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Why is the Gaza Strip overcrowded?

October 26, 2023 at 8:34 am

Civil defense teams and civilians conduct search and rescue operations as buildings heavily damaged after Israeli attacks by warplanes and artillery fire in Rafah, Gaza on October 25, 2023 [Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency]

Despite its biased coverage of the war on the Gaza Strip, the Western mainstream media has kept repeating one important fact by referring to the Strip of land as being “the most crowded place on earth”. However, as is usually the case, no answer is offered to the question in the minds of many around the world: why does this place have the highest population density on the face of the earth?

The answer to this question sums up much of the Palestinian tragedy that has been going on for more than seven decades and, in the case of Gaza, in particular, since it was first fully occupied in 1967. Even before that, Gaza has never been spared from Israeli aggression, ever since the Jewish State was created in 1948.

Before 1948, Gaza – that is, the city – used to be a vibrant small Mediterranean fishing port sitting across the regional trading routes centuries before Israel came into being. It, and the surrounding villages, was never a crowded place. Most sources agree that the highest estimation of the Gaza Strip population, including Gaza City itself, never reached half a million people, at best.

By the time Israel occupied the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, things changed and suddenly the population ballooned to about 400,000 people and kept growing, reaching some 2.1 million today, according to United Nations estimations.

1.7 million of the current population are refugees. Where did they come from to make the 365 square kilometres squalor of the Gaza Strip so overcrowded?  Natural demographic growth of the population does not explain it.

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However, well documented sources from the UN, Israeli, Palestinian studies and independent organisations confess to the fact that those “extra” Palestinians came from the land on which Israel was created in 1948.

When Israel was created on Palestinian land in 1948, its founding terrorist gangs forced one million Palestinian to flee to Gaza and many other parts in the West Bank, only to be followed by Israel which occupied both Territories in 1967.

Today, there are eight UN recognised refugee camps spanning the entire Gaza Strip where the aforementioned 1.7 million people live. Each one of such camps took the name of the place it was first established Here is a complete list of them, so next time our readers know where each camp is: Beach CampBureij CampDeir El-Balah Camp, Jabalya Camp, Khan Yunis Camp, Maghazi Camp, Nuseirat Camp and Rafah Camp.

Those camps are only part of the 58 other camps of Palestinians refugees scattered around historical Palestine and beyond. In the West Bank, for example, (Jenin Camp) in East Jerusalem (The Shuafat Refugee Camp), in Jordan (Amman New Camp), in Syria (Dera’a Camp) and in Lebanon (Shatila Camp).

Back to the “overcrowded” Gaza Strip which is being wiped “off the face of the earth” on the orders of Israeli Defence monster Minister, Yoav Gallant, each one of such camps is overcrowded place in itself, usually lacking services and all basics of human life.

For example, The Beach and Khan Yunis Camps, both in the Gaza Strip, are only 1.27 sq. km and 1.4 sq. Km, respectively (average camp areas usually less than 1 sq. km.), yet they are home to  90,713 in Beach Camp  90,713,  while 88,854 live in Khan Yunis. One can only imagine how people manage to squeeze themselves in such small areas.

Both Camps have been having their share of the “wiping” out process since 7 October, with Khan Yunis, in particular, being the focus of the Israel airstrikes in the last few days.

One of the ironies here is the case of the Israeli settlement named Sderot, located some 11 km east of the northern edge of the Gaza Strip and home to less than 30 thousand Israeli settlers. Sderot was the first target of Hamas’s Al-Aqsa Flood Operation. Resistance fighters not only took the place very quickly, they managed to stay in control for almost a whole day. Two important notes about Sderot: first:  when Israel was created, its population was not Israeli but Palestinian. Second and, perhaps equally as important, its name was Huj not Sderot!

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While Palestine was under British control, Huj’s Arab residents even helped Jewish Hagana fighters hide in their homes from the British army. Some 6,000 descendants of the Huj Palestinians today live as refugees in camps across Gaza. None of them should be there in the first place. It is reported that Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, even regretted forcing them out, but “kind” Ben Gurion never attempted to bring them back.

The Gaza Strip can easily be dethroned from its crowned place as the most crowded place on earth if all the Palestinian refugees there are allowed to go back to their homes, land and businesses in Sderot and hundreds of other cities, towns and villages they were ethnically cleansed from when Israel was created, and after.

Instead of doing what is right, Israel has been, over the last seven decades, doing the opposite. Ethnic cleansing, home demolitions and illegal land theft only created more Palestinian refugees like in Gaza, the West Bank and the neighbouring countries.

Such policy was, and is still short sighted, as manifested by the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation launched by Hamas two weeks ago. Nearly half of those refugees are in their teens and early twenties, yet they have only known war and now they are facing total annihilation. What does one really expect them to do and how would they ever think of Israel? They will always see Israel as their eternal enemy and will be eager to fight whenever and however they could, regardless of how many of them Israel kills. Fighting is their only hope, if they will ever live in dignity and enjoy the freedom they are aspiring for.

Israel has already killed some 6,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. However, the more it kills, the Gaza Strip will, when this war ends, still be the most densely populated place in the world and the question as to why it is will be still hidden by the mainstream Western media.

This media prejudice will, of course, mask the reality for a while, but not for long before people across the world find out and decide for themselves who the villain is. Thousands across the world have come out in support of Gaza and more will do so as they wipe away the fog impairing their sight, courtesy of the biased reporting.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.