The Gaza Strip is a small piece of land consisting of about 142 square miles – roughly the same size as Philadelphia. It is located in the northwest corner of Israel and also borders Egypt on its west end.
With about 1.7 million residents, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. After many years of switching hands, Israel took Gaza from Egypt in 1967 and held it under military occupation for nearly four decades.
While occupying Gaza, Israel began developing governmental infrastructure and civil authority, and it supplied the area with food, water and electricity.
In 2005, Israel unilaterally ended its occupation but continued to control the borders.
Soon after, however, violence broke out in Gaza again. Less than two years later, Hamas took power.
History of Hamas
Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization by Canada, the United States, most of Europe, Japan, Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
Hamas translates from Arabic to English as Islamic Resistance Movement, and it has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, which is a fundamentalist religious movement.
Since taking over the Gaza Strip, Hamas has built a stock of more than 10,000 missiles that are being used against Israel. Many of these weapons are being hidden in civilian areas and homes.
Recently, thousands of booby-trapped tunnels have been found under the streets of Gaza as well as under the Gazan borders. In an effort to stop the movement of weapons, Israel and Egypt have closed off their borders to Gaza.
On June 12, three Israeli teens were kidnapped in Israel’s West Bank and were found dead a week later. It is believed that Hamas was behind the killings, and that sparked the current conflict between Gaza and Israel.
Israel cracked down on Hamas and sealed its borders. Hamas retaliated with more missiles shot into Israeli cities.