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HISTORICAL EVENTS

Occupation of Gaza by British forces in World War I

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Gaza
Gaza

On November 7, 1917, following the defeat of Germany and Axis Powers in World War I, British forces occupied Gaza in Palestine, at the time part of the Ottoman Empire.
Occupying 140 sq mi (363 sq km) northeast of the Sinai Peninsula, it is also the location of the city of Gaza, which has been a prosperous trading centre for much of its history and was first mentioned in the 15th century BC. Often besieged by invaders, including Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians, it declined in importance after the Crusades. It was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from the 16th century andafter World War I (1914–18), the city and the strip became part of the British mandate of Palestine. Following the first Arab-Israeli war (1948–49), the territory was occupied by Egypt, and the city became that country’s headquarters in Palestine. The occupied area was later reduced to an area 25 mi (40 km) long, which became known as the Gaza Strip, still under Egyptian control. In the Six-Day War (1967) it was captured by Israel.
Gaza is the economic center for a region in which citrus fruits and other crops are grown. The city contains some small industry, including textiles and food processing. A variety of wares are sold in Gaza’s street bazaars, including carpets, pottery, wicker furniture, and cotton clothing; commercial development in the city is minimal. Gaza serves as a transportation hub for the Gaza Strip, and contains a small port that serves a local fishing fleet. Points of interest in Gaza include the Great Mosque, a structure built during the Crusades and later transformed into a mosque; Samson’s Monument, which commemorates the biblical hero Samson, who is believed to be buried under the Great Mosque; and Al Jundi, or the Square of the Unknown Soldier, built by the Egyptian army.
With the onset of the Palestinian uprising known as the intifada in 1987, Gaza became a center of political unrest and confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians, and economic conditions in the city worsened. In September 1993 leaders of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed a peace agreement calling for Palestinian administration of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, which was implemented in May 1994. Most of the Israeli forces left Gaza, leaving a new Palestinian National Authority to administer and police the city, along with the rest of the Gaza Strip and Jericho. The Palestinian National Authority, led by Yasir Arafat, chose Gaza as its first provincial headquarters. In September 1995 Israel and the PLO signed a second peace agreement extending the Palestinian National Authority to almost all West Bank towns populated by Palestinians. The agreement also established an elected 88-member Palestinian Legislative Council, which held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996. Population (1997 estimate) 353,632

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