The occupation of the Gaza Strip by Egypt occurred between 1948 and October 1956 and again from March 1957 to June 1967. From September 1948, until its dissolution by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1959, the Gaza Strip was officially administered by the All-Palestine Government. Although largely symbolic, the government was recognized by most members of the Arab League. Following its dissolution, Egypt did not annex the Gaza Strip but left it under military rule pending a resolution of the Palestine question.
End of British Mandatory rule
After World War I, the League of Nations granted Great Britain authority over certain former Ottoman territories, including the Gaza Strip. What became known as the British Mandate for Palestine was formally confirmed by the Council of the League of Nations on 24 July 1922 and which came into effect on 26 September 1923.
After World War II, the British Mandate of Palestine came to an end. The surrounding Arab nations were also emerging from colonial rule. Egypt, while nominally independent, signed the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 that included provisions by which Britain would maintain a garrison of troops on the Suez Canal. From 1945, Egypt attempted to renegotiate the terms of this treaty, which was viewed as a humiliating vestige of colonialism.
On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved a plan to resolve the Arab–Jewish conflict by partitioning Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. (See 1947 UN Partition Plan.) In the immediate aftermath of the adoption of this plan, civil war broke out in the Mandate territory. (See 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine.)
On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the independence of the state of Israel and the following day the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria declared war and invaded, aided by soldiers sent from Iraq.
After capturing the West Bank during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Abdullah I took the title King of Jordan. The name of the state was changed to The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on 1 December 1948 but it remained under heavy British influence.
Egypt made significant gains early in the war, but these were reversed in late December 1948 when the Israeli army, in "Operation Horev" drove Egyptian forces out of the Negev and encircled the Egyptian Forces in the Gaza Strip, forcing Egypt to withdraw and accept a ceasefire. On 7 January 1949, a truce was achieved. Israeli forces proceeded to withdraw from Sinai and Gaza.
On 24 February 1949, the Israel–Egypt Armistice Agreement was signed in Rhodes. Under the agreement, the armistice line was drawn along the international border (dating back to 1906) for the most part, except near the Mediterranean Sea, where Egypt remained in control of a strip of land along the coast, which became known as the Gaza Strip. (See 1949 Armistice Agreements.)
All-Palestine Government (1948–1959)
The All-Palestine Government was an entity established by the Arab League on 22 September 1948, during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, purportedly to provide a Palestinian government for Palestine. After the War, the Gaza Strip was the only former-Mandate territory under the jurisdiction of the All-Palestine Government. However, the members of the Government were consequently removed to Cairo, and had little or no influence over events in Gaza.
According to Avi Shlaim:
[T]he contrast between the pretensions of the All-Palestine Government and its capability quickly reduced it to the level of farce. It claimed jurisdiction over the whole of Palestine, yet it had no administration, no civil service, no money, and no real army of its own. Even in the small enclave around the town of Gaza its writ ran only by the grace of the Egyptian authorities. Taking advantage of the new government's dependence on them for funds and protection, the Egyptian paymasters manipulated it to undermine Abdullah's claim to represent the Palestinians in the Arab League and in international forums. Ostensibly the embryo for an independent Palestinian state, the new government, from the moment of its inception, was thus reduced to the unhappy role of a shuttlecock in the ongoing power struggle between Cairo and Amman.
Suez Crisis and its aftermath
In 1956, Egypt blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba, assumed national control of the Suez Canal, and blocked it to Israeli shipping—both threatening the young State of Israel and violating the Suez Canal Convention of 1888. France and the United Kingdom supported Israel in its determination that the canal should remain open to all nations as per the Convention.
On October 29, 1956, Israel, France and the United Kingdom invaded the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula initiating the 1956 Suez War. Under international pressure, the Anglo-French Task Force withdrew before the end of 1956, and the Israeli army withdrew from the Sinai and Gaza in March, 1957.
In 1959, as he sought to incorporate the Arab nations as a single state, Nasser's pan-Arab policies prompted him to abolish the All-Palestine Government.
Egyptian administration (1959–1967)
In 1959, the Gaza Strip under the All-Palestine Government was officially merged into the short lived United Arab Republic. All references to an independent Gaza were abolished and Egyptian administration was officially imposed. In this move, Nasser de facto canceled any official Palestinian self-rule. In 1962 the Egyptian government established a Palestinian Legislative Council elected by the population.
When the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964, Nasser proclaimed that it would hold authority over Gaza, but that authority was never conferred in practice. A year later, conscription was instituted for the Palestinian Liberation Army.
On June 5, 1967, in an overheated political atmosphere, weeks after Egypt blockaded the Straits of Tiran and cut off Israeli shipping, Israel launched an attack against Egypt, beginning the Six-Day War. It rapidly defeated the surrounding Arab states and took control of, among other areas, the Gaza Strip. International pressure mounted on Israel to withdraw from the territories. On November 22, 1967, the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 242, which called for Israeli withdrawal from territories it captured in 1967 in return for peace with its Arab neighbors.
In 1978, Israel and Egypt signed the historic Camp David Accords which brought an official end to the strife between them. The second part of the accords was a framework for the establishment of an autonomous regime in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Egypt thus signaled an end to any ambitions to control the Gaza Strip itself; from then on, the Gaza Strip's status would be discussed as part of the more general issue of proposals for a Palestinian state.
Demographics and economy
The influx of over 200,000 refugees into Gaza during the 1948 war resulted in a dramatic decrease in the standard of living. Because the Egyptian government restricted movement to and from the Gaza Strip, its inhabitants could not look elsewhere for gainful employment. In 1955, one observer (a member of the United Nations Secretariat) noted that "For all practical purposes it would be true to say that for the last six years in Gaza over 300,000 poverty stricken people have been physically confined to an area the size of a large city park."
- "Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict A Primer". Middle East Research Information Project. http://www.merip.org/palestine-israel_primer/brit-mandate-pal-isr-prime.html. Retrieved 2009-01-19.
- Palestine Royal Commission Report Presented by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to Parliament by Command of His Majesty. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office. July 1937. Archived from the original on 2012-01-27. https://web.archive.org/web/20120127035141/http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/88A6BF6F1BD82405852574CD006C457F.
- Egypt Israel Archived 2014-05-25 at the Wayback Machine. Armistice Agreement UN Doc S/1264/Corr.1 23 February 1949
- Shlaim, Avi (1990). "The rise and fall of the All-Palestine Government in Gaza". pp. 37–53. Digital object identifier:10.1525/jps.1990.20.1.00p0044q.
- Feldman, Ilana (2008). "Governing Gaza: Bureaucracy, Authority, and the Work of Rule, 1917–1967". Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-4240-5. https://books.google.com/?id=D0bEoa0a_YsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Governing+Gaza.
- Baster, James, "Economic Problems in the Gaza Strip," Middle East Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Summer, 1955), pp. 323–327.
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