GAsa, for centuries, was a thriving oasis and a Mediterranean outlet for traders from Arabia, at the crossroads between Asia and Africa. The location of this strategic crossroads served as a stepping stone for conquerors from the Middle East to conquer Egypt, like the Ottomans in 1516.
Instead, any common people who dream of taking over the Middle East from Egypt must ensure control of Gaza. In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte, defeated before the walls of Acre, had to return empty-handed to Cairo, not without crossing Gaza again.
On the other hand, in 1917, General Allenby defeated the Ottoman army in Gaza, supervised by German officers, thus opening the road to Jerusalem for British troops, who won a month later. But the Israeli-Arab war of 1948 completely changed this situation by creating a “strip” around Gaza. » 360 km area2It corresponded to 1% of Palestine until then under the British Mandate.
Two Israeli occupations
About 200,000 Palestinian refugees joined the 80,000 inhabitants, and the Gaza Strip now has nearly a quarter of Palestine’s Arab population concentrated in its narrow territory. Mandatory Palestine was the only part of Palestine that was not incorporated into the young nation of Israel or annexed to Jordan, as Egypt decided to impose its military administration there, but without a territorial claim.
Israel’s founder, David Ben-Gurion, soon realized the danger of such a location on its southwestern border, and in 1949 he proposed annexing Gaza to resettle one hundred thousand refugees within Israel. The proposal, rejected by Egypt, sparked a protest in Israel. Gaza effectively becomes the cradle of the fedayeen, as the Palestinian militias are called. The Suez Crisis in 1956 gave David Ben-Gurion the opportunity for the first occupation of Gaza, which lasted four months and killed a thousand Palestinians (that’s one death for every 300 people).
After such a shock, the Gaza Strip came back under the control of Egypt, which suppressed any incursions by the Fedayeen until the fall of the Arab forces during the Six Day War of 1967.
Returning to Gaza, Israel faced four years of low-intensity guerrilla warfare, finally crushed by Ariel Sharon. But even this triumphant general insists that the territory will be permanently pacified only after the Palestinian refugees return to Israel, at least symbolically.
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