The Gaza Strip, often referred to simply as Gaza, is a small coastal territory in the Southern Levant that is north of Egypt's Sinai, East of the Mediterranean Sea, and South-West of Israel.
The long-standing ruler of the Gaza Strip is Hamas, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by most Western states and international governmental organizations. Under Hamas, Gaza has been in a state of conflict with Israel. Several other terrorist organizations reside in Gaza and take part in the hostilities, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, ISIS offshoots and others.
Gaza is home to 1.5 million Palestinians, largely Sunni Muslim, some who identify as refugees or descendants of refugees from territory now belonging to Israel. Gaza has a very young population, but is very impoverished due to mismanagement, corruption, conflict, and the redirection of taxes and financial aid to warfare.
Due to the conflict between Gaza and Israel, the territory has been under blockade since 2007, though it shares one border and crossing, Rafah, with Egypt. A significant amount of smuggling occurs on this border, often through tunnels.
Gaza is surrounded by defensive structures created by the Israel Defense Forces to counter Gazan terrorist attacks. This includes a sensor fence that rings the perimeter, an underground barrier to prevent and detect tunneling, and a naval barrier to prevent naval frogman infiltration.
Rockets fired from Gaza have presented a major strategic challenge to Israel. Military infrastructure runs through Gaza's cities, including rocket infrastructure. Launch sites, munitions storage, command & control centers, bunkers and more can be found throughout Gaza, much of it underground. In the past, Hamas leaders have claimed that 500 kilometers of tunnel systems are laced throughout the Strip.
Gaza was part of the British Mandate after the territory was relinquished by the UK from the Ottoman Empire after World War I. After the Mandate dissolved, it was seized during Israel's War of Independence by Egypt, and ruled by the Egyptian puppet All-Palestine Government. During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel captured the territory, and it was not returned along with other Egyptian holdings after the two made peace in the 1970s. 21 Israeli settlements were established within Gaza, but in 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Strip. In 2006, the Palestinians held legislative elections, but when Hamas won, there was a civil war, and Hamas seized full control of Gaza.
From the disengagement onwards, Hamas and other terrorist organizations increased terrorist attacks against Israelis, and several operations have been fought to quell Gazan attacks, including 2008's Cast Lead, 2011's Pillar of Defense, 2014's Protective Edge, and 2021's Guardian of the Walls.
The continued opening of the crossing will be subject to situation assessments • Palestinian official: move came at the request of mediators, to de-escalate tensions
Palestinians riot on Gaza border, IDF responds with drone attacks on unmanned Hamas positions * Israel and Hamas both testing boundaries
The smuggling operation involved transferring the goods from Gaza to the West Bank, followed by swapping trucks that have Israeli license plates for partial entry into Israel.
Palestinians have been conducting violent riots along the Gaza border for about three weeks without pause.
Fires were reported in three separate locations on the border as Gazans launched incendiary balloons at Israel ahead of Yom Kippur.
Earlier on Saturday, a demonstration was held on the shores of the Gaza Strip as protesters staged a flotilla calling for an end to Israel's blockade of the Strip.
The last time incendiary balloons caused a fire in the Gaza border region was in September 2021.
This comes after a recent string of violent attacks and riots both inside sovereign Israel and at border crossings and checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza.
Thousands of Gazans with work permits have been unable to enter Israel.
The escalation comes amid Jewish holidays and the UN General Assembly.