WASHINGTON, D.C.-The Gaza Strip has been in the news a lot since the Hamas attacks on Israel, but what and where exactly is the Gaza Strip? and why is is so important to both Israel and the Arab world?
A narrow, 140-square mile strip of land bordering the Mediterranean Sea between Egypt and Israel, the Gaza Strip has been one of the most contested regions in the world for decades according to the global conflict tracker from the Council on Foreign Relations.
On October 9, Israel’s Defense Minister announced “a complete siege” of Gaza, cutting off all electricity, fuel, food and water to the enclave of 2 million.
Palestine was a former Ottoman territory placed under U.K. rule by the League of Nations in 1922. Following World War II, the U.N. proposed partitioning Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish.
When Israel became a country in 1948 it claimed 77 percent of the Palestinian mandated area according to the U.N., with the Palestinian area being carved into two settlements, the West Bank and the smaller Gaza Strip.
In 1967 Israel took control of the Gaza Strip following its six-day war with Egypt. From 1967 until 2005 Israel controlled the strip and created 21 Jewish settlements in the contested area according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, leaving the settlement under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas, a militant nationalist Palestinian organization took control of Gaza after it won elections in 2006.
Israel has enforced a land, air and sea blockade of Gaza since 2007, maintaining that it must do so for the security of its borders, despite the fact that the U.N., Red Cross and various human rights organizations consider the blockade an illegal occupation.
Hamas was founded in 1987 to fight against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank according to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center.
International watchdog groups, including the Council on Foreign Relations, have reported that Hamas receives money, weapons and training from Iran and the U.S., Canada and U.K. have declared it a terrorist organization.