Gaza City: The Gaza Strip is a poverty-stricken Palestinian territory run by Islamist movement Hamas under crippling blockade by Israel, with which it has fought three wars since 2008.
As the worst flare-up between Israel and Gaza militants since 2014 threatens a new war, here is some background on the tiny enclave, which is one of the world’s most densely populated territories:
– Occupation by Israel –
Following the war that accompanied the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Gaza came under the administration of neighbouring Egypt.
It was seized by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967.
– Pullout and blockade –
In 2005, Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers in a unilateral peace move.
But it imposed a blockade in 2006, restricting the movement of people and goods across its border with Gaza, following the capture of a soldier by Hamas militants on Israeli territory.
In 2007, the blockade was tightened after the Islamists ousted troops loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world that bypasses Israel is the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border. Its use has been heavily restricted since jihadists launched an insurgency in the neighbouring Sinai Peninsula in 2013.
– Chronic shortages –
The Gaza Strip has almost no industry and suffers from a chronic lack of water and fuel.
Unemployment stands at 53 percent, rising to 70 percent among young people, and more than two-thirds of the population is dependent on aid.
In October, Israel allowed Qatar, under a UN-brokered deal, to provide Gaza with fuel to help ease its electricity crisis.
– Israel military operations –
Israel has carried out several military operations against Palestinian militants in Gaza, with thousands killed.
Operation Hot Winter in February-March 2008 came in response to the killing of an Israeli by a rocket fired from Gaza and killed more than 120 Palestinians in just days.
It led to weeks of fighting in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed before a truce was reached in June.
A vast air offensive, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, was launched in December 2008 to stop Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. It ended with a ceasefire in January 2009 and 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
In November 2012, Operation Pillar of Defence started with a missile strike that killed top Hamas commander Ahmed Jaabari. In the ensuing eight-day flare-up, 177 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.
In July 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge to stop Palestinian rocket fire and destroy tunnels used for smuggling and the movement of militants.
It led to a war that killed 2,251 Palestinians and 74 people on the Israeli side of the border.
– Spectre of a new war –
On March 30, 2018, civil society groups launched a protest movement with Hamas support dubbed “The Great March of Return” calling for the right to return to homes Palestinians fled or were expelled from when Israel was created in 1948.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered along the Gaza-Israel border, some throwing stones or petrol bombs. Israeli soldiers responded with live fire, killing 19 Palestinians.
Since then, the border has been the scene of frequent protests and clashes. At least 233 Palestinians have been killed and two Israeli soldiers.
The latest spike in violence erupted on Sunday when a botched Israeli special forces operation resulted in clashes that killed seven Palestinians including a local Hamas military commander, and an Israeli officer.