- 2 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, almost 1.2 million of them UN-registered refugees. The majority of the Palestinians descend from refugees who were displaced after occupying Palestine.
- The Strip’s population has continued to increase since that time, one of the main reasons being a total fertility rate of 4.24 children per woman.
- In a ranking by total fertility rate, this places Gaza 34th of 224 regions.
- Most of the inhabitants are Sunni Muslims, with an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Arab Christians, making the region 99.8 percent Sunni Muslim and 0.2 percent Christian.
About the Gaza blockade
For over 10 years, the people of Gaza have lived under an Israeli-imposed blockade that severely limits travel, trade, and everyday life for its over 2 million residents.
The blockade was first imposed on Gaza by “Israel” in 2006 after Hamas won the Palestinian elections. It was tightened in 2007 after Hamas took control of Gaza and split from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The blockade effectively bans nearly all exports from Gaza, severely limits imports to Gaza, and closes the Gaza border for exit by Gaza residents and entrance by others.
The United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross have both declared the blockade to be an illegal form of collective punishment against the Gaza population. The blockade must end, but change will only come through political action.
Gaza Unlocked highlights the stories of how Palestinians in Gaza are affected by the blockade, as told in their own words. Explore their stories, learn about the issues, and join us in taking action to bring an end to the blockade.
- The blockade has devastated the people of Gaza, affecting all aspects of life. According to the U.N.:
- 57 percent of Gaza households are food insecure, and approximately 80 percent receive some form of food assistance
- Gaza’s unemployment rate is over 40 percent-—the highest unemployment rate in the world. Youth unemployment is over 60 percent.
- There are power outages for up to 18 hours per day in most areas of Gaza, due to fuel shortages and damaged or destroyed electrical infrastructure.
- 70 percent of households in Gaza have running water for only six to eight hours once every two to four days.
- Two years after the end of Operation Protective Edge, over 65,000 Palestinians remained homeless with only 30 percent of homes destroyed during the attack rebuilt.
- The U.N. has declared the Gaza blockade an illegal form of collective punishment under international law.
- Students and academics are barred from traveling abroad to pursue their education.
- Gaza’s school shortage has forced nearly all public schools to hold two shifts each day, cutting students’ learning time in half.
- “Israel” has banned the import of basic school supplies into Gaza, including textbooks, pencils, lab equipment, computers, and paper at points throughout the blockade.
- Over 160,000 children in Gaza are estimated to be in need of continuous psychosocial support, which impacts education.
- The Gaza power plant operates at less than one-third of its capacity and has regularly had to shut down, due to fuel shortages, caused by fuel costs and Israeli limitations on importing fuel.
- Because of the limited power supply, over 70 percent of Gaza households have access to piped water for only six to eight hours once every two to four days.
- Since 2010, at least 29 people—24 of them children—have died in Gaza from fires or suffocation directly linked to power outages.
- Water is piped to over 70 percent of Gaza households only once every two to four days for four to six hours at a time. That’s because the insufficient power supply can’t provide uninterrupted access to water. And if homes don’t have power during those periods to operate household pumps used to fill cisterns, then they will receive no water.
- Hospitals provide only limited services because they rely on generators, which produce insufficient electrical supplies that can damage sensitive medical equipment.
- Schools often run without electricity, leaving students in the dark and making many educational activities impossible.
- Gaza’s unemployment rate is over 40 percent—one of the highest in the world. Youth unemployment is over 60 percent.
- Since 2007, Gaza’s gross domestic product (GDP) has shrunk by 50 percent. Average income is now at least 31 percent lower than it was in 1994.
- In 2007 the garment industry accounted for 17 percent of Gaza’s GDP. Because of the blockade, 87 percent of garment factories have closed.
- Of the estimated 3,500 permits issued to Gaza traders to allow them to exit Gaza for business purposes, 1,600 were revoked during 2016 without explanation. During the same period, 160 of the totals of 350 travel permits issued to prominent business people from Gaza were revoked without reason.
- Over 30 percent of patients in Gaza who need outside treatment are denied permits to leave or are delayed treatment.
- As of January 2014, over 300 medical machines at Gaza hospitals were out of order, including the only MRI machine at Gaza European Hospital.
