The United Nations (UN) in 2012 released a report saying “Gaza will not be liveable until 2020”. It is 2021 now and Gaza is one of the territories with the highest population density. Gaza has been facing a blockade of Israel and Egypt since 2007.
Its economy is in name only, unemployment is alarmingly high, and there is no stable electricity-water system, but more than 20 lakh people live in this area. How is this possible?
Hamas controls Gaza. The organisation won the Palestinian elections in 2006, effectively gaining the control of Gaza Strip. From then on, Israel and Egypt put a blockade on Gaza. Both countries have restricted the movement of goods and people from the Gaza Strip.
Israel and Gaza are again mired in conflict. Hamas is pounding Israel with rockets day after day. The history of Hamas and the political career of Benjamin Netanyahu are somewhat intertwined. Among the many militant Islamic groups in Palestine, Hamas is the largest and most influential. Its real name is the Islamic Registration Movement and it emerged in 1987 after the first intifada.
Hamas has also made a presence felt in the political process of Palestine. Its military wing Qassam Brigade has fought three wars with Israel. In 1993, the first Oslo accord was signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Then in 1995, a second agreement was concluded.
The then U.S. President Bill Clinton and the world hoped that after the agreements, the issue of Israel-Palestine would calm down a bit. But Hamas conducted relentless suicide bombings in Israel in February and March of 1996, due to which the Israelis are believed to have gone against peace agreements.
Right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu also became Prime Minister that same year. Netanyahu was strongly against the peace deal. His chances of victory were grim before the suicide bombing.
Gaza is called the Gaza Strip only because it is just a small piece of land. Overall, the area is 40 km long and about 8–10 km wide. But it has more population density than cities like Tel Aviv, London or Shanghai.
The population is more than 20 lakh. Due to high population density, Israel’s targeted airstrikes also pose a high risk of casualties to civilians. According to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), living conditions in Gaza are extremely bad. Almost 90% of the population has no access to clean drinking water. Power cuts are frequent in Gaza because demand is higher than supply.
According to World Bank data, Gaza is one of the areas with the highest unemployment rate in the world. The UN estimates that around 80% of the population depends on international aid for survival and basic amenities.
Many countries, including the U.K., U.S. and the European Union, consider Hamas a terrorist organisation. Therefore, instead of providing financial and humanitarian aid directly to them, most countries send help to Gaza through UNRWA. Israel has set up a corridor to transport food, relief and medical supplies to Gaza. Israel surrounds the area on three sides. It also shares a very small border with Egypt.
Since the second intifada in 2000, Gaza’s import-export has drastically declined. Amidst all this, the “Tunnel Economy” is flourishing. Hundreds and thousands of tunnels have been built in Gaza to bring goods from Egypt illegally. These tunnels are under Hamas’ control.
Although the U.S. is Israel’s ally, it still sends millions of dollars of aid to Palestine. This financial support was reduced during Donald Trump’s tenure. But the Joe Biden administration is willing to send $235 million.
Despite being a group of Sunni Muslims, Hamas is little liked by Arab countries. The only exception being Qatar, which is financially helping Hamas. This year, Qatar raised Gaza’s aid to $360 million. In its statement, the Qatari government said, “With this aid, the salaries of Gaza employees can be paid, financial assistance to the needy families can be given and fuel can be purchased to run the power stations.”