alarmingly, the number of households in extreme or catastrophic conditions has nearly tripled within a year. Basic needs like food and potable water are scarce, with 1.3 million people dependent on food aid and 90% of Gaza's water deemed undrinkable.

Travel restrictions compound the problem. While Israel has slightly increased work permits, the primary exit for Gazans, the Rafah crossing to Egypt, is overwhelmed with requests. Economic indicators are equally distressing.

Gaza's unemployment rate, one of the world's highest, stands at 46%, surging to a staggering 70% among its youth. This economic downturn is evident when comparing per capita income with the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Recent developments have intensified this crisis.

Both Israel and Egypt have tightened their blockades, cutting off essential supplies. Gaza's power plant, its lifeline, is non-operational, and hospitals are on the verge of shutting down their emergency services. The Gaza Strip, with its intricate history and current calamities, continues to be a focal point in global geopolitics, requiring urgent attention and humane solutions.

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