Events change quickly in the Middle East. There are a lot of different factors and players at work. To make things simple, clear, and understandable, here are the basic facts about the situation today in the Gaza Strip.
- In August of 2005, Israel left the Gaza Strip entirely – evacuating every last soldier and over 8,000 Israeli civilian residents. All authority in the territory was transferred to the Palestinian Authority.
- In February of 2006, Hamas was elected in Palestinian Authority (PA) elections.
- In June of 2007, Hamas launched a violent coup against its rival in the PA – the Fatah Party – and seized control of Gaza.
- In June of 2007, in response to Hamas’ takeover, both Israel and Egypt instituted an arms blockade on Gaza. Under the blockade, Israel transferred humanitarian supplies into the territory and allowed Gazans into Israel for humanitarian reasons – such as for medical treatment.
- Hamas is notorious for the murder of hundreds of Israeli civilians, including scores by suicide bombing. In 2002, the Canadian government listed Hamas as a banned terrorist entity. As such, Canada suspended financial support to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza (led by Hamas) in 2006 (as did the European Union and the United States), and has since delivered aid to Gazans directly through NGOs on the ground (including UN agencies).
- Hamas is opposed to all peace talks and compromises, and seeks the destruction of the state of Israel – which it believes occupies sacred Islamic land that cannot be shared with a non-Muslim government. For details on the Hamas Covenant, click here.
- In May of this year, Egypt opened its border crossing with Gaza (at Rafah) for passenger traffic. Given Hamas’ control of Gaza, and the prevalence of other terrorist groups in the territory, Egypt limits the number of crossings per day in order to allow for proper screening of individuals.
- Israel continues to maintain a closed border and arms blockade of Gaza in order to prevent weapons smuggling and violence against Israeli civilians. All shipments and individuals entering Gaza from Israeli territory and space must first be inspected and authorized before passing.
- Given the state of war between Hamas and Israel, the arms blockade is entirely legal as long as humanitarian aid is transferred into the territory – a policy that Israel has upheld (after it inspects cargo). For more on the legal status of the arms blockade, click here.
- Israel allows large numbers of Gazans to cross the border with permits for medical and business reasons. In May of 2011 alone, 3,295 Palestinians crossed the Erez crossing from Gaza into Israel – of which 1,892 were for medical reasons and 1,238 were for business reasons.
- Israel also delivers massive quantities of aid into Gaza. In May of 2011, this amounted to 127,353 tons in supplies – some 4,942 truckloads in total. For more details, click here.
- Hamas continues to smuggle large amounts of advanced weaponry into Gaza – primarily from Iran and Syria. In recent months, large caches have been seized, including 50 tons of weapons found aboard the Victoria in March, destined for Gaza from Syria.
- Hamas and other groups in Gaza continue to attack Israeli civilians, and have launched over ten thousand missiles and mortars at Israel since 2005. Most recently, Hamas fired an advanced, Syrian-made anti-tank missile across the border at an Israeli school bus – killing 16-year-old Daniel Viflic. For more details on Hamas, click here.