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Occupation of the Gaza Strip by Egypt

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

1948 and United Nations partition

According to the United Nations' 1947 UN Partition Plan, proposing a partition of the British Mandate of Palestine, the areas of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were to become part of a new Arab state. However, the Arab members of the UN stated that the plan was unjust and contrary to the UN Charter, and that they would not abide by it, presaging the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. (See also Proposals for a Palestinian state.) The "All-Palestine Government" was recognised by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, but not by Jordan or any other country in the world. However, it was little more than a façade under Egyptian control and had negligible influence or funding. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or Egypt were issued with All-Palestine passports until 1959, when Gamal Abdul Nasser, president of Egypt, annulled the All-Palestine government by decree.

Egyptian control of the Gaza Strip was confirmed by the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and 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 become the seat of the bilateral armistice committee.

King Farouk, General Naguib, and President Nasser

King Farouk of Egypt was overthrown in 1952 by the Free Officers Movement led by General Muhammad Naguib. Gamal Abdel Nasser launched a coup d'état in 1954 and became prime minister and then president of Egypt. A strong supporter of pan-Arabism, he advocated a union of all Arab countries including Palestine, and called for this union not only as an end in itself but as a means towards what he saw as freeing Arab Palestine by defeating the State of Israel. In accordance with this ideology, he eliminated the legal fiction of the "All-Palestine" government in Gaza, and created the United Arab Republic together with his ally Syria.

The 1956 Suez War

From 1955 to 1956, Egypt took an increasingly hostile attitude towards Israel. Hundreds of Israelis were killed in Fedayeen attacks from (Egyptian occupied) Gaza into Israeli territory.

Then, 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 invaded the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula initiating the 1956 Suez War. International pressure led by the United States forced Israeli withdrawal, first from the Sinai, and eventually from Gaza, but Israel was guaranteed freedom of access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal and action to end attacks from Gaza. See main article Suez Crisis.

In 1964, with Nasser's support, the PLO was established, led by Ahmed Shukeiri. Yassir Arafat became a prominent figure in the PLO, and eventually became its leader in 1969.

Six Day War

On June 5, 1967, in an overheated political atmosphere, weeks after Egypt blockaded the Straits of Tiran and cut off Israeli shipping, Israel launched a preemptive 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, the "land for peace" formula, which called for Israeli withdrawal from territories it captured in 1967 in return for peace with its Arab neighbors.

Egypt-Israel peace

In 1978, 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 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.

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