The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places on the planet. It is home to more than two million Palestinians living within a stretch of territory 32 miles long by seven miles wide. Since 1967, this territory has been under Israeli military control.

Map of the Gaza Strip

While the UN Partition Plan of 1947 designated the Gaza Strip as part of a future Arab state, Palestinians in Gaza have never enjoyed total sovereignty. Between 1949 and 1967, the Gaza Strip was controlled by Egypt. After Egypt’s defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Israel occupied the Strip. The 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement gave the Palestinians in Gaza some autonomy, but Israel still maintained a military presence. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its soldiers and evacuated its civilian settlers from the Gaza Strip. The next year, Palestinians in Gaza expressed their frustration with the transitional Palestinian Authority by voting Hamas into power. Since then, Israel has imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Over the past 15 years, there have been four military escalations between the Israelis and militants in Gaza: 2008-09, 2012, 2014, and 2021, as well as other deadly uses of force by Israel in 2018, 2019, and 2022.

The 2014 conflict had devastating consequences on civilians in Gaza, including the death of over 500 children.

On March 30, 2018, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 14 demonstrators, and in November 2019, Israel launched two airstrikes that killed 11 civilians.

During the May 2021 conflict, 260 Palestinians, including 66 children, were killed by the Israeli military, which launched indiscriminate attacks including the destruction of four high-rise towers. Hamas fired over 4,000 rockets and mortars at Israel, killing 13 Israelis; 7 Palestinians in Gaza were killed by Hamas rockets that misfired.

Israel also engaged in a weekend bombing campaign in early August 2022, during which at least 49 Palestinians, including 17 children were killed (at least 5 of the children were confirmed killed by an Israeli airstrike). In response, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired rockets at Israel that did not result in any Israeli casualties.

Israel’s blockade has prevented Gazans from rebuilding the extensive damage caused by these conflicts. This has resulted in an infrastructure crisis that has crippled Gaza’s economy. Electricity is infrequent, drinking water is toxic, and raw sewage pours into the Mediterranean. About half of Gazans are unemployed and 70 percent depend on foreign humanitarian aid.

CMEP advocates for an end to the blockade and closure of Gaza. The blockade limits the import of basic necessities and materials desperately needed to rebuild after the recent wars in Gaza 2008/2009, 2012, 2014, and 2021. The restrictions on travel have limited Palestinians’ access to health care, religious holy sites, and educational institutions outside of the Gaza Strip. CMEP also strongly condemns rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

Gazan children hold Luci lights.

Facts at a Glance

(Source: Gisha, 2021)

Area: 141 square miles

Population: 2.05 million

Unemployment Rate: 48%

Percent of Population Receiving Humanitarian Aid: 70%

Hours of Electricity Per Day: 15

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October 2023: Hamas and Israel War

On Saturday morning, October 7, 2023, Hamas commenced brutal attacks against Israel, firing thousands of rockets into Southern Israel and militants crossing into Israel on the ground and by air. These horrific attacks included the murder and kidnapping of civilians, including children. Israel began bombing Gaza and moving against the Hamas fighters entering Southern Israel. As of Thursday, October 12, the death toll stands at almost 3,000 people, with thousands more injured and more than 300,000 internally displaced Palestinians inside Gaza, according to the United Nations. The 16-year ongoing blockade of Gaza closed the territory off by land and sea. This past week, the Israeli government extended the siege and exercised collective punishment by cutting off electricity, food, water, and fuel in Gaza, where more than 2.2 million people live, over half of whom are under the age of 18. With hundreds of thousands of Israeli reservists massing at the border with Gaza, fears are now of a full-scale ground invasion.

August 2022: Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) calls on U.S. Government to address underlying causes of Israeli violence against Gaza

CMEP calls on the US government to work to preserve the ceasefire and to insist Israel ends its 15- year blockade of Gaza, an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, and an act of collective punishment that has turned Gaza into the world’s largest open-air prison. The U.S. must stop enabling Israeli impunity in violating human rights and humanitarian law, and instead, work toward a comprehensive and enduring end to the conflict that will result in human rights and equality for all Israelis and Palestinians. Read More

February-March 2022: Gaza 101 Mini Course with American Friends of Combatants for Peace

Gaza Amendment Coalition letter to U.S. Senators supporting a proposal requiring a report on the humanitarian impact of severe restrictions on movement, access, and goods in and out of Gaza [8/15/2021]

A large coalition of groups including CMEP wrote to members of the U.S. Senate urging them to support an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would require a report on the humanitarian impact of severe restrictions on movement, access, and goods in and out of Gaza. Read More

April 2021: Peacemakers Working in Gaza

Watch CMEP’s April 2021 webinar featuring local organizations working in Gaza. Beth Oppenheim, the Director of International Relations at Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, and Bassam Nasser, the Head of Office in Gaza for Catholic Relief Services, speak about their work and experiences as humanitarian workers and human rights advocates dedicated to serving the people of Gaza. Facilitating this discussion is Craig Swandby, a Senior Policy and Legislative Specialist at Catholic Relief Services. Watch

Additional Resources

Lights for Gaza Campaign [2017]

During Spring 2017 CMEP partnered with Rebuilding Alliance to send solar powered Luci Lights into Gaza. Individuals like you raised enough funds to send 570 Luci Lights to people in Gaza. Thank you to everyone who participated!! Learn more here.

