PARIS: The Gaza Strip is an impoverished Palestinian enclave that has been under Israeli blockade since 2007. It is ruled by Hamas now at war with Israel for the fifth time in 15 years. Here is what you need to know about Gaza:
5,000 years of history
In 1998, archaeologists discovered the remains of a large fortified Canaanite town, Tell es Sakan, near Gaza City that was occupied continuously from 3200 to 2000 BC. They hailed the site as being of major interest, marking the shift from agricultural to urban society.
Pottery was found that could be linked to Narmer, Egypt's first king, indicating Gaza's close ties with its giant neighbour to the east 1,000 years before the pyramids were built.
Cramped Mediterranean strip
One of the most densely populated places on the planet, Gaza is home to over two million people living on a 362-square-kilometre strip of land. It is bordered by Israel in the east and north, Egypt in the south, with the Mediterranean Sea to the west. After the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli war that surrounded the creation of Israel, Gaza was placed under Egyptian administration. Israel occupied Gaza during the 1967 Six-Day War and it was only fully returned to Palestinians in 2005, when Israel withdrew its last soldiers and thousands of settlers.
In 2006, Israel imposed an air, land and sea blockade on Gaza following the capture by Hamas of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was held prisoner for five years. In 2007, Israel tightened the blockade after Hamas took control of Gaza from the secular Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas. The only entrance to Gaza not controlled by Israel is Rafah on the Egyptian border.
The Gaza Strip has virtually no industry and suffers from a chronic lack of water, fuel and electricity. Around half of the population is unemployed, according to the World Bank, and more than two-thirds are reliant on development aid.
Fifth war since 2008
This is the fifth war between Palestinian fighters in Gaza and Israel following Israel's withdrawal from the territory in 2005. The four previous wars in 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2021 were marked by devastating Israeli air strikes on the enclave and barrages of rockets raining down on Israel from the other direction.
The deadliest by far was the seven-week conflict in July-August 2014, which killed 2,251 Palestinians and 74 Israelis, including 68 soldiers.
Israel had flattened parts of Gaza with the stated goal of stopping Palestinian rocket fire and destroying infiltration tunnels. - AFP