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|Currency||1 New Sheqel (NIS) = 100 Agorot|
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The Gaza Strip is a narrow strip of land in the southwest of Palestine, currently occupied by Israel. At the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, it was under Egyptian control, under which it remained until it was occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967.
Together with parts of the West Bank, it is mostly run by the Palestinian Authority. Small portions of the Gaza Strip, (mainly the sites of Israeli settlements), are controlled by Israel. The Palestinian Authority is not permitted conventional military forces; there are, however, a Public Security Force and a civil Police Force.
Around 1.2 million Palestinians live in the Gaza strip, mostly refugees who fled Israel in the 1948 war; as a result it has one of the highest population densities in the world. Since 1967, around 25 Israeli settlements have been constructed in the Gaza Strip. These setters occupy several orders of magnitude more land per capita than the Palestinian population. The population is growing by around 4% a year. Most people in the strip are Muslim, with small Christian (0.7%) and Jewish (0.6%) minorities.
The Gaza Strip is located in the Middle East (at 31 25 N, 34 20 E). It has an 11km border with Egypt, near the city of Rafah[?], and a 51km border with Israel. It also has a 40 km coastline onto the Mediterranean Sea, but has no maritime claims due to Israeli occupation.
The Gaza Strip has a temperate climate, with mild winters, and dry and hot summers, subject to drought. The terrain is flat or rolling, with dunes near the coast. The highest point is Abu 'Awdah[?] (Joz Abu 'Auda[?]), at 105 metres above sea level. Natural resources include arable land (about a third of the strip is irrigated), and recently discovered natural gas. Environmental issues include desertification; salination[?] of fresh water; sewage treatment; water-borne disease[?]; soil degradation; and depletion and contamination of underground water[?] resources.
Economy Economic output in the Gaza Strip - under the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority since the Cairo Agreement[?] of May 1994 - declined by about one-third between 1992 and 1996. The downturn was largely the result of Israeli closure policies - the imposition of generalized border closures in response to security incidents in Israel - which disrupted previously established labor and commodity market relationships between Israel and the Strip. The most serious negative social effect of this downturn was the emergence of high unemployment.
Israel's use of comprehensive closures decreased during the next few years and, in 1998, Israel implemented new policies to reduce the impact of closures and other security procedures on the movement of Palestinian goods and labor. These changes fueled an almost three-year-long economic recovery in the Gaza Strip. Recovery was ended in the last quarter of 2000 with the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, triggering tight Israeli closures of Palestinian self-rule areas and a severe disruption of trade and labor movements. In 2001, and even more severely in early 2002, internal turmoil and Israeli military measures in Palestinian Authority areas resulted in the destruction of capital plant and administrative structure, widespread business closures, and a sharp drop in GDP. Another major loss has been the decline in income earned by Palestinian workers in Israel.
According to the CIA World Factbook, GDP in 2001 declined 35% to $625/capita, and 60% of the population is now below the poverty line. Gaza strip industries are generally small family businesses that produce textiles, soap, olive-wood[?] carvings, and mother-of-pearl[?] souvenirs; the Israelis have established some small-scale modern industries in an industrial center. Electricity is supplied by Israel. The main agricultural products are olives, citrus, vegetables, beef, and dairy products[?]. Primary exports are citrus and cut flowers, while primary imports are food, consumer goods, and construction materials. The main trade partners of the Gaza Strip are Israel, Egypt, and the West Bank.
Transport and communication The Gaza strip has a single railway line, abandoned and in disrepair, little trackage remains. It has a small, poorly developed road network. Its one port is Gaza City. It has two airports, one paved, one unpaved, including Gaza International Airport[?], which opened on 24 November 1998 as part of agreements stipulated in the September 1995 Oslo II Accord and the 23 October 1998 Wye River Memorandum[?]. GIA was largely closed since October 2000 by Israeli orders and its runway was destroyed by the Israel Defense Force in December 2001[?].
The Gaza strip has a rudimentary telephone services provided by an open wire system, two TV stations run by the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation[?], and no radio stations. It has three ISPs. Most Palestinian households have a radio and a TV, but there are no figures available.