Population | 1,657,155 (July 2011)
Area | 360 SQ KM
Official Language | Arabic / Hebrew is also spoken by many Palestinians / English is widely understood
Currency | new Israeli shekels (ILS)
Time Zone | UTC +2
Background | The September 1993 Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements provided for a transitional period of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under a series of agreements signed between May 1994 and September 1999, Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for many Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stalled following the outbreak of an intifada in September 2000. 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. 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. In September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip and withdrew settlers and redeployed soldiers from four small northern West Bank settlements. Nonetheless, Israel still controls maritime, airspace, and most access to the Gaza Strip; and it enforces a restricted zone along the border inside Gaza. In January 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, won control of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). HAMAS took control of the PA government in March 2006, but President ABBAS had little success negotiating with HAMAS to present a political platform acceptable to the international community so as to lift economic sanctions on Palestinians. Violent clashes between Fatah and HAMAS supporters in the Gaza Strip in 2006 and early 2007 resulted in numerous Palestinian deaths and injuries. In February 2007, ABBAS and HAMAS Political Bureau Chief MISHAL signed the Mecca Agreement in Saudi Arabia that resulted in the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government (NUG) headed by HAMAS member Ismail HANIYA. However, fighting continued in the Gaza Strip, and in June 2007, HAMAS militants succeeded in a violent takeover of all military and governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip. ABBAS dismissed the NUG and through a series of presidential decrees formed a PA government in the West Bank led by independent Salam FAYYAD. HAMAS rejected the NUG's dismissal, and despite multiple rounds of Egyptian-brokered reconciliation negotiations, the two groups have failed to bridge their differences. Late November 2007 through June 2008 witnessed a substantial increase in Israeli-Palestinian violence. An Egyptian-brokered truce in June 2008 between Israel and HAMAS brought about a five-month pause in hostilities, but spiraling end-of-year violence resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,100 to 1,400 Palestinians and left tens of thousands of people homeless. International donors pledged $4.5 billion in aid to rebuild the Gaza Strip, but by the end of 2010 large-scale reconstruction had not begun.
NEWS ABOUT PALESTINE-GAZA-WEST BANK
Palestine: PalFest Literature Festival in Gaza for First Time
(Video: Highlights of PalFest 2012/The MohaDoha)
(HN, 5/9/12) - This year for the 1st time the Palestinian Festival of Literature, or PalFest, was held in Gaza. Since it was founded in 2008, the festival's aim has been to bring together Palestinian & international authors; organizing public events in the evenings & creative writing workshops for Palestinian students during the day. According to the festival's founder, Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, having the festival in Gaza has been the ultimate goal of the event since it began, but it always faced tremendous difficulties in getting permits for the participating authors to come through the Rafah Crossing.
This year they were successful & a group of about 40 Egyptian, Tunisian, Sudanese & Palestinian authors, artists & activists were granted permission to visit Gaza & participate from May 5 to 10. Tho, on the closing day of the festival in Dar al Basha, a historical house, police shut down the festival & 3 hours later apologized, stating it was an “individual error”, & "PalFest would always be welcome in Gaza". The closing event took place in Cairo on May 11th. (Read more at PalFest)
Palestinian Prisoners Hunger Strike to Protest Israel
(HN, 4/17/12) - 1500 or so Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began an open-ended hunger strike Tuesday, & another 1,100 refused to eat for the day, the Israel Prisons Service said. The strike began on the Palestinians' annual Prisoners' Day. On the same day that Khader Adnan, who ended a 67-day hunger strike in February, was released from jail. Among those who refused food on Tuesday were 8 women being held in the Givon Prison after being refused entry to Israel in the 'flytilla' protests over the weekend. Human rights groups say more prisoners in the Ofer & Megiddo prison are expected to join the strike in coming days. The strikers are protesting three main Israeli policies: solitary confinement, administrative detention & the continuation of sanctions imposed before the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Palestinians held a rally in Ramallah Tuesday, to mark Prisoners' Day. (Read more at Haaretz)