The Gaza Strip used to be a scenic trade center between Egypt and Mesopotamia. It is now the world’s largest open-air prison, with some 1.7 million people trapped inside a strip of land about 25 miles long and about five miles wide at its widest points. With a population density of nearly 4,200 people per square kilometers, it is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. It’s worse in the refugee camps, where there are nearly 75,000 people per square mile. Put into context, this is nearly three times greater than the average population density of New York City.
Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, meaning it withdrew its troops and settlers. However, Israel still controls the airspace, the borders and the coast. In 2007, Israel imposed a total blockade on Gaza and has prohibited the Import of most goods and almost all exports. As a result, Gaza’s economy has come to a grinding halt. After the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, the Egyptians agreed to open the Rafah border crossing periodically, which allows some Palestinians in Gaza to leave and return.