Gaza is one of the oldest cities in the world. The city is strategically situated between two continents, Asia and Africa. This geographical location made the city acquire a strategic and extraordinary military status; it is the southern front defense line not only of Palestine but of all Sham area (Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan) as well. It is also, the east northern advanced defense line of the Egyption depth. Consequently, the city had been a battlefield for most of the ancient and recent empires, the Pharaonic, the Assyrian, the Persian, the Greek, the Roman, the Crusades, and during the First World War.
Strategically located on the Mediterranean coastal route, ancient Gaza was a prosperous trade center and a stop on the caravan route between Egypt and Syria. Gaza has an important strategic location between the continents of Asia and Africa. This important location made Gaza a vital entrance to the most important trade and military route in the world. This route was known as "Via Mars - Sea Route" or "Horas Route". This route connects Palestine with Egypt on one side, and the Arabian Peninsula and Southeast Asia on the other; it also connects all of these areas with Europe through the Mediterranean.
Due to all these powerful factors, the Cana'nites established the city and called it Gaza around the year 3000 BC. The city was occupied by Egypt around the 15th century BCE. Philistines settled the area several hundred years later, and Gaza became one of their chief cities. The Area of ancient Gaza was about 1 Km. square, it was situated over hill and surrounded by a large wall with four gates in the four directions: The Sea Gate (Memas) in the west, Asklan Gate in the north, Hebron Gate in the east and El-Daroom in the south. The names given to the these gates were changing in accordance with the changing consecutive empires. Those gates used to be closed at sunset, therefore the city inaccessible fortitude against the enemy.
The Minoans who resided in Gaza gave it the same name: Minoa (an old name for Gaza). They helped in reviving the city and had strong ties with Gaza citizens as Ma'an merchants were married to Gazans. The Pharaohs, during the reign of the Pharaoh III, 1447-1501 BC., gave it the name Gazatwa which is related to the treasures said to be buried by Cambayses during the Persian rule. Gaza was captured by Arabs in the AC 600s. Believed to be the site where the Prophet Muhammad's great grandfather was buried, the city became an important Islamic center. In the 12th century, Gaza was taken by Christian Crusaders; it returned to Muslim control in 1187. The city fell to the Ottomans in the 16th century and was taken by the British during World War I (1914-1918).Following World War I, Gaza became part of the British mandate for Palestine.
After the first Arab Israel war in 1948, Egypt took control over Gaza and its surrounding area. Israel occupied the city and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Six Day War, and Gaza remained under Israeli administration for the next 27 years. With the onset of the Palestinian uprising known as the intifada in 1987, Gaza became a center of political unrest and confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians, and economic conditions in the city worsened.
In September 1993, leaders of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo Accords calling for Palestinian administration of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, which was implemented in May 1994. Most of the Israeli forces left Gaza, leaving a new Palestinian Authority to administer and police the city, along with the rest of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat, chose Gaza as its first provincial headquarters. In September 1995, Israel and the PLO signed a second peace agreement extending the Palestinian Authority to some West Bank towns. The agreement also established an elected 88-member Palestinian Council, which held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996.
The Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (the DOP), signed in Washington in September 1993, provided for a transitional period of Palestinian interim self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. A transfer of authority to the Palestinian Authority (PA) for the Gaza Strip and Jericho took place pursuant to the Israel-PLO 4 May 1994 Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area and, in additional areas of the West Bank, pursuant to the Israel-PLO 28 September 1995 Interim Agreement, the Israel-PLO 15 January 1997 Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron, the Israel-PLO 23 October 1998 Wye River Memorandum, and the 4 September 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement. Direct negotiations to determine the permanent status of Gaza and the West Bank began in September 1999 after a three-year hiatus, but were derailed by a second intifadah that broke out a year later. In April 2003, the Quartet (US, EU, UN, and Russia) presented a roadmap to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005 based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. The proposed date for a permanent status agreement has been postponed indefinitely due to violence and accusations that both sides have not followed through on their commitments. Following Palestinian leader Yasir ARAFAT's death in late 2004, Mahmud ABBAS was elected PA president in January 2005. A month later, Israel and the PA agreed to the Sharm el-Sheikh Commitments in an effort to move the peace process forward.
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