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Encyclopedia > Egyptian occupation of Palestine
Map of the Gaza Strip from .
Map of the Gaza Strip from The World Factbook.

Occupation of the Gaza Strip by Egypt : 1947 - October 1956; March 1957 - June 1967.



The areas of present-day Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia were once controlled by the Ottoman Empire of Turkey for hundreds of years, starting from the early 1500s.

The Turks were Islamic, but not Arab. For close to four hundred years they dominated the Middle East and the Turkish Sultans based in Istanbul assumed the Caliphate (the highest religious position in Islam). The Turks opened their borders to the Jews expelled from Spain following the 1492 Spanish Inquisition and also allowed them to return to parts of what had been ancient Israel and alternately called Palestine since Roman times, including the city of Gaza, which had always had a Jewish community living in the midst of it. (See Jewish Gaza (http://www.internationalwallofprayer.org/E-Yisrael-015-Jewish-Gaza.html)).

French occupation

From July 1798 until August 1799 the French army led by Napoléon was in Egypt, Gaza, and Palestine. Napoleon defeated the armies of the Egyptian Mamelukes allies of the Ottoman Sultan of Turkey. In a series of battles, Napoleon's army conquered Gaza and moved on to Acre. Due to the British admiral Lord Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile, the French army was trapped, and it lingered until 1801. Following the assassination of General Jean Baptiste Kléber in 1880, the French were finally driven out by an alliance of the British (led by General Ralph Abercromby), Turks, Mamelukes and Arabs. See North to Palestine: Napoleon Marches Against the Turks (http://www.napoleonseries.org/articles/wars/palestine.cfm).

British power

See Colonial Heads of Egypt .

Starting from the early 1800s the British manoeuvered, fought battles (some of which they even lost), and eventually by 1882, took full effective control of Egypt, ruling through local satraps. From 1883 and for the next 24 years, Lord Cromer as the "British Agent" in Egypt, was responsible for the consolidation of Britain's rule based in Cairo. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the British used Egypt as a front against Turkey, and wrested control of the Gaza area from the Turks. In 1917 the British, (a primarily Christian colonial power that looked favorably upon the Jewish people), under the leadership of Field Marshal Edmund Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby, finally defeated Turkey and took control over the areas once dominated by the Turks and populated by the Arabs (who were mostly Islamic).

The British became the supreme colonial power in the region and they were granted a British Mandate of Palestine according to the 1922 Text: League of Nations Palestine Mandate. The area of the Gaza Strip fell between the British jurisdictions for Egypt and Palestine. It has been noted by historians that "the war was followed by a period of British rule (1917-1948), during which little was done to develop the region." [1] (http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/GeogHist/histories/history/hiscountries/G/gazastrip.html).

1948 and United Nations partition

Map of 1947 UN Partition Plan: Gaza Strip can be seen as designated for Palestinians by the UN

According to the United Nations' 1947 UN Partition Plan, the areas of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were to become part of a new Arab Palestinian state. However following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the 1949 Armistice Agreements which followed, neither Egypt, which won conrol of the Gaza Strip, nor Transjordan (which won control of the West Bank), did anything at all to create a state for the Palestinian native inhabitants as required by the 1947 UN Partition Plan:

"Although Israel eventually repulsed the attack, pressure from the British to reach a cease-fire agreement prevented Israel from driving Egypt's defeated forces from the region. As a result of heavy fighting, the area surrounding the town of Gaza, then under Arab occupation, was reduced to a narrow strip, referred to thereafter as the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip came under Egyptian control, and its population increased sharply as Palestinian refugees fled the fighting in southern Israel. Economic development in the Gaza Strip was limited under Egyptian rule, and the region suffered the burden of absorbing its new refugee population. Palestinian access to Egypt was restricted, and much of the region's largely unskilled workforce was dependent on the United Nations Relief Works Administration (UNRWA); which built and maintained the local refugee camps. Egypt did not extend citizenship to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, who were therefore without any national citizenship." [2] (http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/GeogHist/histories/history/hiscountries/G/gazastrip.html).

According to the 1949 Armistice Agreements with Egypt, signed on February 24. The main points were:

  • 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.
  • The Egyptian forces besieged in the Faluja Pocket were allowed to return to Egypt with their weapons, and the area was handed over to Israel.
  • A zone on both sides of the border around Uja al-Hafeer (Nitzana) was to be demilitarized, and became the seat of the bilateral armistice committee.

