Keys to understanding the Israel-Palestine conflict: what difference is there between Gaza and the West Bank

Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrate in the West Bank in support of the attacks perpetrated by Hamas against Israel (Europa Press/Contact/Ayman Nobani) (Europa Press/Contact/Ayman Noba/)

While the gaze of the international community is focused on what is happening in the Gaza Stripfrom where the terrorists of Hamas launched an unprecedented attack against Israel, in the Palestinian territory of West Bank In recent days, sources of tension due to protests have also been recorded in different cities.

In cities like Ramallah, hebron, Nablus, You go and Jenin There were heavy clashes between protesters and Palestinian security forces. The social outbreak responds to people’s disagreement with the response of Mahmoud Abbaspresident of the Palestinian National Authority (ANP), to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

In this context of growing tension, it is important to understand what the differences are between the Palestinian territories of Loop and West Bank.

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Gaza Strip

With an area of ​​360 square kilometers, the Palestinian enclave is 40 kilometers long and 11 wide, and has an extensive exit to the Mediterranean Sea.

One of the data that perhaps draws most attention is that It is one of the most densely populated places in the world (77.6%)since 2,098,389 people live together in that small area.

The main border is shared with Israel, with 59 kilometers, while to the south it borders with Egypt (13 kilometers). According to the UN, almost 600,000 refugees live in eight camps in the territory.

Until 1917, Gaza was part of the Ottoman Empire. That year it came under the control of the British, who had agreed to collaborate in the formation of a unified Arab kingdom. During the First World War, the British and Turks reached an agreement on the future of Gaza and most of the Arab lands that belonged to the Ottoman Empire. However, at the Paris Peace Conference held in 1919, the winning European powers opposed the formation of a unified Arab kingdom proposed by the British. In this way, and under the approval of the League of Nations, the enclave became part of the British mandate of Palestine; situation that lasted until 1948.

In 1947, after several years of tensions between Arabs and Jews, the United Nations (UN) approved the Partition Plan, which proposed a two-state solution that divided the land between those two peoples, and that Jerusalem – another of the hotspots of dispute – will remain under an international regime. At that time, Gaza was part of the territory granted to the Arabs.

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After the declaration of independence of the new state of Israel, war broke out in 1948 with the invasion initiated by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. The Israeli Army won, and went on to occupy 77% of the territory that Palestine had had under the British mandate, including most of Jerusalem. The rest of the territory that had been assigned to the Arab State by the United Nations remained under the control of Jordan and Egypt.

Egypt’s control was maintained for almost two decades, and at that time the arrival of Palestinian refugees to that territory began.

In 1967 a coalition of Arab countries attacked Israel, unleashing what became known as the Six Day War. However, it was soundly defeated, and Israel went on to take control of Gaza, until in 2005, after the Second Intifada, it withdrew its army and the 9,000 Jewish settlers, leaving the territory in the hands of the Palestinian National Authority. But even then the extremist Hamas movement was gaining more and more ground.

The defeat in the Second Intifada (2000-2005), the death of Yasser Arafat, Abbas’s lack of authority, and the deep corruption that existed in the Palestinian Authority – a nationalist organization that, unlike Hamas, advocates the existence of two states. (Israel and Palestine)- They paved the way for Hamaswhich in January 2006, under the leadership of Ismail Haniyeh, defeated the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the parliamentary elections.

Hamas terrorists have controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007 (EFE / Ali Ali)
Hamas terrorists have controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007 (EFE / Ali Ali) (ALI ALI/)

After his victory in the elections, the ruling Fatah began to see Hamas as a threat, and tensions between the two led to an open confrontation for power in 2007. Fatah managed to maintain power in the West Bank, but was expelled from the Gaza Strip, which began to be governed de facto by Hamas.

Faced with this growing terrorist threat, Israeli and Egyptian authorities began to isolate Gaza by imposing a blockade to weaken Hamas.

Since their emergence, Palestinian terrorists launched countless rocket and missile attacks on Israeli territory, causing four wars between Hamas and Israel to date (2008, 2012, 2014 and 2021). Many of these rockets have been provided by Iran and the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al Assad. In addition, they dug hundreds of tunnels to infiltrate Israeli territory and thus carry out attacks and kidnappings of civilians and soldiers. All this, with one goal: to destroy Israel and create an independent Islamic state.

Despite the existence of other extremist groups in the Palestinian enclave, such as Islamic Jihad, whenever there is an attack from Gaza, Israel blames Hamas.

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West Bank

About 40 kilometers from Gaza, and separated by Israeli territory, is the West Bank, an area of ​​great importance since It is located next to Jerusalem, which both Jews and Arabs claim as their capital.

It is a much larger territory than Gaza, with nearly 5,900 square kilometers, and a population of 3,176,549 inhabitants.

Geographically it is located on the west bank of the Jordan River – in fact it is also called the West Bank – and to the southeast it borders the Dead Sea. Furthermore, in the east it shares a border with Jordan, a country that had control of this Palestinian territory after the 1948 war.

In the 1980s the PLO began a rebellion in the occupied territories, leading to the First Intifada in 1987, when a mass uprising began against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. The next year Arafat proclaimed the independence of Palestine; That same year Jordan had renounced its sovereign claims.

General strike in the West Bank and East Jerusalem against the Israeli military offensive on Gaza (EFE/EPA/ALAA BADARNEH)
General strike in the West Bank and East Jerusalem against the Israeli military offensive on Gaza (EFE/EPA/ALAA BADARNEH) (ALAA BADARNEH/)

In 1995 Israel and the PLO signed an agreement in Washington, through which the foundations were laid for the creation of the Palestinian National Authority, which Israel handed over the administration of Gaza and part of the West Bank territory, except East Jerusalem.

Through the Oslo Accords, Palestinians assumed self-government in Palestinian cities and some 450 towns. The area was divided into three territories: A, B and C.

The A territories are made up of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, Jenin, Tulkarem, Kalkilya, Nablus and the Arab part of Hebron. Under civilian and military rule of the Palestinian Authority, Israeli civilians cannot enter there by order of their government for fear of being killed.

The B territories are civilly and police administered by the Palestinian Authority, while perimeter security is provided by Israel.

The C territories, meanwhile, are under civil and military control of Israel, and represent 60% of the West Bank.