The Gaza Strip, the 140-square mile stretch of land located
along the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Israel, has
endured decades of protest, military operations and violence
as Israel and the Palestinian Authority have both asserted the
right to control the area. It is separated by Israel from
Jerusalem, which holds deep religious and cultural
significance for both Arabs and Jews, with both Israel and
Palestinians claiming Jerusalem as a capital city.
Before Israel became a nation, the majority of people
dwelling in the region were Palestinians—Arabs who lived in
what was then known as Palestine.
On May 14, 1948, Israel was officially declared a state,
marking the first Jewish state in over 2,000 years. Just one
day later, war broke out between Israel and five Arab
countries—Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. At the end
of this conflict, known as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egypt
was given control of the Gaza Strip.
In the aftermath of the war, scholars estimate that more than
700,000 Palestinians left or were forced to flee their homes
in the newly- formed Jewish Israel. Thousands of Palestinian
refugees settled in the Gaza Strip. Many were essentially
trapped between two countries—Egypt and Israel—that
wouldn’t grant them easy passage.
As of 2018, most of the Palestinian inhabitants are the
original 1948 war refugees and their descendants, many of
them still living in refugee camps.
Egypt controlled Gaza until the Six-Day War in 1967, when
Israel seized the strip, along with several other important
areas of land.
The 1993 and 1995 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinian
and Israeli leaders negotiated for Israel’s withdrawal from
Gaza and other key areas, which happened in 2005 under
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
An Islamist political group called Hamas won elections and
took control of Gaza in 2006. Since then, Hamas has
occupied the strip, which has become a site for protests,
bombings, land assaults and other acts of violence. Israel
and the United States, as well as several other countries,
consider Hamas a terrorist organization.
Palestinians in Gaza don’t have an official army, but they do
possess thousands of guns, rockets and other weapons.
Since Israel controls the Gaza coastline and all entry points
into the region, experts believe many of these weapons are
smuggled into the region or provided by anti-Israeli allies in
other countries, such as Iran.
Three major conflicts between Israel and Hamas have taken
place in Gaza since 2005. Operation Case Lead (2008-2009)
and Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) were in response to
rocket fire over the Gaza-Israel border, while the kidnapping
and murdering of three Israeli teenagers by two Hamas
members sparked a seven-week conflict known as Operation
Protective Edge in 2014.
From March 30, 2018 to May 15, 2018, Palestinians in Gaza
took part in a planned protest called the “Great March of
Return,” organized to raise awareness for refugees’ rights and
coinciding with the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to
Tensions escalated, adding to the growing list of violent
confrontations that have taken place on the Gaza Strip.
Despite numerous peace efforts, the territory has been
characterized by instability and warfare and continues to
remain a volatile region.
In May 2018, tensions erupted when the U.S. Embassy
relocated to Jerusalem. Perceiving this as signal of American
support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Palestinians
responded with protests at the Gaza-Israel border, which
were met with Israeli force resulting in the deaths of dozens
of protesters. Here is how conflict over ownership of the
region has played out over the last 70 years.
In May 2021, violence between Israelis and Palestinians
escalated, following clashes and demonstrations in