The occupied Palestinian territory is comprised of two discontinuous regions - the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
OCCUPIED WEST BANK
The West Bank
(including East Jerusalem
) has a land area of 5,460 sq km and a water area of 220 sq km (the northwest part of the Dead Sea). Its demarcation line with Israel
is 307 km long and with Jordan 97 km. The name "West Bank" became commonly used after 1950 when Jordan annexed this land
west of the Jordan River.
At the end of 2009, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimated that there were about 4 million Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territories, of which 2.5 millions were West Bank residents and 1.5 million lived in the Gaza Strip. Since 1967, the number of Israeli settlements
has been increasing and expanding significantly throughout the West Bank. In 2009, some 280,000 Jewish settlers were living in the occupied West Bank alone, according to an EU report. This number increases to almost half a million settlers when including occupied East Jerusalem.
The West Bank-Israeli demarcation line was delineated as the "Green Line" after the end of the 1948 war and the signing of the 1949 Armistice agreement
between Israel and Jordan. On June 5, 1967, an Israeli attack on Egypt started the 1967 war that eventually led to Israelzzz*zs occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In July 1988, Jordanian King Hussein announced full legal and administrative disengagement from the West Bank with the exception of guardianship over the Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem.
The Oslo Accords
signed in 1993 divided control and administration of the West Bank into three areas. Area designated as "A" is under Palestinian control and administration, representing 17% of the West Bank territory and 55% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank. "Area B" is controlled by Israel and administered by Palestinians. It constitutes 24% of West Bank land and 41% of West Bank’s Palestinians are living there. Finally, "Area C" is under full Israeli control and administration comprising the largest part of West Bank territory with its 59%, however with only 4% of Palestinians living in that area. Furthermore, Israel maintains overall control over Israeli settlements, road infrastructure, water resources and borders of the whole West Bank territory.
The al-Aqsa Intifada
altered these divisions, with the Israeli military stationed on the borders and moving fluidly in and out of Palestinian towns.
In June 2001, Israel started the construction of a structure consisting of a network of fences and massive concrete walls, in some areas up to eight meters high. The International Court of Justice described this complex construction as the “Wall
”, justifying this term as most appropriate to understand the physical sense of the structure. A short portion of the Wall is contiguous with the Green line, or 1949 Armistice line, but most of it is being built within the occupied West Bank in a way that it includes several Israeli settlement blocks. The Israeli army estimates that the entire length of around 810 km long Wall will be completed in 2020.
OCCUPIED GAZA STRIP
The Gaza Strip
is located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It has a total area of only 360 square km, being 41 km long and 6 - 12 km wide. It borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel to the south, east and north. Some 1.5 million Palestinians live in this small territory, making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
After Britain’s withdrawal from Mandatory Palestine in 1948, Gaza was seized by Egypt until the 1967 war, when Israel occupied the Strip. In September 2005, Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza, dismantling Israeli settlements, removing settlers and armed forces from Gaza territory.
The Gaza disengagement
created a power vacuum, aggravating the security situation and causing a rift among the Palestinian factions.
In January 2006, parliamentary elections took place in the occupied Palestinian territories with the surprising victory of the Islamic resistance movement, known as Hamas
. When Hamas assumed power, Israel, the United States and the European Union refused to recognize the governmentzzz*zs legitimacy, cutting off direct aid and funds for the Palestinian Authority.
By June 2007, internal fighting
between Hamas and Fateh
intensified and eventually resulted in Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip. Israel declared Gaza “hostile territory” and subsequently imposed a blockade
on the Strip.
On December 27, 2008 Israeli army initiated a 22-day military invasion into Gaza
killing more than 1,400 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, meanwhile on the Israeli side there were 13 casualties, including 3 civilians.
In the late 19th century, Jewish nationalist ambitions embodied in the Zionist movement began to arrive in Palestine, in the form of several waves of Jewish immigration from different parts of the world.
In 1918, the British mandate in Palestine was established and with the support of Britain, the Jewish colonization project expanded significantly. As a result, Palestinian nationalism emerged to counter British colonialism and expansionist Zionism, climaxing in the Palestinian revolt (1936-1939).
As Israeli historian Ilan Pappé puts it, the Zionist leadership became convinced that the only way to achieve a Jewish state with ethnic supremacy was by total expulsion of the native Palestinian population. After the Second World War, Britain’s decision to withdraw from Palestine accelerated the implementation of Zionist plans.
In February 1947, the issue was transferred to the United Nations, which eventually adopted the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181
, also known as the UN Partition Plan for Palestine, dividing it into two states.
On May 14, 1948 the creation of the state of Israel took place on 80 percent of historic Palestine and was followed by the outbreak of the 1948 war and the intervention of neighboring Arab countries.
By the end of 1948, some 750,000 Palestinians constituting half of the Palestine’s indigenous population was uprooted, 531 Palestinian villages and 11 urban neighborhoods were destroyed. This historic event is remembered by Palestinians as "al-Nakba" or "the Catastrophe".
In 1967, Middle East countries were mobilizing their armed forces culminating in an Israeli attack on Egypt on June 5. The 1967 war lasted for six days and allowed Israel to occupy a remaining 20 percent of historic Palestine, including the West Bank (with East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. As a result of this conflict, the UN Security Council adopted unanimously Resolution 242
, calling on Israel to withdraw its armed forces from the occupied territories.
In 1987, the first Intifada
, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation broke out in a Gaza refugee camp, quickly spreading into West Bank and East Jerusalem. After the 1991 Madrid conference
, Palestinian leadership represented by the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO) returned from the exile in Tunisia.
In 1993, secret negotiations between Israel and the PLO leadership resulted in signing of Oslo accords
and subsequently the Palestinian Authority was established with Yasser Arafat
as its leader. The peace talks broke down again at 2000 Camp David summit
when final status settlement between Palestinians and Israel was on table. With the deteriorating peace process and a provocative visit of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon
to the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif) on September 28, 2000, the second Intifada
erupted. Four years later, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
officially declared end of armed confrontation with Israeli forces at 2005 Sharm el-Sheikh summit.
FINAL STATUS NEGOTIATIONS
Final status of the occupied Palestinian territories is to be determined in peace talks
between Israel and Palestinians. In June 2002, George W. Bush called for an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace based on principles laid in the Road map
for peace. The Quartet (the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations) expressed its support with these principles, and both Palestinian and Israeli representatives accepted the Road map, although the Israeli government made 14 reservations. The implementation phase started on April 30, 2003 when Mahmoud Abbas was appointed the first ever Palestinian prime minister.
According to negotiators
, recent talks have explored the idea of a land swap, where Palestinians would give up areas of the West Bank that are occupied by settlements in exchange for land within the 1948 Green Line.