Israel-Hamas war: Here is what to know about the Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip is slightly twice as large in area as Washington, D.C.

The Gaza Strip, home to more than 2.3 million people, has become the focal point in the Middle East since Hamas militants attacked Israel from the area on Saturday.

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According to Human Rights Watch, the Gaza Strip, which has come under heavy bombardment as Israel responds to the Hamas attack, is “the world’s largest open-air prison.”

Here are some things to know about the Gaza Strip.

Where is the Gaza Strip?

The Gaza Strip is an area that is 25 miles long and 6 miles wide, according to NPR. It is surrounded by Israel to the north and east, Egypt to the south and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the north and east and Egypt to the south.

The area is contained by walls and fences built by Israel, according to Gisha, an Israeli nonprofit organization.

Gaza is about 139 square miles, or more than twice the size of Washington, D.C., CBS News reported. Its border with Israel measures about 36 miles, and it shares an 8-mile border with Egypt.

The area has 24 miles of coastline but it has been blocked by Israel’s navy since 2009, according to the news outlet. It is closed to maritime traffic. Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and shoreline and what goods can cross its borders, NPR reported.

Gaza has been under a blockade by both Israel and Egypt since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.

Gaza is one of two Palestinian territories in the area, the news outlet reported. The other is the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel.


With more than 2.3 million Palestinians living in its enclave, the Gaza Strip is “one of the world’s most densely populated territories,” according to Gisha. Half of the Palestinians living in Gaza are under the age of 19, NBC News reported. According to CBS News, 40% of the population is 14 years old or younger.

Difficult conditions

Conditions in Gaza have difficult for many years.

The blockade has stifled the area’s economy. They have caused restrictions on the transfer of basic goods, according to The Wall Street Journal. Water, electricity and other infrastructure have been affected, the newspaper reported. The U.N. Palestinian relief agency, UNRWA, said that clean water is unavailable for 95% of the Gaza Strip’s population.

According to the World Bank, unemployment rates in the Strip have topped 40%. NBC News, citing the United Nations, reported that more than 65% of the population live under the poverty line. The World Food Program said that 63% of people in Gaza are “food insecure.”

There has also been a rise in mental health issues, including depression, among young people living in the area, NBC News reported.

Gaza’s history

Gaza was part of what was known as Palestine before Israel was created in 1948. It was part of the Ottoman Empire before the area -- including Israel -- was occupied by the British.

In 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes after Israel was created, NPR reported.

The Gaza Strip was captured by Egypt during its war with Israel and remained under its control until 1967. That year, Israel took over the territory after the “Six-Day War” of June 1967, along with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the news outlet reported.

In 2005, Israel withdrew its troops from the Gaza Strip and between 7,000 and 9,000 settlers left the area, according to CBS News.

In 2006, the Hamas movement led in the territory’s election, defeating the Palestinian Authority, the governing body in charge of Palestinian-populated areas, the news outlet reported. In 2007, the militant group expelled the Palestinian Authority and took over by force. There have not been elections in the Strip for 16 years, NPR reported.