Background: Infrastructure Crisis in Gaza [2017]

During the 2014 Gaza War, the main power plant in Gaza was damaged severely. Since then, the infrastructure crisis has grown exponentially. Exacerbated by the difficulty in purchasing Diesel due to a financial conflict between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, Gazans are impacted in three crucial areas, energy, water and communications, which stunts any hope for stability. Currently, Gazans typically only have electricity for 3-4 hours per day, leaving them in darkness for about 21 hours. Continue Reading

Gaza: Working Toward a Better Future [07/24/2017]

Gaza Field Manager for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Bassam Nasser, speaks with CMEP’s Director of Advocacy and Government Relations, Kyle Cristofalo, about CRS’ work in Gaza providing emergency relief to the most vulnerable. Nasser also discusses his hope for a better future and steps to take to help move toward a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Watch 

Growing Up In Gaza [07/18/2017]

Fulbright Scholar Oday Abdaljawwad speaks with CMEP Executive Director Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon about growing up in Gaza and the unique challenges the ongoing humanitarian crisis places on children. Abdaljawwad is currently a Development and Advocacy Intern with CMEP. Watch 

Gaza: Searching for Light [03/28/2017]

In 2014 Gaza’s main power plant sustained severe damage as a result of the Gaza War. Three years later the power plant remains mostly inactive. Today, most Gazans live in the dark for as many as 21 hours every day. Learn about the current realities of life in Gaza and where there might be opportunities for hope. Watch

Hand on the Switch and Lights for Gaza [03/09/2017]

Hear Tania Hary, Executive Director of the Israeli human rights organization Gisha, and Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, recently returned from Gaza, engage in a conversation on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Learn about the current realities of Palestinian life in Gaza where most Gazans live in the dark for as many as 21 hours every day. Watch

Cage, Smother, Subdue, Repeat: Israel’s Gaza Policy [Human Rights Watch, 2022]

“Until the international community brings sufficient pressure to push Israeli authorities to abandon their longstanding policy to subdue the Palestinians of Gaza, this vicious cycle will continue.” Read More

Still Waters [Gisha, 2022]

“Since May 2021, Israel has delayed and prevented the entry into Gaza of items needed urgently for maintenance and improvement of Gaza’s water and sewage systems, exacerbating the risk of collapse.” Read More

The Gaza Strip and COVID-19: Preparing for the Worst [International Crisis Group, 2020]

“The coronavirus is now present in Gaza, the populous Palestinian enclave blockaded by air, land and sea since 2007. An epidemic would be calamitous. Hamas should tighten public health measures; Israel should loosen restrictions so that medical supplies can enter and afflicted Palestinians can leave.Read More

US Policy Response to Coronavirus in Gaza [Carnegie Endowment, 2020]

“The Gaza Strip faces a confluence of poor conditions allowing for rapid coronavirus spread. The United States must help prevent a worsened humanitarian catastrophe.” Read More

If the Heart Be Not Callous: On the Shooting of Unarmed Demonstrators in Gaza [B’Tselem, 2018]

“On 30 March 2018, demonstrations were held throughout the Gaza Strip along the fence separating from Israel. That day marked the beginning of a six-week protest that Gazans plan to hold until mid-May, to call for a lifting of the decade-long blockade imposed on the Strip by Israel and for fulfilling Palestinians’ right of return…Since the demonstrations began, the military has killed 32 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, 26 of them demonstrators. More than 1,000 have been injured by live fire.” Read More

Closing In: Life and Death in Gaza’s Access Restricted Areas [Gisha, 2018]  

“Contrary to the illusion held by many that Israel’s presence in the Gaza Strip ended with the implementation of the Disengagement Plan in 2005, to this day Israel continues to exercise control over nearly every aspect of life in Gaza, including through its control over movement and access.” Read More

Hand on the Switch: Who’s Responsible for Gaza’s Infrastructure Crisis? [Gisha, 2017]

Gisha’s 2017 report takes an in-depth look at the grim state of Gaza’s electricity, water, sewage and communications infrastructure. The report describes how we got to this point and, for the first time, outlines the responsibility shared among the various actors at play in the Gaza Strip today. The report shares short-, medium- and long-term solutions, culled by experts, to prevent collapse, but, more importantly, to help maintain and develop critical civilian infrastructure. Read More