Gaza Strip

Gaza: A chronology of oppression

  • Under the 1947 United Nations partition plan that split Palestine apart, giving 52 percent to a Jewish state of Israel, the Gaza Strip was supposed to be part of the now-smaller Palestinian nation.

  • However, when the state of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, the Egyptian Army moved into Gaza and the territory became a magnet for Palestinians fleeing from all over.  Gaza was, as one refugee described it, the “Noah’s Ark” of a lost Palestine.
  • One in four Palestinians from the former British-governed Palestine thus took refuge in a strip of land that represented just 1 percent of its land area. Seen another way, 200,000 refugees were packed into a territory previously inhabited by just 80,000 Palestinians. (The proportion is about the same today: 1.2 million refugees out of a population of 1.8 million.)
  • During Israel’s Six-Day War against its Arab neighbors in June 1967, Gaza was invaded by the Jewish army and the surrendering Egyptians were soon evacuated. Some 8,000 Israeli settlers moved in.
  • In December 1987, a Palestinian generation born and raised under two decades of occupation found in its frustration the energy for an unprecedented intifada (the “First Intifada”), or uprising. The cradle of this uprising was the Gaza Strip, although it soon spread to the West Bank. (A Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, began September 2000, when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount with hundreds of soldiers, seen by Palestinians as highly provocative. Palestinian protesters were dispersed by the Israeli army, using tear gas and rubber bullet.)
  • The Second Intifada did not wind down until 2005, when the Israeli cabinet also directed the withdrawal of its military forces and 8.000 settlers from Gaza. The pull-out was part of a unilateral disengagement plan that allowed Israel to attack the Strip with less caution, as well as provide cover for settlement expansion in the West Bank. However, Israel continued a virtual occupation through total control of its crossings in and out of Gaza.
  • In January 2006, Israel and the United States pushed for Palestinian elections, and were surprised when the Hamas movement won control of the Palestinian legislative council. In retaliation for the victory of what they considered “terrorists,” Israeli authorities imprisoned many of the moderate members of Hamas who had run for office (including 28 still in prison today). In June of that year, Hamas operatives captured Israeli solider Gilad Shalit, saying he would not be released until female and under-age Palestinian political prisoners were freed. (A deal for Shalit’s release was not finalized until 2011.)
  • Meanwhile, as documented in Vanity Fair magazine, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice forbade the Palestinian Authority from forming a unity government (threatening a total cutoff of aid), then armed a faction of Fatah forces to prevent Hamas from assuming leadership. Hamas pre-empted the “coup” and in 2007, expelled the Palestinian Authority from Gaza. In retaliation, Israel imposed a blockade on the movement of goods and human traffic in and out of Gaza that has continues today. As a direct result, the Strip’s 1.8 million population has been plunged into poverty and conflicts erupt regularly as attempts to enforce international law against collective punishment fail and resistance turns violent.
  • In the first of three wars on Gaza, Israeli forces invaded the Strip on Dec. 27, 2008, calling it “Operation Cast Lead.” Six months previously, Israel had negotiated a ceasefire with Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza. Under the agreement, both sides agreed to stop hostilities across the Green Line, the de facto border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. And, despite minor violations by both sides, the truce was largely successful. That is, until Nov. 4, 2008, when Israeli soldiers staged a raid into the Strip, killing six members of Hamas. The attack, which took place on the eve of the U.S. presidential elections, ended the ceasefire. Over the course of 22 days, 13 Israelis, including 10 soldiers, were killed, while more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed and 5,500 injured. In addition, 4,000 buildings were destroyed and 20,000 damaged throughout the Gaza Strip. On Jan. 18, 2009, under enormous international pressure and just two days before Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States, Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew its forces from Gaza. Palestinian armed groups followed with a separate unilateral ceasefire.
  • The second major assault, called Operation Pillar of Defense by Israel, came on Nov. 14, 2012. Triggered by the Israeli killing of Ahmed Jabari, chief of the Gaza military wing of Hamas, it lasted eight days. Four Israeli civilians and two soldiers were killed by Palestinian rocket attacks, compared to 158 Palestinians, including 102 civilians – of which 30 were children and 13 were women.
  • The most recent war, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge” by Israel, was the most devastating – lasting 50 days (or 51, depending on when you start the clock). After the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations stalled, Fatah moved toward reconciliation with Hamas in Gaza, and the two factions formed a Palestinian consensus government in early June of 2014. Meanwhile, Israel blamed Hamas for the June 12 kidnapping of three teenage settlers in the occupied West Bank and conducted massive arrests. Rocket fire from Gaza increased in protest. When the youth’s bodies were found on July 1, Israel warned that Hamas “would pay” for their deaths.  Its massive assault began July 8, 2014, with extensive air raids and artillery strikes. On July 17, the Israeli military launched a ground invasion. It is estimated that 2,191Palestinians killed (1,473 of whom were civilians) and 11,000 were wounded.
  • According to the UN, 18,000 housing units were totally destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli attacks during the summer 2014 war, leaving approximately 108,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians homeless. This is in addition to the 12,000 Palestinians still displaced from Israel’s 2008-09 assault. At the peak of Israel’s war, an estimated 485,000 people (approximately 28 percent of Gaza’s population) were displaced. And then there is the extensive damage to Gaza’s infrastructure (such as the power supply), commercial enterprises (419 businesses were damaged and 128 totally destroyed) and civic institutions (for example, 22 schools were destroyed and 118 damaged).
  • Today, months after the Aug. 26 ceasefire, almost no reconstruction has occurred, and Israel violates the terms of the truce almost daily – shooting at farmers who venture into the “buffer zone” along Gaza’s border with Israel, as well as fishermen who try to sail more than five miles out. The world is looking away, and we must refocus its attention.