King Farouk, General Naguib, and President Nasser

Farouk was King of Egypt when it captured the Gaza Strip during 1948 war with Israel

King Farouk of Egypt did not grant any independence to the people of the Gaza Strip at any point. He was rejected by his own people as a selfish leader. He was overthrown in 1952 by the Free Officers Movement led by General Muhammad Naguib and none of them granted the Gaza Strip any independence. When President Gamal Abdel Nasser launched his Coup d'état in 1954 and became prime minister and then president of Egypt, he did not grant any independence to the Gaza Strip and the Palestinians. Supported and armed by the Soviet Union he was obsessed with war againt the State of Israel. The Gaza Strip and the Gazans were merely pawns in his war of destruction against the Jewish state, and his drive to create the United Arab Republic together with his ally Syria. The Israel Defense Force defeated the Egyptian army in the 1956 War-Suez Crisis and in the 1967 Six Day War, handing Nasser humiliating defeats and at the same time taking on the fate of what to do with the political and military future of the Gaza Strip and its people that had been left stateless and impoverished by its Egyptian rulers for close to twenty years.

1956 Suez War aftermath

US Secretary of State: John Foster Dulles, pressured Britain, France, and Israel to withdraw from Sinai in 1956, returning the Gaza Strip to Egypt

Even after the 1956 Suez War, when Israel, United Kingdom, and France were forced to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula by the United States, under pressure from United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and Egypt then re-occupied the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, no efforts were made to establish a Palestinian state. On the contrary, the Egyptian's supported the rise of first Ahmed Shukeiri and then Egyptian-born Yassir Arafat to form the PLO to conduct terrorist operations against Israel from the Gazan and Sinai areas:

"In 1956 Israel conquered the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Egypt's actions in nationalizing the Suez Canal and closing off shipping routes to Israel. But Israel relinquished the territory soon afterward under international pressure. During the next decade, Egypt used the Gaza Strip as a staging area for terrorist attacks against Israel. This contributed to the outbreak of the Six-Day War of 1967, in which Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights." [3] (http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/GeogHist/histories/history/hiscountries/G/gazastrip.html).

Six Day War

President Nasser of Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip until the 1967 war with Israel

Following the Six-Day War, the Gaza Strip was retaken by the Israel Defense Force and once again international pressure mounted on Israel to grant the Palestinians self-rule. On November 22, 1967, the UN Security Council adopted U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, the "land for peace" formula, which called for Israeli withdrawal from territories it captured in 1967 in return for peace with its Arab neighbors. How this applies to the Palestinians remains an area of great diplomatic, political, military, and cultural dispute and argumentation as the British, Egypt and Jordan never created a Palestinian state when they controlled the territories.

Oslo Accords and the Al-Aqsa Intifada

See Political status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel and the PLO moved towards reconciliation, and this finally resulted in the passage of the 1993 Oslo Accords when Israel tranferred control of most of the Gaza Strip to the PLO. Some isolated Israeli settlements remain, as in Gush Katif. The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in spite of fierce opposition, is presently engaged in negotiations to close down and remove these settlements. The PLO has lost ground to Hamas who are waging a Jihad against the Israelis since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000.

It has been from Egypt that smuggling tunnels, to Rafah, and also under the Philadelphi Route have been used to ferry weapons and ammunition for the Gazan Palestinians in spite of the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier, fueling the on-going conflict.

Egypt-Israel peace

In the interim, Israel and Egypt signed the historic Camp David Accords (1978) which brought an official end to the strife between them. The second part of the accords was a framework agreement establishing a format for the conduct of negotiations for the establishment of an autonomous regime in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip .

The issues of full independence of the Gaza Strip as part of any state remain unresolved as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues. In the interim, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has proposed Israel's unilateral disengagement plan of 2004 which has brought him much criticism from both the Israeli right wing for giving up too much land, and from the Palestinians for not going far enough.

See also

External links

  • Legal Status of West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem (http://www.globalpolitician.com/articles.asp?ID=132)
  • Gaza Strip (background) (http://i-cias.com/e.o/gazastrp.htm)
  • Gaza Strip/History (http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Gaza-Strip/History)
  • Gaza Strip (history) (http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/GeogHist/histories/history/hiscountries/G/gazastrip.html)

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