Gaza Strip

This term describes the historical developments leading to the political status of the Gaza Strip today.


The term "Gaza Strip" refers to the territory bordering Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea (see Map) under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).


The city of Gaza is one of the ancient cities of the Mediterranean. Nowadays, the Gaza Strip is approximately 360 sq km around Gaza city with a population size of around 1.4 million. It is characterized by highest population density and birth rate as well as limited natural resources.1 However, this term focuses on its recent and present political status.

  • In Mandatory Palestine (1922 -1947), the areas which are today known as Israel Proper, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank were a single, physically contiguous territory ruled under British Mandate.
  • Under the UN Partition Plan (UNGAR 181) (5/47) the area that was to become the Gaza Strip was allotted to be part of an Arab state.
  • Egyptian Control (1948 – 1967) – After the 1948 War, the territory surrounding the city of Gaza fell under Egyptian control and became commonly known as the Gaza Strip (Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement 2/49).2
    Egypt did not annex the Gaza Strip. Its residents were issued All-Palestine passports3 and were not granted Egyptian citizenship. The Gaza-Egypt border was sealed4 and military rule was imposed.5
  • Israeli Control (1967 – 1993) – In the Six Day War (4-10/6/67), Israel took control of the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan.
    Israel never attempted to annex Gaza. Instead, it established a military government in accordance with the law of occupation.6
    UN Security Council Resolution 242 (11/67) called for an Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, including the Gaza Strip (See UN Security Council Resolution 242 and 338 7).
  • 1978 Camp David Accords – Called for the establishment of a Palestinian Self-Governing Authority in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.8 This was the first time since the Partition Plan (11/47) that Israel formally recognized vis-à-vis Egypt Gaza and the West Bank as a Single Territorial Unit. This concept refers to the principle that the West Bank and Gaza Strip constitute a unified political, legal, economic and territorial entity. 9
  • The Oslo Process (1993-2001) - Declaration of Principles 10 (9/93), Gaza-Jericho Agreement (5/94) and Interim Agreement (9/95) – Based on the Camp David Accords, Israel and the PLO formally recognized the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a Single Territorial Unit and agreed on the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. Control over part of the Gaza Strip was transferred from Israel to the PA, while Israel retained control over the external perimeter including the airspace the sea and the Gaza-Egypt border, as well as over Israeli settlements within the Strip. 11
  • Gaza Disengagement Plan (2005) - In August 2005, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and parts of Northern Samaria (West Bank) and dismantled all Israeli settlements in these areas.
    In the aftermath of the Disengagement, ambiguity exists regarding whether Israel has ended its Responsibility over Gaza as it still retains control over the Gaza's aerial, naval, and electromagnetic spaces.12
    In addition, the Disengagement created a de facto difference in status between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This has raised questions as to mainly the current political and economic viability of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a Single Territorial Unit.

1 Click here for information from the CIA Factbook.
2 The armistice line followed the international border, with the exception of Gaza's incorporation into Egypt. Although, the armistice agreements explicitly denied the political significance of the lines, they were de facto boundaries until June, 1967.
3 Hajj Amin al-Husseini established the All Palestine Government (9/48) in Gaza which, was reduced, within a few years, to nothing more than "window dressing" by Egypt and the Arab League. See: Kimmerling, Baruch and Joel S. Migdal. The Palestinian People, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003, p.216.
4 One exception was the opening of Egyptian universities to Palestinians.
5 Kimmerling and Migdal, p.230.
6 Nevertheless, Israel disputes the applicability of the laws of occupation outlined in the Geneva Convention to the Gaza Strip. Some Israeli lawyers argue that the laws of occupation laid out in the Fourth Geneva Convention do not apply to Gaza, because there was no sovereign power in Gaza and the Convention only deals with "occupation of territory of a High Contracting Party". The Israeli Supreme Court has not ruled on the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention towards Gaza as it views the Convention as treaty law and therefore beyond the scope of its jurisdiction. See: Benvenisti Eyal, The International Law of Occupation, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993, pp.107-109.
7 Resolution 242 was passed in the aftermath of the 1967 War, whereas resolution 338 was passed during the 1973 War.
8 No distinction was made between these two territories.
9 Leading up to the 1967 War, a few Arab initiatives (such as the Iraqi President Abd al-Karim Qasim's [1959]) promoted the idea of establishing a single Palestinian Entity in the West Bank (under Jordan) and the Gaza Strip (under Egypt) as a prelude to the full liberation of all of Mandatory Palestine. In the aftermath of the 1967 War, the two territories came under Israeli control, thus uniting them under a common regime for the first time since their emergence as distinct territorial units.
10 See The Declaration of Principles, Article IV: Jurisdiction.
11 This agreement also incorporated the Paris Protocol which established a Customs Envelope around the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel. A Customs Envelope is a singular area under the control of one sovereign actor which imposes uniform taxes on imports and exports. No additional customs or tariffs are imposed within this internal arrangement.
12 See also the concept of End of Responsibility.