- About 30 percent of essential drugs and 50 percent of essential medical disposables are out of stock each month in Gaza.
- The World Health Organization estimates that 360,000 people–20 percent of Gaza’s population–suffer from mental health challenges due to the blockade.
- During the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli military destroyed Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital and three primary healthcare clinics. Many severely damaged medical centers have yet to be fully repaired due to the lack of resources.
- In September 2000, about 26,000 Palestinian laborers were permitted to exit through Erez Crossing every day. In 2015, the number of people allowed to exit was less than 3 percent of that number.
- In 2015, the monthly average of truckloads of goods exiting Gaza through Kerem Shalom was about one-tenth of the amount allowed to exit in 2007.
- Materials needed for industrial production—including wood planks, pipes, cement, and steel—are banned from entering Gaza.
- Residents of Gaza are indiscriminately prohibited from traveling or moving to the West Bank, and West Bank residents are banned from entering or moving to Gaza—a violation of the Oslo Accords.
- Fifty-seven percent of Gaza households are food insecure, and about 80 percent receive some form of food assistance, largely due to unemployment caused by restrictions on movement and imports and exports.
- “Israel” siphons off more than 80 percent of Gaza’s groundwater through wells tapping Gaza aquifer sources—a key reason why the aquifer is not replenishing and is becoming increasingly contaminated.
- Over 90% of the water from the Gaza aquifer is undrinkable.
- About 60 percent of Gaza’s population relies on private water supplies that are expensive, unregulated, and often have lower hygiene standards.
- Pumps, concrete, welding supplies, pipes, water purification chemicals, and other items needed to maintain water and sewage infrastructure are blocked from entering Gaza by “Israel”.
- Up to 95 million liters of raw or partially treated sewage is discharged into the Mediterranean Sea daily, partly due to electrical and fuel shortages.
- In 1997, there were more than 10,000 Palestinians working in the fishing sector. However, in 2019, there were only 5,606 workers in this sector, including 3,606 fishermen.
- The distribution of Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip is as follows: 7% in Northern Gaza Strip, 45% in Gaza City, 17% in Al-Wusta governorate (i.e., Deir Al-Balah governorate), 19% in Khan Younis governorate, and 12% in Rafah governorate.
- The number of fishing boats in the Gaza Strip is only 1,261.
- According to Oslo II Accords signed in 1995 between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, the fishermen of Gaza have the right to access fishing areas up to 20 nautical miles from the coast.
- In 2020, there were 308 incidents of gunfire shooting by the Israeli Navy on fishing boats coming from Gaza. In the same year, 10 fishermen were arrested and 12 were injured, along with confiscating 4 boats and sabotaging fishermen’s equipment in 12 incidents.
The permitted fishing areas for Palestinian fishermen are up to 6 nautical miles in the governorates of Gaza and Northern Gaza and around 9-15 nautical miles in the governorates of Al-Wusta, Khan Younis and Rafah (south of Gaza Strip).
Also, there is one nautical mile in which maritime activity is prohibited and which is parallel to the southern water borders of the Gaza Strip, as well as 1.5 nautical miles of prohibited maritime activity parallel to the northern water fence.
These prohibitions deprive Gaza’s fishermen of accessing fishing areas that have diverse kinds of fish. It should also be noted that Israel’s reduction and increase of “permitted” fishing areas are below the limits set forth by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and violates the Oslo Accords signed by Palestinian and Israeli parties. Not less importantly, the average number of days in which sea access is closed for Gaza’s fishermen is between 10-15 days each month.
Implications of Violating Fishermen’s Rights in the Gaza Strip
Israel’s illegal curtailment of permitted fishing areas and denying the entry of fishing tools and equipment have serious implications for the Gaza Strip. For example, the number of Palestinian fishermen plummeted by 73% in a 20-year period. Israel’s policy of closures and denial of entry of fishing equipment caused a drastic reduction in the number of fishing boats in Gaza.
These violations also led to lower economic returns due to smaller quantities of fish that are caught in the confined fishing areas. This forced many fishermen to use certain types of smaller nets to increase the quantities of fish that are caught in the permitted areas, thus leading to negative effects on the maritime environment.